Languages: Let's Tweet and Speak in Quechua

This post is part of our preview of “Using Citizen Media Tools to Promote Under-Represented Languages.”

Say you've always wanted to learn Quechua, an indigenous language spoken in the Andes Region of South America, but you haven't had the time to properly take classroom lessons. Now a new project called Hablemos Quechua (Let's Speak Quechua) has developed a way to provide daily lessons through a series of automated Tweets to help build up an interested learner's vocabulary.

The project describes itself as a “techno-socio-cultural experiment to re-establish connections,” and was developed at Escuela Lab, a “hackspace” located in Lima, Peru. The team includes Kiko Mayorga, developer Mariano Crowe, and Irma Alvarez Ccoscco, a Quechua poet and a translator from the organization Runasimipi. The result of this collaboration is the Twitter account (@hablemosquechua), which currently has nearly 1700 followers. The program draws from a database of Spanish words and their Quechua equivalents to provide vocabulary matches:

The word in Quechua for "flower" could be t'ika

It also tweets small quizzes where it asks followers to recall earlier lessons:

Do you remember what t'ika means?

The Quechua language has numerous dialects and differs from region to region, producing variations in words and spellings. This is something fully recognized by the project [es], in which they apologize for choosing the Quechua spoken in the Cusco-Collao region of Peru for the dialect used in the program. It is the primary reason why the tweets use the phrasing “the word in Quechua for “flower” could be “t'ika,” as a way of acknowledging that there could be other words for flower.

It is one of the challenges that the project seeks to address in the coming months, as it seeks funding to further develop the program. There are hopes to be able to account for these differences in regional dialects, as well as to make the account much more interactive and responsive to replies from its followers. The program could also be potentially used by other language communities that would like to use Twitter as a way to provide short and quick vocabulary lessons for learners of underrepresented languages.


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