Francisco Javier Sitavi
Rare Language Specialist - Kaqchikel (Maya)
Name: Francisco Javier Sitavi
Nationality or Ethnicity: Guatemalan/Maya
Where do you live?: Guatemala
Representative of rare language: Kaqchikel
What’s your story? How did you get exposed to this rare language?
I was born at the Kaqchikel community and it is my first language. It is spoken by around 500 000 (aprox.) members. The kaqchikel language can be found mostly in the western central of Guatemala and it is part of the Mayan community. However, there are people in the whole Guatemala that speaks Kaqchikel . Besides that, there are people around the world speaking Kaqchikel. They are few, but there are!
2. How would you describe the efforts being made, at the civil, social, and governmental languages, to preserve this language?
People are more interested in learning mostly English or any other language. Also, by speaking Kaqchikel one can get discriminated very easily because other people think Kaqchikel it is not as important as a foreign language or because it a native language. The government is doing very little to maintain or expand the knowledge of Kaqchikel. They are doing it because is part of the “Peace Agreement” to end the civil war that took more than 35 years of war, but they are putting a little effort to it.
3. How often do you get the chance to use this language in your daily life?
As Guatemala’s official language is Spanish, in my daily life I speak Kaqchikel and Spanish. As a matter of fact I speak Kaqchikel to my parents, spouse, kids, friends and other people everyday.
4. Are you satisfied with the response of students in your department and your university to the available offerings in your language?
Although, our own people not willing to learn Kaqchikel language, there are lot of non-Kaqchikel people willing to, as part of their essay at the university. I have seen Spanish speaking people learning Kaqchikel. Myself have taught Kaqchikel to an English speaker ( an US resident) a few years back. So everyday more and more people are getting interested to learn to speak Kaqchikel and that is very satisfying.
5. What is your message to young people who wish to learn this language?
I would tell them that just the idea to learn another language it is very satisfying not to mention the fact that it is an exciting and interesting language, and most importantly, Kaqchikel is an exotic language.