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Ancient language revived at OSU

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The language of the ancient Incas will be taught at Ohio State this spring when Quechua 501 and 503 are offered for the first time.

The course is open to both graduates and undergraduates. Robert Robison, program manager in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, said it is recommended that students taking Quechua have taken Spanish to the 104 level or higher because the language is taught with a Spanish base rather than an English base.

“We have a new Latin American studies (Master of the Arts program),” Robison said. It is also part of a new Andean Amazonian studies minor.

The course will be helpful for students that have interest in traveling to Andean countries, or have interest in Quechua culture, society and language. The purpose of the classes is to promote the development of speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. It will also teach an understanding of the culture and the role of Quechua-speaking societies in the Andean society.

“We also want to provide opportunity for students who want to do some research with the Andean cultures there,” Robison said. “Also for our regular literature and Ph.D. students, it’s important. A variety of folks across campus are interested.”

The Quechua courses are partially paid for through a grant from the Center of Latin American Studies and about $5,000 per quarter from the university, said associate professor Fernando Unzueta.

Professor Luis Morato is scheduled to teach both courses. Morato is from Pocona, Bolivia, and speaks fluent Quechua. Morato said about 13 million people in the world speak Quechua today.

Quechua is spoken in the entire Andean region on the west coast of South America, as well as in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and northern Argentina. There are also Quechuan communities in Washington, D.C., New York City, Madrid and Amsterdam.

“If you want to do any sort of research of Andean people, you would need to know Quechua,” Robison said.

Unzueta said the course is drawing interest from undergraduates who want to study a less traditional language and graduate students who want to study Andean culture.

“I traveled to Peru, I walked the Machu Picchu trail, and that was actually the first time I have been introduced to the language. I learned a little bit in the couple days I was doing the hiking,” said Rande Gaier, a fourth-year in international studies. “I came back and found out that the (university) was offering it, so I am very excited to learn the language.”

Robison compared Quechuan culture to Native American culture in the U.S.

“There are a wide variety of dialects because basically it is a spoken language, not a written language,” Robison said.

The dialect that will be taught at OSU is the one spoken in Peru, where Quechua was declared an official language in 1975.

Morato said learning Quechua is easier than learning Spanish, primarily because objects do not take on a masculine or feminine gender in the language.

 

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