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Studying Quechua and Aymara

Quechua, or Kichwa, the official language of the Inca Empire, is the most widely spoken indigenous language in the Americas. Over 10 million people in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru speak some form of Quechua, which linguists refer to as a family of at least seven languages with 46 dialects. Aymara remains the first language of around 2 million indigenous in Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

If you are keen to learn the indigenous languages of Bolivia while there, you are in luck. With encouragement from the Morales government and renewed interest in all things indigenous, learning Quechua, Aymara and more remote languages is more popular than ever. Quechua and Aymara varieties share a large amount of vocabulary, and, while most language schools in Bolivia and Latin America teach only Spanish, some of the bigger schools now offer courses—though make note, your best bet is complete immersion. Homestays, volunteer projects, work and, on rare occasions, actual classes in a local indigenous community are great ways to pick up more than a few words here and there.

To set something up, talk with local Spanish schools or exchange programs. If you’re trying to set something up before you reach Bolivia, look into programs at either western or Bolivian universities, or check out the study abroad directory ( Indigenous language instruction is available from Cochabamba-based Escuela Runawasi ( and the Sustainable Bolivia Language School (

Language School

Centro de Idiomas Kori Simi, Patricia's Private Spanish Lessons, Escuela Runawasi, Instituto Exclusivo, SpeakEasy Institute, Centro Boliviano Americano – CBA, Spanish Academy, Pico Verde Languages, Centro Boliviano Americano and Academia Latinoamericana de Español.

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