December 14, 2016
Peruvian TV station launches first program in Quechua
by Kait Howard
While Quechua is the most widely spoken autochthonous language in Peru, with millions of speakers also in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, its longevity has long been in question. It’s listed in Unesco’s “Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger,” and the NGO Cultural Survival predicts that, in the coming decades, Quechua will “continue to lose ground.” A fight to preserve Quechua has been raging in Peru, where, despite the fact that it’s an official language of the country alongside Spanish, there continues to be social stigma attached to speaking it.
The latest effort comes from the Peruvian public television broadcaster TV Peru, which has just launched its first-ever news program in Quechua, the BBC reports. The hour-long weekday program Nuqanchik (“We”), which is produced and reported by native Quechua speakers, has the support of Peru’s president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who said he hoped it would “help end discrimination.” One of Nuqanchik’s presenters, Marisol Mena, told Agence France Press that she hoped the show would “creat[e] an awareness that Quechua was not a language of the poor or disadvantaged.”
The program is an encouraging sign, especially since experts continue to question whether Quechua will ever be integrated into the mainstream. In a beautiful 2015 New Yorker piece on the world’s dying languages, Judith Thurman quoted the Peruvian linguist Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia saying that the language of the Amazonian Shawi, who number about twenty thousand, may have “better odds” of surviving “than Quechua, which has ten million speakers.” He explained:
Every language has its ecology. If it isn’t useful, the community will be forced to abandon it. Indigenous people in Latin America face all kinds of discrimination, and necessity dictates that, sooner or later, they adopt Spanish. Once that happens, the attrition is fast. Where a group is isolated from external pressures, they aren’t forced to accept the dominant language. So you can’t just go by the demographics.
“Quechua is such a beautiful language,” Peruvian-born New Yorker, and founder of the New York Quechua Initiative, Elva Ambía told the Wall Street Journal’s Tanyanika Samuels in an interview in 2014. “I want to help preserve it. I want for people to feel proud of our heritage, to feel proud about our culture.”
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.