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Languages of Latin America

Faculty associated with Latin American and Caribbean Studies at KU provide elementary, intermediate, advanced intermediate and advanced courses each year in Spanish, Portuguese, Quichua, Haitian Creole and Miskitu. Classes in all of the Latin American languages are open to both graduate and undergraduate students.



Andean Quichua

Quichua (a.k.a. Kechwa, Quechua, Kechua, Ketchua, Kichwa, Khetchua, or Runa Ximi) is an indigenous language spoken widely in Ecuador and is closely related to the Quichua spoken in Peru and Bolivia. There are as many as 20 million speakers of Quichua, making it the most widely spoken indigenous language of the Americas. Because of its many dialects, a national effort in Ecuador to establish a commonly accepted form of the language has resulted in the recognition of Unified Quichua. Quichua is offered at KU through the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Opportunities to study Quichua abroad are available through KU Student Initiated Programs.  The Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs maintains a comprehensive list of indigenous language programs abroad, including 4-6 week summer opportunities in Ecuador and Peru.

Pictured: Andean Quichua instructor Nina Kinti-Moss.

Nina Kinti-Moss

Nina Kinti-Moss

Nina Kinti-Moss (M.S.S.W., 1988, University of Wisconsin, Madison), a lecturer in the KU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, is fluent in reading, writing and speaking Kechwa. Her research includes mastering all the Kechwa varieties of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, then integrating the variations into the Kechwa textbook which she has written, Learning the Kechwa Language. A native speaker of Salasaca Quichua (Ecuador), Nina has expertise in unified Quichua and is conversant in Peruvian and Bolivian dialects of Quechua.



Haitian Creole

With French-based vocabulary and a distinctive grammar, Haitian Creole is the first language of roughly 5.7 million people Haiti, the Caribbean nation that occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Related creoles are spoken on Guadeloupe and Martinique, and approximately 300,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, the US, and Canada speak the language. The Department of African and African American Studies houses KU's Haitian Creole program. The University of Kansas offers free, open online resources for the study of Creole.

Pictured: Haitian Creole instructor Cécile Accilien.

Cécile Accilien

Cécile Accilien

Cécile Accilien is Associate Professor of  Haitian Studies and Director of the Haitian Institute in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Kansas University. Her primary areas of interest include Haitian Studies (primarily language and culture),Gender Studies and Film Studies. She is the author of Rethinking Marriage In Francophone African and Caribbean Literatures (Lexington Books, 2008). She has also co-edited and contributed to two collections of essays, Revolutionary Freedoms: A History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti (Caribbean Studies Press, 2006) and Just Below South: Intercultural Performance in the Caribbean and the U.S. South  (University of Virginia Press, 2007). She has published book chapters and articles including “Congratulations! You Don’t Look Haitian: How and When Does One Look Haitian?” in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora in the Wider Caribbean Jowel Laguerre), and “Soleil, sexe et sable Vers le sud” in Ecrits d’Haïti: Perspectives sur la littérature haïtienne contemporaine  (1986-2006).She is the co-author (with Jowel Laguerre) of English-Haitian Creole Phrasebook (McGraw Hill, 2010) and Francophone Cultures Through Film (with Nabil Boudraa, (Focus Publishing). She is currently working on a textbook to teach Haitian Creole (with Jowel Laguerre) and on a manuscript on Haitian film culture.



Miskitu (summer only)

The Miskitu language (a Misumalpan, Macro-Chibchan language of South American origins) is spoken by 200,000 indigenous Miskitu people along the Honduran and Nicaraguan Caribbean coast. KU offers Miskitu through the summer Language and Culture in Nicaragua program run by the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and KU Study Abroad.

Pictured: Language and Culture in Nicaragua Program Director Laura Herlihy.

Laura H. Herlihy

Laura Herlihy

Laura H. Herlihy (Ph.D., 2002, University of Kansas, Anthropology), a lecturer in the KU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, has conducted long-term ethnographic research among the indigenous Miskitu people of Honduras and Nicaragua. Her 2012 book, The Mermaid and the Lobster Diver; Gender, Sexuality and Money on the Miskito Coast (University of New Mexico Press), was chosen by ProQuest as one of the Significant University Press Titles for Undergraduates.

Herlihy speaks the Miskitu language fluently and directs KU CLACS's Language and Culture in Nicaragua summer program. The program is FLAS-eligible, although the University of Kansas does not currently offer FLAS support for Miskitu language study.




Once called "the sweet and gracious language" by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, Portuguese is the third most-spoken European language in the Americas with around 220 million native speakers. Portuguese language skills are rare and increasingly in demand, making it useful for many careers. KU offers comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs in the Portuguese language and Brazilian literature and cultural studies. Study abroad programs offer the opportunity to study language and culture in Brazil, Portugal and Spain. KU provides free open educational resources for the study of Portuguese. The following Latin Americanist faculty members teach Portuguese at KU:




Spanish, the most widely-spoken language in the Americas and the second language of the United States, is an excellent choice for students pursuing a career in any field. A variety of courses are offered at every level in grammar, composition, conversation and literature. In fact, over a dozen study abroad options exist to further your education. Finally, many opportunities for involvement and practice of the Spanish language abound on campus: a Latino Student Association, the Spanish Table, a Spanish Club, and activities offered through the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

KU offers a wide variety of courses in Spanish at all levels.  The open-access University of Kansas Collaborative Digital Spanish Project (Acceso) is used for intermediate levels.  The University of Kansas department of Spanish and Portuguese has a large and distinguished faculty, including many Latin Americanists who teach Spanish langauge and Latin American cultural studies.  

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