What does Quechua sound like? Traditional fabric/dyeing presentation in “runasimi”!

My mission to learn a little Quechua (a.k.a. “Runasimi”, the language of the Incas) has been so fascinating!!

I’ve recorded lots of video footage about my experience here in the Andes, including my four day adventure hike towards Machu Picchu that I’ll edit to share some time in January, and even footage of me using some very basic Quechua, which I’ll share next week with a technical summary of the little I learned of the language in my few weeks here, for those curious about my (superficial) summary of it.

But first, I wanted to share this wonderful footage I got in the town of Chinchero, which I had passed through on a rented motorbike while exploring the Sacred Valley. In this town there is a group of people willing to demonstrate how fabrics are prepared and dyed with native plants to make traditional clothing or blankets. If you’re around the area, ask for “Wiñay Away” (Calle Albergue) to see for yourself.

To make the video more interesting, they gave me the full presentation entirely in Quechua. I wanted to share how the language is naturally used by natives with you. When I searched Youtube initially to hear some Quechua, I didn’t find anything useful (longer than a few seconds) and non-academic that had subtitles to hear the sounds and understand what they were saying, so I’ve included subtitles (captions) in English, Spanish and the original Quechua! Click “CC” on Youtube to select English, Spanish or Quechua to follow along with what Lucy is saying!

As far as I know, this is the only video on Youtube captioned entirely in Quechua :) Enjoy!

Big thanks to Lucy for giving the demonstration to me, even though the camera was a little intimidating, and thanks to Soledad for helping me to understand the video enough to create the multilingual subtitles.

Your thoughts on this unique language? Let us know in the comments below!



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  • Alasdair

    Sacred Valley! Ah, the memories… have you been to Ollantaytambo – it’s somewhere nearby if I recall my trip correctly.

    Am I right in thinking hello in Quecha is “Allyangchoo” or something pronounced like that? Only word I learnt. Also, it might be something else but I swear I can hear her clicking a la Xhosa at points.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Yes, had to hang out there after my time in Machu Pichu to get the bus back to Cuzco!
      A few ways of saying hello, such as Rimaykullayki or the Spanish inspired Wuynus diyas. I’ve learned that “Allichu” is “please” – but perhaps there is more to it, or dialect differences. I think you may be thinking of “Allin p’unchay”, which is “good day”.

  • http://rhinospike.com Peter Carroll

    That was very fascinating culturally and linguistically! It amazes me what people can do without machines. I really had no idea what sort of work was required to get a blanket from wool. Also the language sounds like Klingon, though I swear I heard a few Spanish loanwords in what she said. I may have to watch again with the Quechua subtitles to see if I recognize any of those.

  • Valentina Gilbert

    Thanks! I have always wondered what it would sound like! Phonetically it does not sound very difficult -from my point of view as a native Spanish speaker- do you share this opinion?

  • http://twitter.com/bestevez bestevez

    Very interesting indeed, thank you for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/gracet07 Grace

    Wow, she seemed so nervous and out of breath. It was fascinating watching the women weave the fabrics. Thank you and to them for the video!

  • http://www.mezzoguild.com/ Cardinal Mezzofanti

    Thanks for the video. Very interesting.
    More people should spend time learning native languages, especially endangered ones like Ayapaneco in Mexico and the indigenous Australian languages.

  • Steven Varner

    I know I should be focusing on language in this forum, but as a science teacher I was amazed at how awesome the video was from a chemistry perspective. I have studied some of the minerals and plants used by native people in the American southwest for dying wool and for making paints for pictographs, so I am familiar with the basics. However, it was very cool to see the actual chemical reactions of the dyes with the acidic lemon juice and with the table salt. I knew about cochineal bugs, but had not seen them squished and turned into color so readily. Amazing. I’ll likely show this in class.
    Well I will throw in one related language fact. In Iran, another country famous for textiles, they traditionally used the Kermes beetle for red die in a similar way. The word in Persian for “red” is Qirmez, and it’s where English gets the word “carmine.”

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Small world that you saw the same women in Chinchero!

  • tcsnlv

    Thanks so much for sharing this with the world!  I was curious to know if I could listen to Quechua on the internet.  So glad I found it!  My family is from Bolivia, and I have been there a few times, so I am familiar with the language, although I don’t speak it.  My parents know a few words from hearing it while growing up (they are both from La Paz).  My husband is American and I just had him listen to this.  Thanks again! 

  • Joe Finch

    That is a great video and one of the coolest things I have seen. Can’t wait to get there and speak it a little myself .Thank you! Joe =:)

  • revbish

    I’m surprised that it doesn’t seem to be a tonal language, more Oriental-sounding, like Chinese, or the Mazateca language in the mountains of Mexico, which would make it easier, I would think, for an Indo-European language speaker to learn.