Community Involvement

Runa Shimita Juyangapaj / Runa Shimita Kuyankapak

To Love Kichwa

I see local Kichwa language initiatives as a means of confronting systemic inequality that exists in Ecuador.  Since 2015, the directors and teachers of a school where I have long researched and I have been co-writing and piloting a culturally relevant textbook to teach Kichwa to young people who understand Kichwa but struggle to communicate in the language.

In addition to being a heritage language textbook, we draw from several political commitments through its authorship. For example, the book aims to foster critical language awareness not just for the importance of using Kichwa in light of colonial histories but also attempts to value a plurality of ways of communicating in Kichwa, including different dialects, alphabets and words that may be falling out of use. The book, thus, contests standardized language ideologies that hold that there is one correct way to write in Kichwa.

The book is also an example of a minga, collective labor that enables work to get done that would be too difficult, expensive, or limited for any one person to carry out alone. A school director and I co-authored the book for years; teachers at the school reviewed and offered suggestions for improvement; and it includes stories and art from the school’s students so that it better reflects their lives as family members who have migrated from the countryside to the city. We piloted the textbook during the 2022-2023 academic year, and we are making the final changes for use and publication

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