Language (of the Incas) matters

  1. Breakfast programme Ñuqanchik (All Of Us) celebrates second year on air covering Peruvian and world news in Quechua
  2. Journalists endeavour to challenge the historic marginalisation of one of South America's oldest languages
  3. Ancient language is still spoken by a third of the country

The language that gave us words such as puma, condor, llama, alpaca and that of trendy super-food kinwa — no, ‘quinoa’ is not how they spelt it — is rarely heard on national television or radio stations in the country where it was first spoken. But things seem to have started to change.

For the first time in Peru’s history, a national news broadcast is being aired entirely in Quechua — the language of the ancient Inca empire that to this day is spoken and/or understood by 10 million Peruvians.

On Wednesday, 12th December 2018, they celebrated throughout the country the second anniversary of Ñuqanchik (All Of Us), the only morning news programme in Quechua presented every day by hosts Clodomiro Landeo and Marisol Mena via state broadcasters TV Peru and Radio Nacional.

In an Al-Jazeera interview, Mr Landeo proudly claimed his programme is of significant benefit to Quechua speakers because they will no longer be ashamed of speaking in their mother tongue.

“The very fact that this programme is being broadcast means that Quechua speakers will lift their heads up, and they will be better informed.”

Ms Mena said it is a “historic achievement” that symbolically ends with centuries of marginalisation.

“Our language was seen as an embarrassment, it was frowned upon and we were looked down on.”

TV Perú managing director Hugo Moya added that “the news being broadcast in Quechua is a fact that acknowledges this is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country.”

“Some people have complained they don’t understand [a programme that is not in Spanish]. Well, my only response to it is that, finally, they get what it’s like to be a Quechua speaker in Peru, watching the national news in your own country and not understanding, because it’s broadcast in a language that is not your own,” said Patricia del Río, a host at the broadcaster.

Ñuqanchik could have been a newscast that translated contents from Spanish — the country’s dominant language — but that would have subtracted at least some of its authenticity. Rather, it is produced originally in Quechua by a team of 14 Quechua speaking journalists, concerned about providing information to the Quechua-speaking population especially in areas such as health, education and justice.

Even if its usage has dwindled over generations as many parents deliberately did not teach the language to their children fearing they would be rejected or mocked for using it, to this day about 4 million people speak Quechua fluently and up to 10 million — almost a third of the country’s population — understand some of the language.

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