Mayan Language Institute
Kaqchikel or K'iche' Maya
Guatemala (or Online)
June 14 – July 23, 2021
Application Deadline: Friday, March 5, 2021
The Mayan Language Institute is a 6-week program to train students in either Kaqchikel or K’iche’ Maya, two of the most widely-spoken Mayan languages in Ixim Ulew (Guatemala) today. Thanks to the collaboration between U.S. American faculty and Maya teachers, participants can study at the beginning, intermediate, or advanced levels of either language. The program’s highly individualized classes combine language immersion activities, lectures, one-on-one conversations, guest speakers and cultural excursions. The intensive nature of these classes, combined with students’ daily immersion in Maya communities, enables them to enhance their language skills rapidly while interacting with the Indigenous peoples that sustain them.
While Program Directors from Tulane oversee all academic content, the Stone Center partners with the organization Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín to manage the program’s daily operations. The PLFM is a nonprofit organization that has worked to preserve and strengthen Indigenous languages since 1969, and our association not only puts their resources at our students' disposal, but also enables the Stone Center to support the foundation’s ongoing linguistic activism. Students enrolled in Kaqchikel Maya will spend 6 weeks at the PLFM campus in Pan Q’än (Antigua). Students enrolled in K'iche' Maya will spend 1 week at the PLFM campus before relocating to Nahualá, a small city in the highlands of Sololá, for the final 5 weeks of the program.
ANTH 6870: Kaqchikel Maya Culture (3 credits)
ANTH 6840: Beginning Kaqchikel Language (3 credits)
ANTH 7570: Intermediate Kaqchikel Language (3 credits)
ANTH 7580: Advanced Kaqchikel Language (3 credits)
ANTH 6860: K’iche’ Maya Culture (3 credits)
ANTH 6845: Beginning K’iche’ Language (3 credits)
ANTH 6850: Intermediate K’iche’ Language (3 credits)
ANTH 6855: Advanced K’iche’ Language (3 credits)
**A note on COVID-19: The Stone Center for Latin American Studies is closely monitoring the global health situation. While our preference is to conduct the Mayan Language Institute in-person in Guatemala during Summer 2021, we are also developing an online alternative in case travel remains risky. For an overview of the Summer 2020 online program, visit the Stone Center website.
Students enrolled in Kaqchikel Maya will arrange their own housing in Pan Q’än (Antigua) and its surrounding communities. They are highly encouraged to coordinate with the Program Director to organize homestays with Kaqchikel-speaking families. Students will be responsible for all meals.
Students enrolled in Kaqchikel Maya will live in homestays arranged jointly by Guatemalan instructors and Tulane and PLFM administrators. In Antigua, they will live with PLFM host families; most rooms will be double-occupancy. In Nahualá, they will live with K’iche’ speaking families in the community, and each student will be assigned to an individual family. All meals, except lunch on Sunday, will be provided.
Each summer, the Program Directors organize multiple group excursions. These range from short local trips to the marketplace, a milpa (traditional farm), or a weaving co-op, to day trips to Mayan ruins, local landmarks, and conferences. Students often have the opportunity to interact with local leaders and may be invited to participate in Mayan religious and cultural ceremonies. We encourage to students come prepared with an open mind and spirit of generosity.
About Pan Q’än (Antigua)
Nestled between the Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego volcanos in the department of Sacatepéquez, Pan Q’än, or Antigua, Guatemala is a quaint colonial city with a population of around 45,000 inhabitants, many of them native speakers of Kaqchikel. It was founded in the mid-sixteenth century as the capital of the Spanish colonial government; the strict grid of its cobblestone streets and the stunning baroque architecture of its churches and municipal buildings reflect the Spanish influence. Though the city was largely abandoned after a volcanic eruption provoked the relocation of the Spanish capital to Guatemala City, it began to grow again in the mid-1800s in response to increased investment in agricultural production, primarily coffee. Today the town, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Guatemala’s most popular destination for foreign travelers looking to explore the city’s historic sites, climb the nearby volcanos, or study Spanish at one of the many Spanish-language schools. The temperate climate, with average temperatures ranging from lows in the 50s to highs in the 70s, make the city an attractive destination year-round.
The municipality of Nawaljá (Nahualá) is located in department of Sololá, in the western highlands of Guatemala. It sits at an altitude of 7,500 to 8,000 feet and is somewhat cooler than Pan Q’än; temperatures at night may dip down into the 50s, even during the hottest months. The municipality was established in the year 1862 when a dispute among the people of the neighboring town Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan caused a group split off and found a new town. Its vicinity to the main highway through Guatemala has made it possible for Nawaljá to grow and flourish since then. It is unique among towns of a similar size in that almost all of the town’s 6000 inhabitants are native K’iche’ speakers who use their language in all aspects of their lives. The K’iche’ spoken in Nawaljá, one of the seven major dialects of K’iche’, is distinctive from other K’iche’ dialects for its conservatism. For example, it still uses the “formal pronoun” (la/alaq) and has retained a ten-vowel system. It is fairly easy for students familiar with Nahualeño K’iche’ to branch out into other variants of K’iche’ as well. Many families continue to participate in traditional economic practices: they cultivate land to produce corn for their own use (milpa) and vegetables to sell, and they are involved in the weaving of a variety of textiles and cloth for the Guatemalan and export handicraft market. The women weavers from Nawaljá are recognized as being very skilled at producing huipiles of a fine and high quality. In recent years, the region has begun to change, as it is shaped by widespread migration to the United States, and income from remittances has given rise to an Indigenous middle class.
All registration will be processed by Stone Center staff. Students will initially be enrolled in one 3-credit Latin American Studies placeholder course, used for billing purposes only. After students’ language placement in Guatemala, they will be enrolled in their respective culture and language courses.
Medical and global rescue
The Stone Center will enroll MLI students in a comprehensive study abroad medical insurance policy provided through Geoblue. This insurance is included in the cost of the program. Students are also covered by Global Rescue, an emergency travel assistance program offering medical, personal, and security advice and assistance, as well as emergency evacuation services. After enrollment, students will receive an email with instructions for setting up the GRID app on their phones.
Accessibility and Accommodations
The MLI is a strenuous program that challenges its participants physically, emotionally, and academically. Nevertheless, the Stone Center is committed to making all its programs accessible to all students. Persons requiring special facilities or accommodations should notify the Program Manager as soon as possible. All effort will be made to accommodate their needs, but students should be aware that reasonable accommodation may be required.
**Total program cost in 2021 will fall between $3,500 (tuition only) and $6,500 (tuition and housing and/or logistics fees) depending on the mode of instruction (online or in-person).
Tuition and fees include 6 Tulane credits, international medical insurance, transportation between the Guatemala City Airport and housing, group activities and excursions, housing and three meals/day except Sundays (K'iche' ONLY). Tuition and fees do NOT include airfare to/from Guatemala, passport/visa expenses, personal communication expenses, course materials and supplies vaccinations, laundry, incidentals, housing and most meals (Kaqchikel ONLY).
The Mayan Language Institute has been designed to meet all requirements of the federal FLAS grant, which may cover much of the cost. For more information and to see if you qualify, visit the Grants & Funding page of the Stone Center website, or speak with the FLAS coordinator at your university. Note: FLAS applicants should apply separately to the MLI by the posted application due date.
Tuition and fees will be charged to student accounts in the late spring. Students are responsible for making sure that the bill is paid in full by the end of the billing cycle on the 15th of the following month. Students can access their accounts through the Gibson Portal: http://gibson.tulane.edu.
Refund and Cancellation Policy
If a student withdraws from the program at any point between acceptance and departure, the student forfeits their deposit plus any additional expenses that the Stone Center cannot recover from program providers. Prior to 15 days before the program start date, a student may submit a written withdrawal request to be considered for a refund of up to 75% of the program fee (deposit excluded). Refund requests received less than 15 days before the program start date will only be eligible for a maximum of 25% refund of the program fees (deposit excluded). Students withdrawing after the program start date will not be eligible for any refund.
If you have questions or would like more information, visit the Mayan Languages Institute webpage or contact the Stone Center Program Manager for Special Programs:
Dr. Hannah Palmer
Phone: (504) 862 - 8629
100 Jones Hall, Tulane Uptown Campus