Next semester, University of Arizona students will have the opportunity to take classes in Nahuatl, the indigenous Mesoamerican language that’s the origin of words such as chocolate, avocado, chili, coyote and tomato.
The Nahuatl classes are being added to the Critical Languages Program, in the College of Humanities, which began in 1988 and offers for-credit courses in less-commonly taught languages, from the elementary to the advanced level, in small, personalized classes.
“As we get enough student requests, we add new languages,” said Jieun Ryu, Director of the Critical Languages Program. “Thanks to our partnership with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, we were able to find a native speaker of Nahuatl with experience teaching to college students.”
The Nahuatl class will be taught through the synchronous distance model, with the instructor at UNAM and students here. CLP offers Norwegian and Thai through synchronous distance courses as well.
Last year, the Critical Languages Program began offering a minor, which requires 20 credits of CLP classes. Languages vary by semester according to student demand, but CLP typically offers between 13 and 17 languages. In addition to Nahuatl, CLP added Danish this fall semester and will begin offering Catalan during the summer pre-session, Ryu said.
Nahuatl is part of the Uto-Aztecan language family and is one of the most widely spoken indigenous languages of the Americas, with about 1.5 million speakers in central Mexico. Nahuatl dates to at least the 7th century and was the language of the Aztecs.