Mexico’s Indigenous Languages
February 21 is International Mother Language Day as declared by UNESCO to promote awareness of multilingualism, cultural and linguistic diversity.
This day is also an important time to celebrate indigenous languages.
Here are important facts about Mexico’s indigenous languages:
- There are 68 indigenous languages, including 364 regional varieties (dialects), spoken in Mexico.
- According to a 2010 census report, Mexico has 6, 913,362 native speakers of an indigenous language.
- 6.6% of Mexico’s total population speaks an indigenous language.
- Oaxaca is the most linguistically diverse state of Mexico with 15 distinct indigenous languages, and 179 varieties of these languages. Also, 31% of the state’s population speaks an indigenous language, the highest in the nation.
- Nahuatl is the most spoken indigenous language of Mexico with 1,544,968 native speakers.
- Maya (796,113), Mixteco (471,710), Zapoteco (425,123), Otomi (284,992), Totonaco (244,033), Mazateco (223,073) all have more than 200,00 native speakers.
- Huasteco (161,121), Chinanteco (131,382), Mazahua (135,897), Mixe (132,759), Purépecha (124,494), Tlapaneco (120,072) all have more than 100,00 native speakers.
- Despite much being said about languages dying out in Mexico, the total numbers of native language speakers is increasing.
- Indigenous speakers have been emigrating in larger numbers to the United States. In California alone, there are 23 indigenous languages from 13 Mexican states registered by INALI.
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