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Language map SpanishLanguage map SpanishPhoto: Ichwan Palongengi CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The official language is Spanish, but the South American Spanish spoken in Bolivia is different in sentence construction and pronunciation from Spanish in Spain. The frequent use of diminutives is typical of Bolivian. There are also dialectical differences per region. 45% of the population speaks only Spanish.

Nearly half of the population speaks one of the two major Indian languages in addition to Spanish: Quechua or Aymará. In rural areas in particular, one of these two languages is spoken by the older Bolivians. This is also the result of inadequate education. Quechua was the language of the earlier Inca rulers and is still spoken in all Andean countries, especially Bolivia and Peru. However, different dialects have developed in all countries. The influence of Spanish is great, because many Quechua words are pronounced in Spanish.

Aymará is mainly spoken around La Paz and Lake Titicaca by about 2 million Indians. The Aymará Indians are descendants of the Tiwanaku culture who, unlike the Quechua, managed to preserve their identity during Inca rule. There are also many Native American languages, including Guarani, which is still widely spoken. English is not yet very well known and is spoken in very few places.

Bolivia Libros en espagnol Bolivia Libros en espagnolPhoto: Public domain

The Spanish and the Indian languages Aymará and Quechua are of course very different. But there are also major differences between these two Indian languages.

Below are some examples consecutively in English, Spanish, Aymará and Quechua:

one uno maya u’luc
two dos paya iscai
three tres quimsa quinsa
fivecinco pe(i)sa phisca
ten diez tunca chunca

tomorrow mañana arumanti tutamanta
son hijo yoka churi
black negro chiara yana
nose nariz nasa senca

English : how old are you?
Spanish : cuantos años tienes?
Aymará : caucca maranitasa?
Quechua : Masca huatayoctaccanqui?


Bijl, Y. van der / Reishandboek Bolivia

Lindert, P. van / Bolivia : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur

Schimmel, K. / Bolivia
Chelsea House Publishers

Sprey, J. / Bolivia

Te gast in Bolivia
Informatie Verre Reizen

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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