Quechua Expansion During COVID-19

Updated: May 25, 2020

Para leer la versión en español, haga click aquí.

Now you can take Quechua/Kichwa classes for free on the Internet. This is an unexpected outcome of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic and Quarantine, the global education system has been shaken up to its root. Schools and colleges have suspended in-person classes for the foreseeable future and, depending on technological capacities, have moved them to online and distant platforms. Physical libraries and laboratories are closed. In a matter of weeks, the traditional classroom setting has been replaced by videoconference meetings. Several articles have already discussed the challenges of this emergency-mode of education, which includes an increase of student distress and a further precarity of teaching positions.

Such an unprecedented situation hits especially harder in second language classes that are usually considered optional courses or non-requirements for degrees. However, at the same time, instructors are showing creativity and finding opportunities to keep teaching (and make a living). In the case of Indigenous languages, which are already underrepresented in the educational system, the challenges are even bigger given the scarcity of infrastructure and the lack of prestige still attributed to the languages of the Global South.

For these reasons, it was a pleasant surprise to witness the appearance of many online platforms to learn Quechua for free — Facebook pages, YouTube channels, WhatsApp groups, and Zoom meetings. Some of these projects began in 2019 or before, but they became revitalized and were disseminated in the last months when the pandemic started. And most of them are individual initiatives and community organizations without institutional sponsorship.

Bellow I provide a very short list of online learning platforms, which are directed to Spanish speaking audiences and cover different varieties of Quechua/Kichwa in the Andean region. The number of similar initiatives is growing every day.

Why are these Quechua instructors not charging for their classes? The explanation is that these classes are a service to the community and are devoted to preserving Indigenous legacies. In other words, Quechua classes constitute a powerful tool of digital activism, which already has many practitioners in other Indigenous languages and an upcoming award for Quechua-related initiatives.

Another explanation is that, due to the above-mentioned lack of prestige, the number of prospective students willing to pay is very low. Free classes are an incentive to attract people who, after becoming familiarized with the language, will be eager to take more advanced classes and pay for them. In the meantime, these free classes democratize the learning of Quechua, given that literally anybody with a computer and an Internet connection could join them.

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