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What Languages Are Spoken In Guatemala?

The linguistic landscape of Guatemala is highly diverse with Spanish, 21 Mayan, one indigenous and one Arawakan language being spoken in the country.

Spanish is the official language of Guatemala. 21 Mayan languages, one indigenous language, and one Arawakan language are also spoken in the country.

Official Language Of Guatemala

Spanish, the official language of the country, is also the most spoken language in the nation. Nearly 93% of the population of Guatemala speak Spanish. The language was introduced in the country by the Spanish colonists and was taught to the indigenous inhabitants of the country by missionaries and the earliest Guatemalan schools. Today, Spanish acts as the primary medium of instructions in schools nationwide. Spanish is also used widely in both formal and informal occasions in the country.

Mayan Language Spoken In Guatemala

K’iche’

Also known as the Quiché, the language is spoken by the K'iche' people inhabiting the central highlands of Guatemala. More than a million speakers of this language constitute 11.31% of the population of Guatemala. After Spanish, K’iche’ is the second most popular language in the country. Most speakers of K’iche’ also have working or advanced knowledge of Spanish. There are several dialects of K’iche’ of which the Central Dialect is the most widely used in education and medium. The Popol Vuh is a famous literary work in the Classical K'iche' language.

Q'eqchi'

The Q’eqchi' language is spoken by about 7.58% of the Guatemalan population. It is also a Maya language that is spoken in the Guatemalan departments of El Quiché, El Petén, Izabal, and Alta Verapaz.

Kaqchikel

The Kaqchikel language is a Mayan language that is closely related to the Tz'utujil and K'iche' languages. The language is spoken by the Kaqchikel people living in the central highlands region of Guatemala. The language is taught in public schools and propagation of the language is promoted by the intercultural bilingual education programs organized in the country.

Mam

The Mayan language of Mam is spoken by the Mam people in the four Guatemalan departments of Huehuetenango, Retalhuleu, San Marcos, and Quetzaltenango. The language is also spoken in the Chiapas state in Mexico as well in parts of Washington D.C. and California in the US. The language is closely related to the Tektitek language.

Poqomchi’

Guatemala’s Poqomchi’ Maya speaks the Poqomchi’ language. There are two dialects of the language that are spoken mainly in the Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz departments of Guatemala.

Tz’utujil

The Tz'utujil people of Guatemala speak the Tz’utujil language. The speakers of this language primarily inhabit the Western Highlands region of the country south of Lake Atitlán. The language is closely related to the K'iche' and the Kaqchikel languages. There are two dialects of this language, namely Eastern Tz’utujil and Western Tz’utujil. Many of the native speakers of Tz’utujil have a working knowledge of Spanish. However, the older generations and those living in the remote areas are usually monolingual in Tz’utujil. Due to the growth of tourism in the region, Spanish is currently being promoted to allow the locals to communicate with the tourists.

Achi

Achi, a language closely related to the K'iche', is spoken by Guatemala’s Achi people. The Achi speakers are mainly inhabitants of the Baja Verapaz department in the country. The two dialects of the language are Rabinal Achi and Cubulco Achi which are spoken in the Rabinal and Cubulco areas, respectively.

Q’anjob'al

Also known as the Kanjobal, the language is spoken in parts of Guatemala and Mexico. In the former nation, the language is spoken primarily in the Huehuetenango Department. The language is taught in public schools in Guatemala as a part of the country’s intercultural language exchange programs.

Ixil

Ixil is a Mayan language that is spoken by the Ixil community living in the three Guatemalan highland towns of San Gaspar Chajul, San Juan Cotzal, and Santa Maria Nebaj. Small populations of Ixil migrants in Guatemala City and the US also speak this language.

Akatek

The Akatek people of Guatemala who primarily reside in the Huehuetenango Department of the country speak the Akatek language. The language is closely related to the Jakaltek and Q'anjob'al languages.

Jakaltek

The Mayan language of Jakaltek is spoken by the Jakaltek people of Guatemala who mainly reside in the Huehuetenango department of the country.

Chuj

The Chuj language, a member of Q'anjob'alan branch of Mayan languages is spoken by Guatemala’s Chuj people. The language speakers primarily inhabit the Huehuetenango Department of the country. The San Mateo Ixtatán and the San Sebastián Coatán are the two main dialects of Chuj.

Poqomam

The Mayan language of Poqomam is spoken in several small pockets in the country with the largest number of speakers being concentrated in the Guatemala’s Jalapa Department.

Ch’orti'

The indigenous Ch'orti' Maya people of Guatemala speak the Ch’orti’ language.

Awakatek

The Mayan language of Awakatek is spoken in the Huehuetenango Department of Guatemala, especially in the areas around the Aguacatán municipality. The language is closely related to Ixil.

Sakapultek

The language, a close relative of the K'iche' language, is spoken in the municipality of Sacapulas in the El Quiché Department of Guatemala and also by a small population in Guatemala City.

Sipakapense

The Mayan language of Sipakapense is spoken mainly in the Sipacapa municipality of the San Marcos department by the people of the Sipakapense community.

Uspanteko

The Uspanteko language of Guatemala is closely linked to K'iche'. The language is spoken in the El Quiché Department of Guatemala in the municipalities of Playa Grande Ixcán and Uspantán.

Tektitek

The Tektitek is a Mayan language of the Mamean branch language family. It is spoken by Huehuetenango department’s Tektitan people. Some speakers of the language also live in Mexico. Some aspects of the Mexican Spanish language have been incorporated into the Tektitek language.

Mopan

The Mopan language is spoken by the Mopan people inhabiting Guatemala’s Petén Department and Belize’s Maya Mountains region. The language is a Mayan language belonging to the Yucatecan branch.

Itza’

The Mayan language of Itza’ belongs to the Yucatecan branch. The Itza people living in the vicinity of Lake Peten Itza speak this language.

Indigenous Language Of Guatemala

Xinca

The Xinca languages constitute a group of Mesoamerican languages that are spoken by Southeastern Guatemala’s indigenous Xinca people. The number of Xinca language speakers is rapidly declining and most of the languages are nearly extinct. The languages are also spoken in El Salvador and Honduras. In the past, the language was more widespread but the Spanish conquest triggered the cultural extinction of the Xincas which also led to the death of their languages. The languages have many loanwords derived from Mayan languages which exhibit the close contact that the Xinca people shared with the Mayan civilization.

Arawakan Languages Spoken In Guatemala

Garifuna

The Garifuna language is one of the three non-Mayan languages that are spoken in Guatemala. The language was introduced in the country by the black African slaves who were brought to work by the Spanish colonists. The language is spoken by the inhabitants of the Izabal Department of Guatemala.

What Languages Are Spoken In Guatemala?

RankLanguageLanguage FamilyBranch Of LanguagesFirst Language Speakers
1SpanishIndo-EuropeanRomance9,481,907
2K’iche’MayanKiche'1,000,000
3Q'eqchi'MayanKiche'555,461
4KaqchikelMayanKiche'500,000
5MamMayanMam480,000
6PoqomchiMayanKiche'92,000
7Tz’utujilMayanKiche'88,300
8AchíMayanKiche'85,552
9Q’anjob’alMayanQ'anjob'al77,700
10IxilMayanMam70,000
11AkatekMayanQ'anjob'al48,500
12JakaltekMayanQ'anjob'al40,000
13ChujMayanQ'anjob'al40,000
14PoqomamMayanKiche'30,000
15Ch'orti'MayanChol30,000
16AwakatekMayanMam18,000
17SakapultekMayanKiche'9,763
18SipakapaMayanKiche'8,000
19GarífunaArawakanCaribeña5,860
20UspantekMayanKiche'3,000
21TektitekMayanMam2,265
22MopanMayanYucateca2,000
23Xincan languagesIsolateXincan languages16
24ItzaMayanYucateca12

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