Peru Language

When the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro arrived almost 500 years ago in the territory that is now known as Peru, he not only found the richest silver mines in the world, but also an impressive linguistic wealth.

However, at that time that great variety of languages was not synonymous with wealth.

The only language valued by the colonists was Spanish. And through catechization – the teaching of the Catholic religion – they imposed their language and made it the main language of the region.

Which language is spoken in Peru?

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Peru, however it is not the only official language of this Andean country. When we think about what language do they speak in Peru, the answer is as plural as this country rich in culture, with great places to visit, and a wide linguistic diversity.

Official language in Peru country

The main language spoken in Peru is Spanish, which in Peru is known as Castilian, since 83.9 % of the inhabitants consider it their mother tongue.

The official languages in Peru country are:

  • Spanish (Castilian): 83.9 % of the population
  • Quechua: 13.2 %% of the population
  • Aymara: 1.8 % of the population

Facts about Peru official language

Some 3.7 million Peruvians speak Quechua, 450 thousand Aymara and 73 thousand Ashaninka, just to mention 3 of the best known languages; However, there are 45 others that are waiting to be revitalized and disseminated so that the communities have a better quality of life and keep their culture safe.

Below we will talk a little more about our language and we will tell you facts about Peru official language:

  1. Spanish is an official / coexisting language in countries on the 5 continents. We can presume that on every continent, in at least one country, Spanish is spoken.
  2. Our language has approximately 300,000 different words or concepts. Although in the RAE they only collect 88,000.
  3. Spanish takes the gold medal for the language faster to speak. And they are measured according to the number of syllables that can be said in one second by an average speaker.
  4. Miguel de Cervantes came to use around 8000 different words in his work (Don Quixote).
  5. Some of the strangest words that Spanish contains are: amover, barbián, jipiar, orate, vagido … Does anyone know their meanings without asking San Google?
  6. Almost more than 4000 words are inherited from the time of Arabic domination, that represents 8% of our current vocabulary.

In addition, we tell you 7 facts about our indigenous languages in Peru that you probably did not know:

  1. There are 48 native languages, of which: 44 are Amazonian and 4 Andean.
  2. 21 languages are in danger of extinction.
  3. At present 37 languages are already extinct.
  4. At least 7 native languages have speakers who have migrated to other departments in recent years.
  5. The department of Lima is the most populated by immigrants speaking native languages.
  6. Peru has 16 transnational languages.
  7. Until the last report of 2013, 20,017 bilingual intercultural educational institutions had been identified.

History of Peru language

Castilian Spanish arrived in Inca lands after the Spanish conquest, which is why the Quechua and Aymara language families are considered original languages. However, they are not the only ones. In Peru there are 47 native languages, spoken by more than 4 million people.

It is estimated that there were more than 150 languages in Peru before Spanish was imposed culturally. Of the 47 native Peruvian languages that survive to this day, 43 are Amazonian and 4 are Andean.

May 27 of each year is the Day of Native Languages to celebrate the recognition in 1975 of Quechua as one of the official languages spoken in the country. So when answering what language is spoken in Peru, think twice before answering that only Spanish.

Indigenous languages in Peru

Quechua and Aymara are also spoken in other South American countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil (Quechua); Bolivia, Argentina and Chile (Quechua and Aymara). In some schools and private institutions, Quechua is taught as a second language and there are educational materials in 24 native languages, so the number of Quechua speakers has increased.

For example, Asháninca is one of the official languages of Ayacucho, along with Spanish and Quechua, and its instruction is compulsory until the last year of secondary school in the localities where this Amazonian ethnic group predominates.

Inca language in Peru: Quechua

It is the second official language of Peru, by the number of speakers. Used in the famous and representative Inca empire, its use prevails in indigenous peoples of the Peruvian highlands to this day. Linguistically, it is a family of related languages or macrolanguage, which is divided into four main groups: Quechua I, Quechua IIA, Quechua IIB and Quechua IIC. Although it is a family of languages originating in the central Andes that extends through the western part of South America through six countries, Quechua originated in the territory that corresponds to the central and western region, which is currently Peru.

The majority of Quechuablantes are bilingual. Quechua is her mother tongue and her second language is Spanish. Quechua also has variants according to each region and this has had an effect on the Spanish that is also spoken in those areas.


About half a million Peruvians speak Aymara. Aymara is used in southern Peru, in departments such as Puno, Moquegua and Tacna. Coming from and originating in the central Andes of the Peruvian highlands, Aymara together with Jacaru and Cauqui form a linguistic family known as the Aymara or Jaqi languages. It is important to highlight that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) considers that this language is in a vulnerable situation with a view to its future survival.

For its part, Aymara is spoken above all among the populations settled near Lake Titicaca and Tacna on the border between Peru and Bolivia. In the town of Tupe, in the province of Yauyos, 270 kilometers from Lima, Jaqaru, a sister language of Aymara, is still spoken.

Other local languages in Peru

Other languages that have official alphabets are Matsigenka, Harakbut, Ese Eja, Shipibo, Ashaninka, Yine, Kakataibo, Kandozi-chapra, Awajún, Jaqaru, Shawi, Yanesha, Nomatsigenga, Cashinahua, Wampis, Sharanahua, Sequoia, Achuar, Murui- muinani, kakinte, matsés, ikitu, shiwilu, madija, kukama kukamiria, maijiki, bora, yagua, kapanawa, urarina, amahuaca, yaminahua, ocaina, nanti, arabela and ticuna. In addition, the Ministry of Education (MINEDU) indicated that languages such as Nahua and Nanti are in the process of being formalized in their respective alphabets. Finally, dialects such as Isconahua, Muniche, Iñapari, Taushiro, Chamicuro, Resígaro and Oomagua are in diagnosis to be considered languages.

Special mention should be made of the Amazonian languages, which together have more than 105 thousand speakers in the departments of Loreto, Madre de Dios and Uyacali. Some of them belong to the Cahuapana, Jívara, Zápara, Peba-Yagua and Bora-Witoto linguistic families, also expanded in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia. In Uyacali, on the other hand, the Pano languages and the Arawak languages predominate.

The settlers of each Peruvian city, town or community feel proud of their native language, preserved through time. In this context, MINEDU implements different programs in schools, with educational materials prepared in 24 native languages, so that instruction in the native towns continues. In addition, day by day work is done on the standardization of native languages ??and their official alphabets.

In Peru people can speak English?

According to the Education First study, Peru ranks 45 out of a total of 72 countries, registering a low level of learning and mastery of English.

The four departments of Peru with the most citizens who speak English, practice it or ever did, are Lima, Arequipa, La Libertad and Piura. However, the level of language proficiency is low and very low.

Giorgio Iemmolo, Academic Director of Education First, mentioned that something very interesting that occurs in Peru is that women speak English better than men.

Likewise, he explained that young Peruvians, with ages ranging between 18 and 25, speak English better than the adult population.

What language to travel to Peru?

The main language of Peru is Spanish. However, you will also find people who speak English in commercial establishments, restaurants and places of tourist interest. If language is a barrier, opting for book your Machu Picchu tour package with a travel agency can be an excellent option. In addition to including first class accommodation, gastronomy and tourism options in your vacation packages in Peru, you will have a bilingual guide who will help you navigate the complexities of the language.

Peru language translator

A combination of sometimes silly pantomime and basic Spanish words and phrases are what you need most to travel in a Spanish-speaking country.

Basic phrases in Spanish for travelers

Greeting the people

If you only learn one phrase in Spanish before your trip, make it like saying “hello.” Locals will always appreciate that you make the effort to speak their language.

  • Hello: Hola (oh-lah)
  • Good morning: Buenos días (bway-nos dee-ahs)
  • Good afternoon: Buenas tardes (bway-nahs afternoon)
  • Good night: Buenas noches (bway-nahs noh-chess)
  • How are you in Peru language: Cómo estás? (coh-moh es-tah)
  • Good, thank you: Bien, gracias (bee-ehn, grah-see-ahs)
  • Can you speak English?: Habla Inglés? (hah-blah een-glays)?

Asking for directions

As a traveler, some of the most common phrases you can expect to use have to do with directions.

  • Where is… ?: Donde está…? (DHOHN-dheh ehs-TAH)
  • Where is a restaurant ? : Dónde hay un restaurante? (Dhohn-dheh eye oon rest-ore-rahn-tay)?
  • Where is the restroom?: Dónde está el baño? (Dhohn-dheh ehs-tah el ban-yo)?
  • How far ? :  A qué distancia? (Ah kay dhees-Tan-syah)
  • Right: A la derecha (Ah lah dey-ray-chah)
  • Left: A la izquierda (Ah lah eez-key-ayr-dah)
  • Forward: Derecho (De-rey-choh)
  • Can you help me?: Puede ayudarme? (PWEH-dhe ah-yoo-dh-AHR-meh)
  • Thank you: Gracias (gra-see-uhs)

Eat in a restaurant

When you don’t ask locals for directions, you will most likely order food and drinks from restaurants.

  • How much?: Cuánto está? (KWAHN-toh KWEH-stah)
  • The bill, please: La cuenta, por favor (Lah KWEHN-tah, please)
  • That was delicious: Estuvo delicioso (est-ooh-vo del-ish-ee-oh-so)
  • I am a vegetarian: Soy vegetaiano (I am veg-et-air-ee-an-oh / ah)
  • A table: Una mesa (oona me-sah)
  • A menu: Un menú (oon mey-noo)
  • A drink: Una bebida (oon-ah beh-beed-ah)
  • Beer: Cerveza (be-vay-sah)
  • Red or white wine: Vino tinto o blanco (vee-noh teen-toh or blahn-coh)
  • Water: Agua (ahg-wah)
  • A coffee: Un café (uhn cah-fey)
  • Sandwich: Torta (tore-tah)
  • Burger: Hamburguesa (ham-burg-ess-ah)
  • Chicken: Pollo (poy-oh)
  • Spicy: (pick-ant-ay)

Know more than the basics

These are some of the best options:


Reserve (to book), to reserve means to save something for the future, this is what we do when we reserve a hotel, a hostel or an AirBnb.


Renting (to rent) an accommodation (house, hotel room, shared room, etc …) consists of using something for a certain time in exchange for the payment of a previously agreed amount of money.

Confirmar una reserva

Confirming (to confirm) a reservation is when, once the accommodation is booked, we call the destination to say yes, that we will indeed be there on the day we had reserved.

Cancelar una reserva

Canceling (to cancel) or canceling a reservation is when instead of saying that we are actually going, we have to call to say that we are not going.


We can board (to go on board) on a plane in a means of transport or (of course) on a ship.


Taking off (to take off) is when the plane leaves the runway to start the flight, basically it consists of separating from the ground, both airplanes, helicopters and any air vehicle can take off.


Landing (to land) is the opposite of taking off when a plane, helicopter or any aerial vehicle lands, basically it is making contact with the ground after having been flying.

Hospedarse / Hospedar a alguien

Hospedarse (to stay in a place), you settle in and you are as a guest in someone’s house, for a limited time

Hospedar (to accommodate) someone is when you are the host and you host other people.

Characteristic words of Peru

It is true that the language spoken in all Spanish-speaking countries has its own peculiarities. And Peru, of course, is no exception.

The curious thing about this case is to see how many of its Peruvianisms have a direct relationship with food, existing even before the gastronomic “boom” experienced by delicious Peruvian food in recent years.

  • Achorado: carefree or confident person.
  • Al toque: immediately, very fast.
  • Alucina: expression to indicate surprise.
  • Aquicito: very close, here.
  • Asu: expression of surprise, also of displeasure.
  • Bacán: cool, fun.
  • Bamba – Imitation, low quality, on sale.
  • Bravazo: cool, very good.
  • Calato / a: naked person or baby.
  • Camote: sweet potato.
  • Causa, Pata, Cumpa: friend, trusted person.
  • Chactado: synonym of crushed. It is used to identify types of dishes.
  • Chancado: crushed, synonymous with ugly.
  • Chancha: make a collection to pay the bill.
  • Chapa: kiss or nickname. Chapar is kissing.
  • Chaufa: typical Peruvian rice with Chinese influences.
  • Chela: beer.
  • Chibolo / a: boy, girl, youth or young boy.
  • Chifa: Chinese food place fused with Peruvian flavors.
  • Corn: white corn.
  • Chompa / casaca: windbreaker, jacket.
  • Choro: mollusk but also thief, pickpocket.
  • Combi: small public transport van.
  • De frente: if you want to indicate that “go straight” on a road.
  • De todas maneras: take something for granted, of course.
  • Espeso: adjective that qualifies a person as annoying, inappropriate.
  • Floro: lie or deception – it’s pure floro ”. Whoever lies is a “vase”.
  • Grifo: gas station, place of supply of gasoline.
  • Hausca: being taken, drunk.
  • Huachafo: person who boasts of fine and elegant without being it.
  • Jato: asleep or home – “I stayed jato” or “I went to my jato”.
  • Juerga: party.
  • Mancha: group of people.
  • Manyas?: Do you understand?
  • Mishi: equivalent of cat.
  • Misio: no money or that he ran out of resources – “I’m misio.”
  • Monse: dumb, boring, bland, without much value.
  • Nomás: little or close – “here no more”, “it costs two soles no more”.
  • Oe: Contraction of hey.
  • Palta: fruit but also synonymous with shame – “What an avocado I spent with his parents.”
  • Pasar la voz: Tell someone, something – “pass the word to Juan that Rosa has arrived.”
  • Pe: abbreviated and characteristically Peruvian way of saying “well”.
  • Piña: fruit but also synonymous with bad luck – “I’m pineapple, nothing works out for me.”
  • Piraña: young delinquent or pickpocket.
  • Pituco: person of high social class or who behaves as such. Ostentatious.
  • Pucha: expression of surprise or disgust.
  • Sapo: gossipy, unreliable person.
  • Soroche: altitude sickness. You can use it when buying pills at the pharmacy.
  • Tabas: shoes.
  • Tela: dull, uninteresting, thin.
  • Tono: party – “see you in the tone”; “We went out of tune.”
  • Un coco: 1 dollar.
  • Un palo: 1 check.
  • Una china: 50 cents.
  • Una luca: 1 sol.
  • Wawa: Quechua for baby.
  • Ya: it’s EVERYTHING. It can mean “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “enough”, “now”, “yes”, “I understand”.
  • Ya fue: no more, it’s over, a missed opportunity.
  • Yapa: extra that is given after purchase. Remember to ask for it with a smile!
Open chat
Need Help?
Can we help You?