Some of the Challenges in Taking The Tz'utujil Maya Language to Social Media

Rising Voices Grantee Project Update

San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. Photo by imsbildarkiv and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. Photo by imsbildarkiv and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

I'd like to highlight some of the existing challenges to involve more people in the mission of writing in the Maya language on social media. The biggest challenges for indigenous languages and for the Maya Tz'utujil languages is the universalization of the Spanish language.

All media broadcast in the dominant languages and do so because of the large investment made by advertisers. And one might also point to political intent on control of the population when more people only speak one language. Indigenous languages do no have opportunities for growth, and there is a tendency for a reduction, for example now many languages are only spoken at home.

There is a consumerist culture in the consumption of information from the media, but not in community languages. There is also not efforts to guarantee its sustainability on a long-term scale. The few sources of massive information of the people of Guatemala are coopted and persecuted as “pirate” radio stations because the State has created laws that benefit the large media companies. So when there is a local radio station that appears, it is quickly silenced. Other challenge is the national education system whose primary objective is to create a uniform society in a country rich in culture and traditions.

For a Maya language speaker, being in a school that only speaks Spanish it becomes much easier to read that language than their own. It appears that there is a mental block to read the Maya language because one's linguistic configuration in one's mind is in Spanish.

We can also talk about self-discrimination that exist towards the indigenous language. Discrimination has reached a level where it one can deny one's own identify. Many consider indigenous languages to be of the past that hinders current development. We see that when parents with an indigenous Maya background speak to their own children in Spanish, which breaks the generational connection of the Maya language. This is a long-term concern for languages.

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