Machu Picchu is located in Peru, a country in South America where there are 47 native languages, among which Aymara and Quechua stand out. The latter was the language used by the Incas and is still very much in force today. On the trip to Machu Picchu, this language is widely used by local people whose ancestors were part of the Inca culture.
The language of the Peruvians
According to official figures in Peru there are approximately 32 million inhabitants. The most widely spoken languages are Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. These last two are two of the 47 registered original languages. Of all the native languages, only four are spoken in the Andes Mountains region. The other 43 belong to specific areas of the Peruvian Amazon. It is estimated that in the past there were more than 150 native languages. With the arrival of the Spanish, many were lost, most of them in the Amazon region.
The Peruvian law that the official languages of the country are Spanish and the native languages in the places where they are predominant. Indeed, Spanish is present in almost the entire Peruvian territory. Quechua also predominates in the Andean region. In the highland region, Aymara is predominant.
The most spoken language in Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is located in the Cusco region where Quechua is spoken by 95% of its population (although only 15% can write in the language of the Incas). However, the vast majority of its population is bilingual. That is, they dominate Quechua but also Spanish.
In Machu Picchu as well as in the city of Cusco, the population speaks both Quechua and Spanish. Even so, it is worth mentioning that tourist services (tours to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, restaurants, hotels, etc.) have workers who, for the most part, speak English.
Quechua, the language of the Incas
Quechua was the official language of the Inca empire. Due to the Inca conquest in various regions of the current South American map, this language expanded and is currently spoken in many Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Chile. In total, it is estimated that there are 12 million Quechua speakers in South America. Therefore, research indicates that this language is far from disappearing.
The Incas are not originally from the Cusco region but rather immigrated from the highland region bordering Lake Titicaca where the Aymara language is currently spoken by most of its inhabitants. Research suggests that the Incas spoke another language called ‘Puquina’. However, upon arrival in Cusco they had to adapt to the language of the majority of the local population, the Quechua language.
That is why Quechua, also called ‘Runa simi’, was spoken by the vast majority of the common Inca population. It is believed that the Inca elite preserved the ‘Puquina’ language as a private language, reserved only for the ruling class.
The truth is that from the 15th century, the Inca empire expanded throughout much of the South American territory. The Incas established Quechua in the newly conquered territories. Due to this, this language is currently spoken in various regions of the continent. In many cases, some aboriginal languages (such as Cañari or Mochica) disappeared to be replaced by Quechua.
English in the trip to Machu Picchu
English is a language that is not spoken by the majority of the Cusco population. However, in tourism services there are many workers who do speak this language (hotel receptionists, tour guides, sales team in tourism agencies, etc.).
That is why tourists have no problem communicating during the trip to Machu Picchu. However, if you are looking for a conversation with a Cusco resident, it is difficult for them to master English. Even so, the people of Cusco are very kind people who will try to understand you or help you in your concerns.
Other languages on the trip to Machu Picchu Picchu
In tourism agencies, hotels or restaurants, most people speak English. In the case of other languages such as French, German, Japanese, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Russian or a different one; the thing changes. On the trip to Machu Picchu, most people are fluent in English, Spanish, and perhaps Portuguese. That is not the case for other different languages.
Tips to improve communication on your trip to Machu Picchu Picchu
Cusqueños are very friendly people used to tourists so don’t be afraid to ask them something in English. Even if they do not speak the language, they will find a way to communicate and solve their problem or concern.
Dare to learn some words in Quechua in order to surprise the people of Cusco on the trip to Machu Picchu. For example: ‘allichu’ (please), ‘yusulpayki’ (thank you), ‘dispinsayuway’ (sorry), ‘arí’ (yes), ‘manan’ (no), ‘ima?’ (What?), ‘Maypin?’ (Where?) And ‘hayk’an?’ (How much does it cost?).
Online you can get tours to Machu Picchu in various languages: Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, French, German and even Russian and Japanese.