Center for Language Studies

Nahuatl

Spoken by 1.7 million native speakers today, Nahuatl offers a window into the worldview and history of indigenous communities in Mexico and its diaspora, whose cultural heritage has survived centuries of colonization

Students in our classes tend to have a research interest in Nahuatl archives, in Mexican culture, or are drawn to the course by their desire to rekindle a connection to their ancestral heritage.  Once the lingua franca of the Aztec empire,  spoken by merchants, soldiers, and diplomats, over an area including what is today northern Mexico to Costa Rica, Nahuatl has a vast linguistic archive that has made it one of the most studied indigenous languages in the world.

Why Study Nahuatl?

Any student with an interest in learning an indigenous language that is both ancient and living will benefit from this learning opportunity. In particular, we have observed that students in our classes tend to have a research interest in Nahuatl archives, in Mexican culture, or are drawn to the course by their desire to rekindle a connection to their ancestral heritage. Nahuatl language courses are complemented with the possibility of fostering research and revitalization projects using the linguistic archive on Colonial Nahuatl held at Brown's John Carter Library that houses Antonio del Rincón’s Arte mexicana (Mexico, 1595), the first Nahuatl grammar written by a native Nahuatl speaker.

The pedagogical method developed by Eduardo de la Cruz at the Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas (IDIEZ) focuses on communication skills. IDIEZ is a Zacatecas, Mexico-based research institute led by native Nahuatl speakers that works on language revitalization. From the outset, Nahuatl is taught in an immersive and interactive way using Nahuatl vocabulary and constant student participation. De la Cruz has designed all learning materials and teaching strategies emphasizing the relevance of Nahuatl as a living language, not a language of the past. The pinnacle of this method is inviting students to participate in contemporary ceremonies that link the language and lived experience of native speakers, such as the Maize Ceremony, focused on the terminology and practice of corn planting and harvesting.

Faculty