Reintroduced Indigenous Language Course Focuses on Quechua

August 28, 2014

The Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) announces the reintroduction of a course offering which focuses on a less commonly taught language of Latin America: Quechua, an indigenous language spoken by millions of people throughout the Andean region of South America.

Quechua, also known as Quichua or Kichwa, is a family of nearly 50 different languages and dialects spoken primarily in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina, and to a lesser extent in Colombia, Brazil, and Chile (UCLA Language Materials Project). Its history displays a growth trajectory unique among other indigenous languages of the region. Given that Quechua was the language of the Incas, Quechua was well situated as an important trade and missionary language at the time of conquest. As a result, Quechua is one of the few indigenous languages of Latin America which was not significantly displayed by Spanish and Portuguese during colonization. Rather, it gained importance. It is currently one of the most highly spoken indigenous languages of the region.

Course offerings in Quechua are not new to the University of New Mexico (UNM). Half a decade ago, the language was a thriving area of study at the university. Since that time, a dearth of instructors has left students without the opportunity to pursue it.

Yuliana Kenfield is the new instructor who will reintroduce this language and its cultural context to UNM students. Kenfield was born and raised in Cusco, Peru. She moved to the United States in 2006, and has lived in the Albuquerque area since 2008. She is the mother of young twins, T'ika and Chaski ("flower" and "messenger" in Quechua), who are native New Mexicans. She earned a Master's in Applied Linguistics in Teaching Spanish from the University of Antonio de Nebrija in Spain and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the UNM Department of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies. Her research interests include social attitudes about interculturality and cultural awareness, and education of indigenous Quechua people that fosters active social entities for the global and local village.

Prior to coming to the United States, Kenfield worked in the tourism industry throughout Peru, focusing on Peruvian anthropology in areas such as Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, and Chan Chan, among others. She was also involved for a period with Manu National Park in the Amazonian region of Peru. Throughout this time, she also developed a role as a poet, a calling which took her to Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Mexico. Since coming to the United States, Kenfield has worked as an educator. She has taught Spanish to elementary and middle school students, as well as college students, throughout New Mexico (NM), and holds a NM license with endorsement in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and in Bilingual Education. Drawing upon her linguistic skills, she has also worked as a contract translator and interpreter for many years.

Kenfield will instruct UNM students in the Quechua language and culture, framing their studies so as to be culturally appropriate. Students will develop beginning listening comprehension skills, reading and writing skills, and basic conversational skills. In addition, the course will expand on the history and current contexts of the Quechua people. As Kenfield describes it, "whenever a new language is learned, a new culture is also learned."