Peru – Spanish Language and Culture
Population: 29.2 million (2009)
Area: 1.28 million sq km² (496,225 sq miles)
Currency: Nuevo Sol (PEN)
National Holiday: 28th of July
Calling Code: + 51
Time Zone: GMT -5
GDP: Total – US$ 153.549 billion
Per Capita – US$ 5,195
The Spanish Language in Peru
It was only in the middle of the 20th century that Spanish started being spoken in the more rural areas of Peru. Spanish spoken in the Andes is characterized by the strong pronunciation of vowels as well as the pronunciation of ‘r’ and ‘rr’ as soft ‘j’ (in between the English “sh” and “j”). The use of the diminutive “ito” is very common. Coastal Peruvian is considered one of the most comprehensible forms of Spanish in South America. Almost all consonants are pronounced except the ‘s’, which is often aspirated to ‘h’ when it falls before a consonant (and not at the end, as in Argentinean and Chilean Spanish).
Special words and expressions
- ¿con quién paras? – who do you hang out with
- ¿manyas? / ¿computas? – do you understand?
- pues or pe – then, so – is used routinely in a post verbal position.
- ¡eres fresco! / ¡eres un conchudo! – you are shameless!
- me voy a mi jato a jatear – I am going home to sleep
- llego al toque – I’ll be right there, I’ll be there quickly
- ¡que cuero/churro que es! – how good-looking/handsome he/it is
- ¡que roche! – how embarrassing!
- calato – nude
- chibolo/a – child, adolescent, immature.
- paltearse – to be confused or scared, (comes from the word for avocado)
- palta – avocado (comes from the quechua word for avocado – also used in southern countries of South America)
- latear – to walk
Other languages spoken
- Quechua – the most important indigenous language spoken in Peru is Quechua which is spoken by 13.2% of the population.
- Aymara – spoken mostly in the south of Peru, it is the second most important native language in Peru
- Chinese – 100,000 speakers. There is a large community of Chinese that arrived in Peru to work starting in the 19th century. Peruvians of Asian descent make up 5% of the population.
- German – there are German colonies that settled in the central Andes where the language is still spoken today
- Arabic and Japanese – there has been a wave of these immigrants in the last century who have often maintained their language of origin
- There are slightly under 150 native language varieties spoken throughout Peru today.
Spanish dialects and variations
- Spanish dialects vary mostly across the three main zones of the country: the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon. The majority of people in Peru speak coastal Spanish.
- There is a difference in the Spanish spoken in Lima and the rest of coastal Spanish. Spanish in Lima has more influences from languages from immigrant groups that settled in Lima, notably the Chinese.
Geography and Climate
The climate in Peru is diverse due to the rich geographical differences in the country. The north of Peru, as it nears the equator is less subject to climate change and seasons. The coast of Peru is desert like and has a subtropical climate with little to no rain. Winters are cool and damp while summers are much sunnier and warmer. To the east the tropical Amazon rainforest is separated by the Andes mountain chain where the weather is cooler with a rainy season from June to September.
History & Politics
Once the heart of the Incan Empire, Peru is also land of many other pre-Colombian cultures. During the Spanish reign Lima was an important hub of the empire and of Spanish commerce with South America. Peru was the last Spanish colony to gain independence in Latin America in 1824. During the War of the Pacific, Peru lost much of its southern land to Chile creating a frontier crisis that is still a source of tension between the two countries today. In 1980 a communist insurgency known as the Shining Path began, marking the next ten years with conflict and violence. In 2001 the first president of indigenous origin, Alejandro Toledo, was elected democratically.
¿Sabías qué….? Cusco, once the capital of the Incan empire, is now the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas. It is also the oldest, still inhabited city on the continent.
During the military coup in 1968 many opposition newspapers were closed and journalists deported. In 1990 the media played an important role in bringing down the president Alberto Fujimori by bringing to light his corrupt policies. Although the Peruvian constitution provides for freedom of the press, intimidation and harassment of journalists is not unheard of, and certain topics are often avoided.