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What Language Do They Speak in Peru?

What Language Do They Speak in Peru

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageSpanish
Other Recognized LanguagesQuechua, Aymara, other indigenous languages
Percentage of Spanish SpeakersApproximately 84%
Languages for Tourists to KnowSpanish, Basic Quechua phrases


Peru, a country celebrated for its rich history, Incan roots, and magnificent landscapes, is also a nation of great linguistic diversity. While Spanish is the predominant language, there are various indigenous languages that provide a window into the cultural mosaic that is Peru.

A Glimpse into the Linguistic Landscape of Peru

Spanish – The Lingua Franca The legacy of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, Spanish is the dominant language in Peru and is spoken by approximately 84% of the population. It serves as the primary medium of instruction in schools and is the language of the government and media.

Indigenous Languages – A Rich Tapestry

Quechua and Aymara are the two primary indigenous languages spoken in Peru, but the country recognizes several other regional languages.

Indigenous LanguageRegion of Dominance
QuechuaCentral and Southern Highlands
AymaraLake Titicaca region
AshaninkaCentral Rainforests
AguarunaNorthern Rainforests

The Influence of Quechua

Quechua, once the administrative language of the vast Inca Empire, is still spoken by millions in Peru. Here are some aspects of its influence:

  • Cultural Integration: While Spanish is dominant in urban areas, Quechua remains integral in many rural communities, keeping traditions alive.
  • Vocabulary Borrowing: Many Quechua words have found their way into Peruvian Spanish. Examples include “llama” (the animal) and “pampa” (plain).
  • Tourism: As tourism in regions like the Sacred Valley and Cusco grows, there’s a renewed interest among visitors in learning basic Quechua phrases to interact with local communities.

The Role of Aymara

Close to the Bolivian border, especially around the Lake Titicaca region, Aymara is the dominant language. A few interesting facets of Aymara:

  • Ancient Roots: Aymara predates the Inca civilization and has been spoken in the region for thousands of years.
  • Bilingualism: Many Aymara speakers are also fluent in Spanish, facilitating communication with the rest of the country.

A Closer Look at Regional Dialects

Apart from the mainstream languages, there’s a plethora of regional dialects that showcase the country’s linguistic diversity.

Some of the Regional Dialects Include:

  • Ashaninka: Spoken by the Asháninka people in the central rainforests.
  • Aguaruna: Predominant among the Aguaruna community in the northern rainforests.
  • Shipibo-Conibo: A language of the Shipibo-Conibo people, primarily in the Ucayali region.
  • Matsés: Spoken in the remote regions close to the Brazil border.

Why Does Language Matter for Travelers?

Language isn’t just a tool for communication; it’s a gateway into understanding a culture, its people, and its history.

Reasons to Learn Basic Phrases:

  1. Connect with Locals: Even basic greetings in the local language can open doors to heartwarming interactions.
  2. Cultural Immersion: Understand traditions, folklore, and local nuances better.
  3. Navigate Easily: While many in urban areas speak English, knowing some Spanish can be invaluable in rural regions.
  4. Appreciation: Locals often appreciate the effort tourists put into speaking their language, even if it’s just a few phrases.

In Conclusion

Peru is not just a country with linguistic diversity; it’s a nation where each language tells a story of its people, history, and traditions. Whether you’re a traveler eager to explore or just curious about global languages, Peru offers a unique linguistic journey. From the bustling streets of Lima to the serene landscapes of the Andes, language remains an essential thread weaving the rich tapestry of Peruvian culture.