Languages ​​of Mexico

Mexican flag

The United Mexican States are located in North America and its capital is Mexico City (formerly known as DF). It is the 11th most populous country in the world with 124 million inhabitants, and has an area of ​​1,972,550 km 2 (13th). And what language is spoken in Mexico?

What language do they speak in Mexico?

Mexico does not have any official language at the federal level. However, since 98% of the population speaks Spanish, this is the de facto language. This makes it the country with the most Spanish speakers in the world, ahead of the United States, Colombia, and Spain.

Likewise, the federal government recognizes Spanish as national languages, as well as 68 indigenous languages. About 7% of the population speak these native languages.

The most widely spoken immigrant languages ​​in Mexico are English (350,000 speakers), Low German (80,000), Japanese (35,000), and Chinese (31,000). There are also quite a few speakers of Catalan, Basque, Arabic, Hebrew, Venetian and Korean. The Low German linguistic community is based in the northern states of the country, since the federal government allows great tolerance towards this community by allowing them to have and configure their own educational system, compatible with their traditions and customs.

The most learned foreign language in the country is English. Despite this, only 12.9% of the population speaks English. French is the second most popular language among students, with some 250,000 Mexicans enrolled each year in francophone courses.

The indigenous languages ​​of Mexico

The 68 linguistic groups are divided into 364 varieties of indigenous languages. Although the 68 indigenous languages ​​are recognized as national languages ​​by the government at the same level as Spanish, in reality indigenous peoples suffer from discrimination and are unable to have proper access to public services, such as education and health, as well as to the judicial system, given that Spanish is the predominant language.

History of the indigenous languages ​​of Mexico

Despite the great variety of indigenous languages, the number in the past was much higher, since it is estimated that more than 100 indigenous languages ​​were spoken in the 17th century.

When the first Spanish evangelizers arrived in Mexican lands, they were interested in learning the native languages ​​in order to Christianize the natives in their own languages. The evangelizers, together with intellectuals, made the first records of vocabulary and grammar of languages ​​such as Nahuatl, Mixtec, Mayan, Otomí and Purépecha. Not having been previously written, the languages ​​adopted the Latin alphabet, with some adapted letters.

On the contrary, many were lost before they could be investigated, due to the extinction of their speakers. Of these languages, only the record of their existence and small vocabulary records remain.

During the Spanish colonial era, the different indigenous languages ​​were maintained throughout the territory, while Spanish was consolidated among the upper classes. After independence, in the 19th century and much of the 20th century, the language policy was to castellanize the speakers of indigenous languages, with the idea of ​​integrating the indigenous peoples into the new Mexican nation. However, this policy did not begin to have a considerable effect until after the Mexican Revolution, with the massification of public instruction. The percentage of the population that spoke an indigenous language went from 60% in 1820 to 38% in 1889, up to 6% at the end of the 20th century.

During the 20th century, different governments denied the status of indigenous languages ​​as valid languages. Indigenous students were prohibited from speaking in their native languages ​​in schools, and were often punished for doing so.

However, in 2002, the Mexican Constitution was amended to reinforce the multicultural character of the nation, giving the State the obligation to protect and nurture the expressions of this diversity. The General Law on the Linguistic Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved in March 2003, establishing a framework for the conservation, upbringing and development of indigenous languages. Critics say the law’s complexity makes it difficult to enforce.

Number of speakers of indigenous languages

Mexico has the honor of being the country with the largest number of speakers of indigenous languages ​​in the Americas in absolute numbers. However, in terms of relative numbers, Mexico is behind countries such as Guatemala (52.8%), Peru (35%), Ecuador (9.4%) and Panama (8.3%).

Nahuatl is the most widely spoken indigenous language and the only one with more than 1 million speakers. In America, it is the fourth most widely spoken indigenous language, behind Quechua, Aymara and Guarani. The classification of indigenous languages ​​in Mexico is as follows:

2015 data

Map of Mexico and its indigenous languages

Click to open large images. The maps are divided into (1) languages ​​with more than 100,000 speakers, (2) languages ​​between 20,000 and 100,000 speakers, and (3) languages ​​with fewer than 20,000 speakers.

map indigenous languages ​​mexico more than 100000 speakersmap indigenous languages ​​of mexico speakers between 20,000 and 100,000 speakersmap indigenous languages ​​mexico speakers less than 20000 speakers

Here you can see the percentage of speakers of indigenous languages ​​by state:

percentage speakers indigenous languages ​​states mexico

The Spanish language

The variety of Spanish spoken in Mexico is known as Mexican Spanish and is spoken by practically the entire population, being the first language of 93.6% of said Spanish speakers. Spanish is used in all official spheres, whether they are government, judicial processes, the media, the educational system or in the business environment, among others. Within the variety of Mexican Spanish there are different variations that differ from one region to another in terms of phonetics, syntax and lexicon.

map varieties mexico spanish mexican

In addition, there are numerous loanwords from indigenous languages, especially Nahuatl. Some examples of Nahuatl are avocado, cocoa, coyote, cuate, chewing gum, chocolate, corn, rubber, papalote, piocha or buzzard. Examples of Purépecha are cotorina, huarache, jorongo, saricua or tacuche. The Spanish present in the country also has several Mexicanisms. Examples are cabús, kid, kite, talk, tlapalería, ¡aguas!, truck (for bus), chapopote, itacate or bite (for bribery).

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