The Rights of ASYLUM SEEKERS WHO SPEAK INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES

Resources for asylum seekers, advocates, and attorneys, with a focus on asylum seekers from Mexico and Guatemala

The Languages of Guatemala

 

In Guatemala, there are 25 languages with protected status, including Spanish, 22 Mayan languages, and two other indigenous languages–Garífuna and Xinca. While Spanish is the official language, as part of the peace accords that ended the 36-year armed internal conflict, indigenous communities fought for and obtained official recognition of their right to speak their own languages. While great progress has been made on paper, the reality is that people who speak their own languages rather than Spanish are still subject to exclusion and discrimination. Some of the most commonly spoken languages by indigenous Mayans in the United States are:

The following organizations have great resources about indigenous languages, and may have useful resources for teacher, foster care providers, and other social service providers working with indigenous language speakers who are learning Spanish and/or English.

  1. Popol Mayab’ is a website that regularly publishes resources on Mayan language and culture, and it also is active  on facebook. From downloadable PDFs of Spanish-Indigenous Language dictionaries to great infographics, this is a great resource.
  2. Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala. This organization has many linguistic projects throughout Guatemala’s indigenous communities, including online Diccionarios Hablados  and Facebook pages for each of the 22 Mayan languages.
  3. Fundación Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín. This organization and language school has published bilingual dictionaries and grammar guides for decades.

If you have arrived at this site looking for an interpreter, we suggest that you contact an indigenous-led organization. Please also recognize that in the interests of justice, if you work with a significant number of speakers of indigenous languages, you should build the cost of paying for quality interpretation into your regular budget, and if you work with fewer you should also establish a regular protocol for ensuring that the language needs of your clients are met. 

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