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Languages: The Digital Sounds of Bésiro (Chiquitano)

The Bolivian Constitution proudly recognizes 36 indigenous languages as official languages of the State. Three of these languages, Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní are the most widely known because of the higher number of speakers and because they are also spoken in neighboring countries. Finding resources and available content in the other 33 languages is often a challenge for these communities.

A project taking place in the Department of Santa Cruz seeks to help address this issue by using digital citizen media to begin to produce their own online content with the hopes that it will encourage more people to preserve and revitalize their language.

At the Gabriel René Moreno Autonomous University [es] Humanities and Educational Science Department in the city of Santa Cruz, a group of young linguists led by Ignacio Tomicha Chuve, has started a project called Monkox Bésiro as a way to put the Bésiro (Chiquitano) language on the digital map. This language is spoken the Chiquitano people in several provinces in the Santa Cruz and Bení departments with estimates that between 20,000-60,000 speakers still remain.

In addition to opening up a Twitter account (@MonkoxBesiro) and Facebook Page, the project is actively using SoundCloud to upload audio clips recorded amongst themselves or during field visits to their home communities, such as San Antonio de Lomerio.

For example, here is a short bilingual language lesson with a greeting in Bésiro and proper pronunciation of the consonant sounds:

A traditional song sung in Bésiro:

and the “Our Father” prayer in Bésiro:

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