Peru, a western South American nation, is a highly biodiverse country. The country was home to ancient cultures like the Norte Chico civilization and the Inca Empire. In the 16th century, Peru was annexed by the Spanish Empire which established a Viceroyalty in the country with the capital at Lima. The Spanish rulers of Peru established their language as the official language of the country. Today, even after Peru’s independence from Spanish rule, the Spanish language continues to be the official and most widely spoken language in the country. Besides Spanish, a number of Indigenous languages are spoken in Peru, albeit with a much lower number of speakers than Spanish-speaking Peruvians.
Official Language Of Peru
Spanish is the official language of Peru, and over 84% of Peruvians speak this language. The government administration in Peru, the Peruvian educations system, and the media of the country use Spanish as the principal means of communication.
Aboriginal Languages Of Peru
A large number of aboriginal languages are spoken in Peru, primarily by the Indigenous populations residing in the Amazon forests of Peru and the central Andes region. Some of these languages have died out, like the Mochica language, or are in the process of becoming extinct. Though nearly 300 to 700 aboriginal languages were spoken in Peru before the European invasion of the land, fewer than 150 are spoken today.
Quechua is the most widely spoken Indigenous language of Peru and the second-most popular language in the country after Spanish. About 13% of Peruvians speak Quechua, especially those residing in the central and southern highlands of the country. Quechua was spoken by ancient Peruvians well before the establishment of the Inca Empire. That the Inca Empire used the Quechua language as its official language helped popularize it. There are several dialectal variants of Quechua with significant differences from one another.
Quechua has also influenced Peruvian Spanish and English. Hundreds of words from this language have been integrated into Peruvian Spanish. Some Quechua words adopted by English are lima, condor, puma, llama, and gaucho.
Another important native language in Peru is Aymara. Only about 1.7% of Peruvians speak this language, making it the nation’s third-most spoken first language. Most Peruvians who speak Aymara are settled around Lake Titicaca and along the Peru-Bolivia border to the south of the country.
Foreign Languages Spoken In Peru
Though Spanish is adopted by most of the immigrants to Peru, certain communities continue to speak their native languages. Foreign languages prevalent among these small immigrant populations in Peru include Japanese, Chinese, Italian, German, Arabic, Urdu, and a few other languages. English is also gaining some degree of popularity in Peru due to a large number of American tourists visiting the country and the British residents of Peru who speak this language.
The Need To Protect The Indigenous Languages Of Peru
Many of the Indigenous Peruvian languages are endangered today. The urbanized sections of the country have distanced themselves from their Indigenous roots to a large extent and have adopted foreign languages like Spanish as their principal means of communication. The government of the country thus feels the need to conserve the Indigenous Peruvian languages and have taken several steps in the direction. It is important that Peruvians take pride in their Indigenous languages to keep them alive.