In Latin America, as in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, there is a rich spectrum of Spanish variants. While all Spanish-speakers understand each other, each variant has its own peculiarities. There are many factors that can influence the type of Spanish: geographic zone, indigenous people, climate, and culture. For example, Latin American Spanish is as rich as the nations it has: the Amazon, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Argentina, among others.
In the case of Ecuador, Spanish is the official language and the language for intercultural cohesion between all the people of Ecuador. If you could draw an imaginary map of the Spanish variations according to geography, we could divide it into: Coast, Sierra and East. The Spanish spoken in these three regions is different, and to these geographical differences we add other differences between urban and rural areas.
Guayaquil has also made great efforts to publicize the Guayaquil dialect that, although the words are not exclusive or native to Guayaquil, abound with colloquialisms, dialecticalisms and Anglicisms.
There are many popular expressions used by Ecuadorians. They could amount to nearly ten thousand terms, such as chuchaqui: state of depression caused by the abuse of alcohol; fritada: fried pork; hora ecuatoriana: that which doesn’t respect punctuality but rather delay; llapingacho: potato omelet made with cheese.
It is also interesting to know how to translate these expressions. More often than not, the translator faces the dilemma of whether to translate the source text literally or in a manner that conveys the intended meaning. The translator should not only know the words, but also interpret what they mean in a given context to express that in the translation.
Some of these terms are so unique to Ecuadorians that, for example, in New York, the word ñañito relates directly to the Ecuadorian people who live there. It is a word influenced by native languages, such as Quechua, and it means “brother”. So, if a Dominican or another person calls you ñañito, it is because they think you are from Ecuador. This word would also be difficult to translate since the translator would have to pay close attention to whether it is intended as “friend” or literally as “brother”.
Another language spoken throughout the country is Kichwa, the language spoken by the fourteen Kichwa national groups in the Amazon, on the coast and throughout the Andean region. The speakers of this language are found in the provinces of the inter-Andean corridor and most of the east. Migration processes have made the coastal provinces maintain the use of Kichwa. Outside of Ecuador there are speakers in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Chile and a small number in Paraguay.
The weight of indigenous languages in Ecuador is very relevant and this importance has led to the introduction of a bilingual, intercultural education system, which was achieved thanks to the passionate struggle by the nationalities and peoples for their languages and cultures.
Here we summarize some of the indigenous languages:
Ecuadorian Amazon ancestral languages
- Paikoka: Language spoken by the Sekoya people
- Shiwiar Chicham: Language spoken by the Shiwiar people
- Achuar Chicham: Language spoken by the Achuar people
- A’ingae: Language spoken by the Ai people, commonly known as Cofán
- Waotededo: Language spoken by the Wao people
- Shuar Chicham: Language spoken by the Shuar people, who were derisively referred to as Jivaro because of their warrior character
- Kayapi or Sapara Atupama: Language spoken by the Sapara people
- Baikoka: Language spoken by the Siona people
Languages indigenous to the coast
- Awapít: Belongs to the Chibcha linguistic family. It is spoken by the Awá people in Ecuador and Colombia
- Zia pedee: Means “voice of the reeds”. It belongs to the Epera people
- Cha’palaa: language spoken b y the Chachi people
- Tsafiqui: Means “man’s tongue” and is spoken by the Tsa’chila people
As we have seen, Ecuadorian Spanish is incredibly rich, and it is impossible to circumbscribe the language of this nation to a mere “Spanish”. It is interesting to open the doors of each culture and be surprised by its linguistic wealth.