General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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Dr. John F. Schwaller

Question for January 2010

Is Náhuatl taught in Mexican schools today? Asked by Farlington Prep School. Chosen and answered by Dr. John F. Schwaller.

Series of introductory booklets written by Enrique García Escamilla for teaching Classical Náhuatl
Series of introductory booklets written by Enrique García Escamilla for teaching Classical Náhuatl (Click on image to enlarge)

Yes, indeed. While in the nineteenth and early twentieth century official government policy attempted to diminish the importance of native languages, ever since the Presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-40) there has been a growth in the number of primary and secondary schools which offer instruction to students in their native languages. Náhuatl, the Aztec language, is among those which has many speakers and is also one of the most widely offered in schools. Particularly in regions where the language continues to be dominant, the states of Tlaxcala, Puebla, Morelos and parts of Guerrero, many schools offer instruction in the language. Not only is the language taught as a discipline but basic courses, maths, history, and others, are taught in the native language. At the same time it should be noted that in all cases children are also instructed in Spanish, the official language of the Mexican Republic, making their schools bilingual.

NOTE: The Dirección General de Educación Indígena (DGEI) of the SEP (Mexico’s Ministry of Education) is in charge of bilingual and bicultural education at primary level. The link below takes you to a (quite large) PDF document on the DGEI website, which contains up-to-date facts and figures on bilingual education in Mexico. According to the DGEI some 250,000 children around the country are receiving education partly in Náhuatl (the document is in Spanish). Thanks to Iván Pedroza and David Wright for these links.

Mexican government statistics on bilingual education (PDF in Spanish)

‘La Jornada’ feature on the campaign to revitalize Náhuatl in Mexico City(in Spanish)

Dr. John F. Schwaller has answered 7 questions altogether:

Why did the Aztecs only use wheels for toys and not for transport?

Do we only get food words or are there other English words derived from the Aztec language?

How many words were there in the Aztec language?

Why didn’t the Aztecs ask their gods to save them?

Is Náhuatl taught in Mexican schools today?

Why is the emperor called Montezuma [in England] and not Moctezuma?

Did the Aztecs say a prayer before eating?

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