Last fall, 2008, NYU offered its first Quechua class. About 12 of us met three times a week with Odi Gonzales of Cusco, Peru. Like the beginning of learning any new language, we struggled through the first few weeks, battling knee-knocking waves of frustration, surprise, success and total confusion. Now in our second semester, we may not quite yet be able to rock out in Quechua, but we can carry on simple conversations and make some jokes.
Quechua is an indigenous language spoken by an estimated 10,000,000 people in South America. Although it has a major presence in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador (Quichua), there are also Quechua speakers in parts of Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Quechua existed before the Spanish arrived in South America in the early 16th century, and it existed before the Incan empire of the 1400s established Quechua as its official language of the state. Because of its co-existence with Spanish for about 500 years, and because of the changes in the world that have occurred over the centuries, some words are not translatable into Quechua; rather in certain contexts they are spoken in Spanish.
The US Department of Education allocates funds to CLACS at NYU so that Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships can be offered to students. FLAS Fellowships are awarded separately for both annual year and summer study. Quechua is one of the languages offered at NYU that is eligible for FLAS Fellowships. Visit the CLACS FLAS Fellowship webpage for more information.
Christine Mladic is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU