Study Quechua at Penn

Quechua is the most spoken Indigenous language of the Americas, with 7-8 million speakers mostly in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and also some areas of Colombia, Argentina and Chile. The Quechua language program offers classes through the Penn Language Center and is the only Ivy League university to do so in such a capacity. Currently, Quechua is the only Indigenous South American language offered at the University of Pennsylvania.

Our classes might count towards the major/minor in Latin American and Latino Studies, and the minor in Native American Studies.

Why Quechua?

Having Indigenous languages at universities is a way to say: we are here, we have a value. This message goes to everyone, including the indigenous languages speakers whom for a long time were told that their languages shouldn’t exist. Language is linked to culture and knowledge. By building up language prestige – in this case with Quechua – we are also making a statement: This language has a value; therefore, their people do, too.

Therefore, Quechua courses at Penn work on developing language skills and cultural awareness on Indigenous Cultures.

How is the teaching approach for Quechua in recent years?

Nobody questions the cultural value of English, Spanish or French. It is clear for us that there’s a (contemporary) cultural value of these languages. With Quechua, and other indigenous cultures, people might hesitate.

Some universities in the Andean Region and the United States are trying to change the narrative: They are giving Quechua and other languages a more suitable space.

At UPenn,  we organize diverse Quechua cultural activities: talks on Andean topics, dancing workshops, film screenings, game nights, etc. Check the events calendar here.  At this platform, we are raising questions regarding the importance of incorporating indigenous languages into the Latin American studies curricula, while at the same time trying to respect and honor Andean culture.


[Excerpt from Remezcla’s article: “This Quechua Professor Wants to Dispel the Myth That Indigenous Languages Are a Thing of the Past“]


Developing an interdisciplinary network of scholars working in the growing field of Andean Studies

We aim to help foster a mentoring relationship between established and emerging scholars interesting in the Andes and/or Native American languages.

– In April, 2015 and 2017 we organized the interdisciplinary colloquium ‘Thinking Andean Studies‘.

– In November 2015 and 2016 we organized the Quechua Alliance Faculty and Student Meeting, the first gathering of its type in the United States. One of the goals of the event was to promote an open conversation about Native-American languages and their space in academia. We also had time for dialogue, lectures, games and songs. And we also offer tribute to Prof. Clodoaldo Soto (U. Illinois), for his 25-year career teaching Quechua in the US.


Learn Quechua at UPenn: SPRING 2017

Students’ impressions:

  • Gleeson Ryan (C’17 W’17):
“It’s just so unusual for people to be able to learn this,” she says. “It’s so rare for colleges to offer, but it’s so important, too. Indigenous peoples have more traditional knowledge that’s not usually understood, but it should be. Learning to understand a new culture and people is a life skill that everyone needs, as opposed to just a career skill.”
[From Penn Current’s article Thriving program makes Penn a Quechua language hub ]
  • Abigail Graham (C’16):
There’s a responsibility that comes with learning Quechua, of understanding the importance of what the language means to different people… And that’s something that all of us studying the language have internalized.”
[From The Daily Pennsylvanian’s article Quechua classes gives students a look into Indigenous culture ]

Quechua is offered on this cycle:

  • Fall: Beginner Quechua I
  • Spring: Beginner Quechua II

FALL 2017: ROML 110 Elementary Quechua & Andean Culture I
Tuesdays & Thursdays: 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Prof. Américo Mendoza-Mori
Course summary

Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire and still spoken by approximately 8 million people throughout the Andes, is the most spoken indigenous language in the Americas. The program focuses on the development of written and oral communicative abilities in Quechua through an interactive activity-based approach. Course includes an introduction to Quechua and Andean culture. Students will participate in pair, small-group and whole-class activities. Assessment is based on both students’ ability to use the language in written and oral tasks and understanding the language and culture. This beginning level Quechua course is designed for students who have little or no previous knowledge of the language. Lectures will be delivered in English and Quechua.


  • Students from the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr and Haverford can enroll in this class.


How to enroll in the class: 

Please contact Lada Vassilieva (, Administrative Director of the Penn Language Center. If you have questions about the class, please feel free to contact Prof. Mendoza-Mori (americo @


  1. Jallaya!!

    The Quechua cultural and language initiative at the University of Pennsylvania is essential for scholars. My family and I immigrated to this country, and I was not afforded the opportunity to learn about my culture. My country of birth is Bolivia, and my heritage is Peruvian. One day I wish to continue my studies and complete a Ph.D. in Anthropology. Quechua is important for me. It is a way to reconnect with cultural roots, and to communicate more efficiently with the communities in the Andean regions.
    I would like to know if the Quechua Language Center offers online Quechua courses, and is it open to non-matriculated students?
    Congratulations on the Quechua Initiative. It is paramount for immigrants like myself and others.

  2. Hello,

    I randomly found your center using wiphala flag in your Quechua language program pamphlet, which represents either Bolivia (according to its 2009 Constitution) or Aymara culture (a different indigenous South American culture from Quechua). As the program is about Quechua language, I believe it’s better to change to a picture, which represents more the Quechua culture.



    1. Thanks for your message and suggestion. The wiphala is now used across the Andes, and no longer to exclusively represent Aymara Culture. Although we’ve also organized activities that included Aymara-speaking guests. best.

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