Language Conflicts

Mitla Ruina

When one language is spoken by more people than other languages in a nation, the use of the languages of smaller groups is reduced. This is true in Mexico, where the use of native languages is often taken over by Spanish.

The reasons for this are social, political, and cultural, but there is one that is foremost: If all Mexicans can speak Spanish, then those who speak different native languages can also speak to each other by using Spanish.

It is easy to understand why most people, including the speakers of native languages, believe that Spanish is the best language for the nation as a whole and for national and state governments to use in public administration, legal matters, and for higher education. But local communities must be permitted to decide how and when their native languages should be used within their own areas.

In some communities, the native language is now used only in the home, by children when they play, and, in some cases, in religious ritual. In others, however, the native language continues to be the only language spoken, except in school, until a visitor arrives who does not understand it. Even in school, the use of the native language is often a help to the younger children, as they begin their formal elementary education.