Tz’utujil, a lesson.

I spent the evening learning Tz’utujil from Ana Maria Gonzalez Gonzalez.  At 8 years old, she’s a very serious maestra.

“Wajkex” she says.

“Wajakech” I repeat.

“Write it down” she tells me, eyeing my notebook seriously.

Ana (ei, en, ei, she spells for me, in English) is the baby of the Gonzalez Gonzalez family, though a litter of unidentified children always seem to be passing in and out of the dining room. 

“What’s her name?” I ask Ana, pointing the new baby sitting on her lap during our lesson.

“Uh, I don’t remember,” she answers naturally, changing the subject back to our lesson. It’s hard to concentrate though, since Ana’s big sister Evelyn (pronounced Ebely) is teaching my roomate Liz some Tz’utujil, pounding out her lesson on a prehistoric typewriter. 

“Xoot” Ana writes.

I pronounce it “shoot!” remembering that the x is pronounced like a sh in Tz’utujil. A Xoot is apparently a contraption used to cook tortillas, based on the explanatory drawings Ana keeps in her language studies notebook.She’s not much of an artist, so it might also be an armadillo. 

Over dinner I had asked Ana how to say a few things in Tz’utujil, the Mayan language spoken in this area of Guatemala. Mostly I just wanted to impress my Spanish teacher with something like “Good morning, my name is Emily”  (Aqbil, hanou’be Emily).

Like most people in this area, my Spanish teacher Ruben is Tz’utujil. Since we spend four hours a day together conjugating irregular verbs, I thought I’d learn a few words of his parents’ native tongue, though Ruben admits he doesn’t speak it much anymore.

Ana doesn’t seem to know much Tz’utujil either, since she keeps yelling at her mom in the kitchen to translate everything. While Ana speaks Spanish at home, she is leanring both English and Tz’utujil at school (all Guatemalan children are required to learn the Mayan language of their area). So far Ana has learned to spell her name and say good morning in English, a phrase she uses to greet me at all hours of the day and night.

“Good morning” she says to me, bouncing the baby on her lap and calling my attention back to yet another obscure and unpronouncable Tz’utujil Word. When this is over I still have hours of Spanish homework waiting upstairs. Xoot. 


One Response

  1. xoot, thats awesome

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