Languages of Bolivia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The languages of Bolivia include Spanish; several dozen indigenous languages, most prominently Aymara, Quechua, Chiquitano and Guaraní; Bolivian Sign Language (closely related to American Sign Language); and language of immigrants such as Plautdietsch. Indigenous languages and Spanish are official languages of the state according to the 2009 Constitution. The constitution says that all indigenous languages are official, listing 36 specific languages, of which some are extinct. Spanish and Quechua are spoken primarily in the Andes region; Aymara is mainly spoken in the Altiplano around Lake Titicaca, Chiquitano is spoken in the central part of Santa Cruz and Guaraní in the southeast on the border with Paraguay.

List of official languages[edit]

Geographic distribution of the indigenous languages of Bolivia.
The distribution of people who primarily speak Spanish by municipalities in Bolivia
Prevalent indigenous language by municipality. Only languages >20% displayed. Based on 2001 census.

The following languages are listed as official languages in the Constitution of Bolivia.[1]

In 2019, the Bolivian government and the Plurinational Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures (Ipelec) announced plans to extend constitutional recognition to three additional indigenous languages.[citation needed]

  • Joaquiniano
  • Kumsa
  • Paunaka


Language Number of speakers Percent
Quechua 2,281,198 25.08%
Aymara 1,525,321 16.77%
Guaraní 62,575 0.69%
Other native 49,432 0.54%
All native 3,918,526 43.09%
Only native 960,491 10.56%
Native and Spanish 2,739,407 30.12%
Only Spanish 4,082,219 44.89%
Spanish 6,821,626 75.01%
Foreign 250,754 2.76%
Spanish and foreign 4,115,751 45.25%

Official status[edit]

The Bolivian government and the departmental governments are required to use at least two languages in their operation, one being Spanish, and the other being selected according to the circumstances and the needs of the territory in question. These requirements appear in Article 234 of the 2009 Constitution and the General Law of Linguistic Rights and Policies (Law 269 of August 2, 2012); the law provided a three-year deadline to government functionaries, although there was no immediate punishment for officials who failed to comply.[2] Departmental and municipal autonomous governments are required to use the languages of their territory, always including Spanish.[3]

Following the National Education Reform of 1994, all thirty indigenous languages were introduced alongside Spanish in the country's schools.[4] However, many schools did not implement the reforms, especially urban schools.[citation needed]

Bolivia's National Hymn has been translated into six indigenous languages: Aymara, Bésiro-Chiquitano, Guaraní, Guarayu, Quechua, and Mojeño-Trinitario.[5]

Languages without official status[edit]

Standard German is spoken by 160,000 of whom about 70,000 are Mennonites in Santa Cruz Department. These Mennonites speak Plautdietsch, a German dialect, as everyday language but use Standard German for reading and writing and as formal language e.g. in church.[6] Portuguese is also spoken near Bolivia's border with Brazil and around 0.2% of Bolivia speaks it as their mother tongue.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Political Constitution of the State - Article 5
  2. ^ "Funcionarios deben hablar una lengua originaria desde agosto". Página Siete. 2015-07-29. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  3. ^ Nueva Constitución Política Del Estado, Aprobada en grande, detalle y revisión. December 2007, article 5.
  4. ^ Hornberger, Nancy. 1997. Language policy, language education, language rights: Indigenous, immigrant, and international perspectives Archived 2012-09-15 at the Wayback Machine. Language in Society 27:443. Retrieved on April 28, 2009.
  5. ^ Cuevas, Aleja (August 9, 2017). "6 de 34 pueblos logran traducir el Himno Nacional - La Razón". La Razón (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  6. ^ Ethnologue: Paraguay
  7. ^

External links[edit]