Towards the teaching of indigenous languages ​​in schools

Red de Jóvenes Indígenas LAC

Aruskipt'asipxañanakasakipunirakispawa is an Aymara word that means "we are compelled to communicate", translated by Aymara teacher Juan de Dios Yapita.


As a young Aymara, belonging to this indigenous people, I feel proud of my culture. Unfortunately, I am one of many who with affliction do not know the language of their parents and grandparents. The school offers us education and values, which are usually far from our original culture. Making it difficult to access materials, teachers and the learning of our native language. That is why the teaching of indigenous languages ​​is fundamental throughout school education.

Why is indigenous language important for cultural identity?

Language is the main form of interaction with our environment. Words preserve stories, traditions, culture and identity. The indigenous languages ​​represent the legacy of our grandmothers and grandparents. Our obligation is to take care of them because when an indigenous language disappears, the indigenous traditional knowledge (stories, legends, songs, values, myths, prayers) also disappears. Moreover, indigenous languages ​​consist of accessing a world of culture and a different conception of the world. The treasure of indigenous languages is a heritage that should not be lost.

Currently, indigenous cultural identity and languages ​​are threatened by the constant growth and assimilation of globalization. For example, in Bolivia the teaching of an indigenous language is mandatory.  However, the relevance that is placed on the time load of a foreign language is greater than the hours dedicated to the learning of a native language. The preservation and revitalization of native languages ​​strengthens indigenous peoples; Therefore, these languages ​​should be given equal importance, reflected in the same workload.

Is learning an indigenous language a human right?

Yes, international society has reached a global consensus on the Human Rights of indigenous peoples. This consensus is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states in article 14 that "indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning".

Today, the international community has established the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The fourth objective is "to ensure an inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all". For indigenous youth, the fourth objective means ensuring an education that guarantees the learning of their own language and culture.

In addition, the year 2019 has been declared the International Year of Indigenous Language ​​which aims to generate global cooperation to protect, promote and revitalize languages ​​to improve the lives of its speakers.

Why should an indigenous language be taught in school?

The teaching of an indigenous language enriches the spirit because it shows the diversity between cultures and their importance, promoting respect among them. Moreover, education must be a source of revitalization of the cultural identity of indigenous youth. Finally, learning our native language is our right. From my side, I will seek to exercise that right by learning my Aymara language to continue and impart the richness of my culture.

What do I do to learn the Aymara?

In Bolivia, guaranteeing bilingual education is an obligation of the State. Unfortunately, in my school I only have one hour per week of Aymara. For my part, I put all my effort and dedication to take advantage of that time. On the other hand, I really like to listen to the radio in Aymara, particularly Radio San Gabriel. The digital world also offers an opportunity to learn Aymara such as: groups and pages on Facebook, and the basic Aymara virtual platform of the Plurinational Public Management School. I also seek to speak Aymara in the house and on the street; I am afraid of being wrong or not finding the right word; but that will not stop me from talking in Aymara. Finally, I invite all of you to learn an indigenous language and live your culture.



Plurinational State of Bolivia