What is Quechua?

Quechua is the most important and most widely-distributed indigenous language in South America, with over10 million speakers living from the high mountains to the tropical lowlands in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Those who speak it call the language runa simi or runa shimi, "human speech." It was the principal language of the Inca empire and the key language of cultural interaction during the colonial era. Quechua has remained central to indigenous peoples' efforts to preserve their cultural autonomy. It has gained greater force in recent years, during which indigenous movements have swept Quechua speakers into national politics, where they have succeeded in transforming constitutions to recognize cultural diversity, making Quechua an official language of state, and successfully promoting schooling in the language.


Why Study Quechua?

Studying Quechua opens a window onto alternative ways of thinking about social worlds, about space and time, family, and humans' relationship with the natural world. Quechua is recommended for students anticipating travel to the Andean region, those interested in language and linguistics, and those interested in indigenous literatures and cultures. Students who satisfactorily complete introductory Quechua I and II will be well-prepared for intensive summer study at one of many summer study abroad programs in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia that will put them in closer contact with the indigenous world.


Undergraduate students: The projected four-semester sequence of Quechua will satisfy both CAS’ foreign language requirement and the language requirement of the Latin American Studies major. Please refer to CAS Spanish Department course listings for days and times.


Graduate students: Quechua at NYU is FLAS approved (see CLACS webpage on FLAS fellowships).