Phrases in 8 of Mexico’s Mother Languages in Honor of International Mother Language Day
In 1999, UNECO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) proclaimed February 21 International Mother Language Day as a means to “promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.”
International Mother Language Day (IMLD) was established by UNESCO in commemoration of students who were killed in Dhaka (current day Bangladesh) in 1952 protesting for recognition of Bengali as one of two official languages of then Pakistan. 2014 marks 15 years that IMLD has promoted the richness and diversity of mother languages.
According to a study done by INALI (National Institute of Indigenous Languages), in Mexico there are:
• 11 language families
• 68 languages
• and 364 dialects
In celebration of IMLD, here are phrases in Nahuatl, Zapotec, Maya, Totonac, Tarahumara, Otomi, Mazahua and Mixtec, 8 of Mexico’s mother languages, via our friends at Animal Político.
1. Nahuatl: It comes from the Uto-Aztecan family and is the most widely spoken of all Indian languages. Spoken in Mexico City, Durango, State of Mexico, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Tlaxcala and Veracruz, among others.
Good morning: Cualli tonaltin, or when you meet someone, you can say panoli.
2. Zapoteco: Oto-mangue language family. It’s spoken in Oaxaca and Veracruz.
3. Maya: Maya language family. It is the second most spoken language in Mexico. It is spoken in the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and Guatemala.
Good morning: ma’alo’ob k’iin
Thanks: Niib óolal, Yuum bo’otik
Goodbye: ka’a xi’itech
4. Totonaco: Totonaco-tepehua language family. It’s spoken in the Papantla region of Veracruz.
Good morning, afternoon, evening: Kgalhén
5. Mixteco: In 2000, Mixteco language speakers were the fourth largest community of Indigenous language speakers in Mexico with a total of 446,236 speakers over the age of 5.
Good morning: ku va’a
Thanks: tixa’vi, taxa’vixiñ
Goodbye: ndene’e, nandi
6. Tarahumara: Rarámuri, as it’s known by many, is especially complex. It has five vowel tones and distinctive vowel lengths: / i, e, a, o, u /, which also distinguishes between long and short vowels. Its accent is also phonemic.
Good morning: kuira ba
Thanks: matétera ba
7. Mazahua: Its speakers refer to their language as “Jñatio,” which is also their name for themselves.
Good morning: jiasmaji
Goodbye: maxa (the person replying); maxko (the person bidding farewell)
8. Otomi: As a group, the Otomi is the fifth largest Indigenous nation of Mexico. Of these, only a little more than half speak their mother language.
Good morning: hats’i, haxajuä
Thanks to the folks at INALI, UNESCO, and those at Animal Político for compiling this list.
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