Quechua, often referred to as Runasimi (“the people’s language”), was the language of the Inca Empire. Nowadays, there are approximately eight million people who still speak the language, which makes it the most commonly spoken native language in South America. Learning a few basic expressions in Quechua can be of great help before traveling to Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia in particular in the South American Andes.
Allianchu: “Hello, how are you?”
To become friends with the warm-hearted indigenous people of the Andes, start by saying allianchu. Most of the time you will hear allianmi as a reply, meaning “I am well, thank you!” Now your friendship is off to a good start!
Pachamama: “Earth” / “Mother Earth”
The Quechua language is strongly connected to nature. Pachamama represents the “mother / goddess of the earth”. The world is seen as being permanently generated and regenerated. Today, most of the native populations still reject modern technology as well as modern medicine and rely on natural practices and rituals.
Inti is one of the most commonly used words in Quechua. The Incas worshipped the sun and therefore, you will see this word among many old temples and ruins. Inti has a strong connection to the Incan cultural heritage and identity because they believe the sun god to be their ancestor.
When you encounter the indigenous people of the Andes, you will soon realize how affectionate they are. Munay is felt everywhere. It doesn’t resemble the intimate kind of love that you would share with a partner. Rather, it is known as a state of being kind, accepting, caring, warm, and pure. You can say munay to someone you admire, someone you care for, or someone you are welcoming.
Sulpaiki: “Thank you”
Learning how to say “thank you” is probably one of the most important things in any language. If you want to thank someone for showing you the way, a delicious meal, or hospitality, say sulpaiki!
Speaking of hospitality, you will see the word wasi on many accommodations that offer you a warm and welcoming stay to make you feel at home.
Like always in life, there comes a time to part and say goodbye. When you are leaving, say tupananchikama to wish farewell to the people you met!