Beyond Words - Language Blog

Quixote in Quechua

On this blistering Bloomsday, I thought I’d share the news that esteemed Peruvian scholar, Demetrio Tupac Yupanqui, has published the first Quechua translation of Cervante’s Don Quixote

Here at ALTA, we don’t get very many inquiries for translation services or language testing in Quechua. That’s not to say that the language of the Incas, which today is spoken by over 5 million Peruvians, Bolivians, and Ecuadorians, is not important. While Quechua may not be a top language of commerce, it is certainly an interesting, important, and resilient tongue.

Yupanqui’s translation of the seminal work of Spanish literature is the most recent attempt by proponents of Quechua to increase the social and political cache of Latin America’s most widely spoken indiginous language. A great way to broaden any language’s sphere of influence is to introduce great works of literature in translation, and thereby help to involve speakers in a broader cultural conversation.

Huh k’iti, la Mancha llahta suyupin, mana yuyarina markapin, yaqa kay watakuna kama, huh axllasqa wiraqucha…

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo…

Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago…

There are other indicators that Quechua may be making a comeback after centuries of decline. As reported in the NY Times article, both Microsoft and Google have recently made their services available in Quechua translations, and laws have been passed in Peru that prohibit discrimination based on language.

While I don’t speak Quechua, I’ll take Yupanqui’s word for it when he says, “If Latin is said to be the language of the angels, then Quechua is the language for expressing the subtleties of existence on Earth. That is why it is still alive.”