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The Quechua language
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Quechua is an aboriginal language of Peru spoken by a significant percentage of its population (about 3,799,780 people approximately). During the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, part of the team that accompanies tourists (cooks, porters, guides) they are Quechua speakers. Here are some aspects of this language, which was the language of the Incas. Likewise, we will help you learn some useful words during your visit to Cusco.


The language of the Incas

  • The origins of Quechua are as old as the history of ancient Peru.
  • The first civilization of ancient Peru was the Caral culture, which inhabited the central coast of Peru, north of the current city of Lima between 3,000 B.C. and 1,800 B.C.
  • According to the research of the Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady as well as the Peruvian linguist Alfredo Torero, the Caral civilization had a language called ‘proto Quechua’, which gave rise to the Quechua spoken many centuries later, even in Inca times.
  • The Incas come from the highland region near Lake Titicaca. Their language was ‘puquina’, which is now extinct. However, after a long journey, they arrived in the Cusco region where Quechua was the most widely spoken language. Thus, Quechua became the official language of the empire. The puquina was only used by the ruling elite.
  • After the arrival of the Spanish to Cusco in the 16th century, the Quechua language was seen as a pagan language, so the authorities of the colony sought to impose Spanish as the new official language.
  • However, Quechua survived centuries of persecution, not only in Cusco but in many other regions of Peru that were part of the Inca empire. In 1975, Quechua became official as the national language of Peru, under the same status as Spanish.
  • Currently it is estimated that there are 3,799,780 Quechua speakers in Peru.

Quechua on the Inca Trail

  • During the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Quechua language is the most widely spoken among cooks, porters, and even tour guides. The latter, however, is also fluent in other languages such as English, Spanish, and more.
  • The vast majority of the team that accompanies tourists on the Inca Trail are bilingual as they speak Spanish and Quechua. Even some people only speak Quechua. Due to this, it is recommended that the tourist know some basic Quechua words that can help him interact with them.
  • The purchase of the Inca Trail tour to Machu Picchu it must be done online through the website of an authorized tourism agency. All the websites that offer this service are in Spanish, English or other languages.

How do you pronounce?

  • Many Quechua words are written as they sound. However, we put below some common names that sometimes cause doubts or difficulties during the trip to the Inca Trail.
  • Note the following pronunciations, the hyphens are for clarity only, they do not indicate pauses.
Phrase Pronunciation

Llaqtapata

yakta-pahta

Machu Picchu

machoo peechoo

Mollepata

moll-yeh-pahta

Phuyupatamarka

poo-yoo-patta-marka

Quechua

kech-wah

quinoa

keen-wah

Salkantay

sal-kant-eye

Saqsaywaman

saks-eye-wah-man

Wamantay

wah-mant- eye

Warmiwañusqa

wahr-me-wan-yus-ka

Wayllabamba

way-lee-ya-bamba

Wiñaywayna

win-yay-way-na


Clases básicas de quechua

  • Here is a list with Quechua words that can be used during the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:

Some Basic Vocabulary

English

Quechua

Spanish

please

allichu

por favor

thank you

yusulpayki

gracias

you’re welcome

imamanta

de nada

l’m sorry

dispinsayuway

lo siento

yes

arí

no

manan

no

what?

ima?

qué?

where?

maypin?

dónde?

when?

hayk’aq?

cuándo?

how much?

hayk’an?

cuánto es?

bill

kwenta

la cuenta

let’s go

haku

vamos

far

karu

lejos

near

sirka

cerca

difficult

sasa

difícil

easy

phasil

fácil

snow-capped

orqo

nevado

altitude sickness

suruchi

soroche

 

By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 19-07-2021


The antecedents of Culture of the Inca Empire is full of mysteries to solve, is to admire the constructive work of the Incas.


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