Home About the Living Maya Documentary Contents The Maya
Purchase Users Guide Library Links
Maya Spirit
Traditional Ways
Language

Language

Traditionally a village child's first words are in either the Mopan or Q´eqchi´ language. The first time many middle-aged Maya and most village elders heard English was their first day of school.

While today most Mayan youths have heard the English language prior to their school years, that doesn't guarantee that they either understand it or speak it themselves. What they are comfortable speaking is either Mopan or Q´eqchi´.

Machakilha classroom

.Different Languages

The Mopan and Q´eqchi´ languages are distinct. Few Mayans speak both languages, but those that do assist by translating when necessary and thereby bridging the communication gap.
The languages of the Mopan and Q´eqchi´ Maya have traditionally been spoken and not written.

New Testament in Mopan Maya
New Testament
in Mopan Maya
But beginning in the late 1960s, translations of Bible passages, followed by complete translations of the New Testament in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were made available to villagers through their places of worship. Villagers who were interested in learning to read their own language primarily did so through the efforts of religious groups. Villagers, however, still speak their languages more frequently than they read and write them
The Academy of Mayan Languages

The Mopan and Q´eqchi´ languages benefited greatly from the development of the Academy of Mayan Languages (Academia de las Lenguas Mayas) located in Guatemala. Through the efforts of this institution, all 23 existing Mayan languages were studied. The results included standardization of the written languages and translations of Maya folklore. As a result of the institute's work, corrections were made to prior translations. In fact, a new alphabet was developed for the Q´eqchi´ language.