The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context: A Collection Essays on Aspects of Aymara Language and Culture

By M. J. Hardman | Go to book overview

19. Linguistics and Education in Rural Schools among the Aymara

Pedro Copana Yapita

Primarily I wish to write concerning the teaching of the Aymara language as related to what happens in Andean countries like Perú and Bolivia. In these countries, and also in Ecuador, the majority of the population are indigenous people. In the case of Bolivia, we, Aymara, are about a third of the population.

Although a book about Aymara was written by the Jesuit priest Lucovico Bertonio and published in Italy in 1603 using the Spanish alphabet, this alphabet has not been made widely known yet. Later, Canadian missionaries, also adapting the Spanish alphabet, translated some portions of the Bible. These teachings were for those who accepted the message of the gospel. There were no public schools; the Canadian missionaries started the first private free schools in every native community in the region of Huatajata on the borders of Lake Titikaka around the year 1940. In these missionary schools each schoolday was started with approximately thirty minutes of Biblical readings and hymn singing in Aymara. The remaining class hours were carried on in Spanish, which is the official language of Bolivia.

When I was a student in these schools, the biggest problem for me was my inability to pronounce the Spanish words well; I remember what the words were, and I still remember very well that I used to be punished

____________________
Copana prepared "La lingüstica y la educación en las escuelas rurales entre los Aymara" for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Canada in November 1972. Yapita translated the paper into English as "Linguistics and Education in Rural Schools among the Aymara." A much-reduced version of the paper was published in New Voices in Education, College of Education, University of Florida, 1973. Copana has continued the implementation of bilingual education and the preparation of materials in Qumpi, Bolivia, where both primary and secondary schools are now in full operation.

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