One of our young girls grew up speaking only Quechua, learned Spanish at our home and is now bilingual. She shares her story. February 11, 2017 - Bolivia
Liz* (far left) walking with friends
“I don’t remember much from that time, because I was really little then,” said Liz*.
Liz is now a spirited and peppy 10-year-old girl in our Estrellas house, but when she first arrived at Casa Padre Wasson around four years ago, she hardly spoke any Spanish!
“I lived with my grandfather when I was little, and he took good care of me, but since he only spoke Quechua, I only spoke Quechua at home with him, too.” she explained. “We spent a lot of time together, and we celebrated holidays with our cousins and with the village. My older sister understood me, so I never needed to learn Spanish until I came to this house.”
Liz is one of five siblings, and is the second youngest in her family.
“When I first arrived it was a big shock; almost nobody could understand me and I couldn’t understand them. My caregiver supported me a lot, as well as my older siblings, and there was an older girl here who could also speak Quechua. She helped me too.”
In many indigenous communities in Bolivia, the older generations are at least functionally bilingual. However, some grandparents who live in small villages are still monolingual in Quechua, Aymará, or Guaraní. These days the younger generation must learn to use Spanish because it is a necessity in the education system and in society.
“My grandfather still visits me from time to time here at the home, and I’m so happy to see him. He speaks only Quechua, and he asks me how we’re doing here, how my brothers and sisters are doing. The most important thing for him is that we have food and can receive an education. I can answer his questions in Quechua, but I’m so used to speaking Spanish now, that it’s hard for me to even think in Quechua unless I really have to speak it!”
Many children at Casa Padre Wasson in NPH Bolivia have at least partial indigenous heritage and still identify with their native culture, but because of Bolivia’s urbanization and education standards, there is a great need for them to learn Spanish. At NPH we help them learn the Spanish language so they can lead an independent life and become productive citizens of society, but we also encourage that they keep the ties to their culture and always remember their roots.
“I do have a bilingual book in Quechua, though,” Liz mentioned with a smile. “I practice sometimes with my caregiver.”
*Name changed for privacy.
Karl Groneman Communication Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson