Social Factors, Language Preservation and Attitudes towards Spanish and Tzotzil in San Pedro Chenalhó in the State of Chiapas, Southeast Mexico

Karla Berenice Del Carpio (delcarpi@ualberta.ca)
Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta
April, 2008
 
Karla Del Carpio is a language instructor with a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Mexico. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Alberta in Canada where she is currently a doctoral student in the program of Secondary Education. Her research interests are Second Language Acquisition, Bilingual Education and Indigenous Languages Revitalization.
 

Abstract

This paper examines the social factors that have influenced the Tzotzils to maintain their indigenous language even if there are factors that have worked against such preservation. The Tzotzils are an indigenous group found in Chiapas, southeast Mexico, and the participants of this study were the Tzotzils living in Chenalhó, a predominantly indigenous community in central Chiapas. The closeness of Chenalhó to cities, the lack of employment in this community, government programs and especially the establishment of bilingual schools where Spanish is more frequently used than Tzotzil, are examples of the factors that have influenced the Tzotzils to use Spanish. However, Tzotzil speakers identify with their native language, so they are concerned with preserving it and transmitting it to younger generations. Nonetheless, people in this indigenous community realize that speaking Spanish is important so they can communicate with non-indigenous Mexicans and they can have better opportunities in life.