Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

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Monday, April 13, 2015


Kaqkitchel is one of the ancient Maya languages, related in sound and meaning to many other dialects depending on the geographical area. Everyone I have spoken to (in Spanish not in Kaqkitchel) refer to the language as Kaqkitchel. In other areas of Central America they may call it something different, but in the Lake Atitlan region it's known as Kaqkitchel.

Kaqkitchel is thousands of years old yet is still spoken many of the homes of the people, with Spanish being their second language and the one they learn in school. They are very proud of their tongue and will try to teach it to you, if you are at all interested.

Like their traditional dress, the form of Maya language they speak depends on their geographic area. They can understand each other's dialects, and they'll recognize where others are from who speak it a certain way.

As a tourist to Guatemala, one would expect to hear Spanish spoken freely but for the people whose families have lived in these mountainous areas for countless generations, it is Kaqkitchel that is spoken freely not Spanish. In fact there are many old ones who speak and understand very little Spanish.

I would really like to learn this remarkable language. Maybe after I've mastered Spanish...

A few words I know:

nan -- a respectful name to call a woman, probably in Spanish similar to "senora"

katok-- welcome

ya-- water

tzi-- dog

chi chi-- breastfeeding

chachek-- have a good day!


  1. That is so cool! Thank you for the language lesson.

  2. That is so cool! Thank you for the language lesson.

  3. Just don't mix up the two languages.

    1. Alex, ah shouldn't be a problem--the locals do all the time! You'll hear people speaking half Spanish, half Kaqkchikel.

  4. Love this post. I like hearing about the old languages that have never died.

  5. That is interesting. I too would have thought to hear Spanish as the day to day language.

  6. There are so many languages out there and so many I have not heard of. I love that they can go half Kaqkchikel and half Spanish. My mom and her best friend would often speak half German and half English. In and out of both very freely-wild actually

  7. Hi, Karen,

    Wow, this is fascinating! I never knew that in the mountains of Guatemala they spoke an ancient language.

    I just started a Rosetta stone course of Spanish. Hopefully we will both be fluent by the end of this year....

    Love your theme. I do enjoy reading about other lands and customs. Every day must be such a gift for you, experiencing a whole new world and culture....

  8. I'm sure they appreciate that you're learning their language; I know of a lot of people who go to other countries and just expect the locals to speak the visitors' language, even if that language isn't spoken there.

  9. Hi Karen - so pleased you're learning Spanish .. and Kaqkitchel is a wonderful name for what I'm sure is an even more pleasing language than our western ones ... I hope it lasts ..

    Chacek to you Karen - cheers Hilary