by Cindy Vaquero and Liliana Cardoso
Throughout Ecuador’s history, and even today, many different languages have been and are spoken, believe it or not. Did you know that there are about ten native languages in Ecuador? Although, there may be many languages, Spanish is the most common language spoken in Ecuador. People who live in the mountains prefer to speak Quichua (Kichwa) -an language spoken by the Indians of the ancient Inca Quechua tongue. Most mountain people will most likely speak Quichua or a rare language that isn’t Spanish. There are many tribes in Ecuador that had their own language; in the rainforest area of northwestern Esmeraldas on the northern coast of Ecuador, people spoke a language called Cha Palaa and were known as the Chachi people. In Huasaga, Ecuador, many people would speak Achuar-Shiwiar along the Pastaza province and Bobonaza river. Ecuadorians also have Ecuadorian Sign Language -a language for the deaf. 30% of the signals are american signs and 20% are derived from spanish sign language, all mixed together to make ecuadorian sign language. The Secoya and Siona villages also had their own language, Paicoca, in the Amazon basin.
Many of these languages weren’t just spoken by Ecuadorian people, they were also spoken in other countries such as Peru. Now as tourists travel the world, we see that most speak English; therefore, many schools in Ecuador are having English as a language requirement. However, Ecuador is still strongly influenced by the indigenous languages of the region.
There were many more languages that existed before, became “extinct;” when less than 100,000 people speak a language, it becomes endangered.
What is important to recognize is that the culture in Ecuador is diverse and that lends to the richness of the country.