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  All the facts and tips about Peru we suggest you know before making your trip to Peru. Exchange rates, health services, security, embassies, customs, emergencies, medical assistance... Peru is a friendly country, but, as anywhere else, precautions are always important to take. Let's help you to find out how you can visit... More

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Languages of Peru

Peru is a multilingual nation. Its official languages are Spanish and, in the zones where they are predominant, Quechua, Aymara, and other aboriginal languages. (Political Constitution, art. 48) The most common languages are Spanish and, to a lesser extent, Quechua and Aymara languages.

If traveling to the Amazon it is mandatory to show a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate in order to enter. Some western countries require this certificate on your return from Peru in order to reenter the country. Yellow fever is a tropical disease spread by mosquitoes and while most infections are mild – some can be quite serious. With a yellow fever vaccination one is protected against the virus, although it is always a good idea to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes anyway. Malaria exists in the rural areas below 1.500-m (4.992 ft), mainly in the northern part of Peru, and while some travelers take prophylactics against the disease, malaria in Peru exists almost exclusively in the benign vivax form.

Original languages
The aboriginal languages of Peru are spoken mainly in the central Andes and in the Amazon forests. A considerable number of languages were once spoken on the northern coast and in the northern Andes, but other than some endangered pockets of Quechua in the northern highlands (Cajamarca, Inkawasi-Cañaris and Chachapoyas), all others have died out - Mochica is thought to have gone extinct in the 1950s.

The only aboriginal Andean languages in use in the highlands today are those of the Quechua and Aymara families (the latter including Jaqaru/Kawki). The Amazon region, however, is home to a great variety of languages, the most commonly spoken of which are Asháninka and Aguaruna, not to mention lesser known languages, such as Urarina, which is deemed by most linguists as an unclassified language isolate.


Urarina shaman, 1988There are currently 14 defined linguistic families in Peruvian territory, in addition to many more isolated and unclassified languages.

It is known that the number of languages that were used in Peru easily surpasses 300; some observers speak of 700. Yet from the time of European conquest, epidemics and periods of forced work (in addition to the influence of the hegemonic Spanish language), fewer than 150 can be counted today. The following is an incomplete list of languages spoken today, and a number that became extinct in the twentieth century or that are endangered.

 

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