How To Learn Nahuatl? (A Complete Guide For Beginners)

According to some academics, Nahuatl, the language of the Nahua people today and the former Aztecs, means “something that sounds good.” It’s a fitting name for a language with such a colorful past if it’s true.

What Is Nahuatl?

There are currently between 1 and 2 speakers of the Uto-Aztecan language Nahuatl.5-2 million people around the world. While some of these speakers live in El Salvador, the majority are concentrated in Central Mexico.

The Nahuatl language is thought to have its roots in southwest North America, in the region that is now Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, at least as early as 2000 BCE. The language spread over millennia to various parts of Mexico, and as the Aztec civilization grew, it spread throughout Central America and was assimilated by the conquered peoples.

The classic Nahuatl language, which is still widely spoken today and is the language of science, art, and religion, was the epitome of communication. Nahuatl survived and could be passed down because it was the language of alliances and evangelization, despite the conquistadors forcing Spanish as the primary language.

There are currently 7 million native language speakers in Mexico, mostly in the country’s center, along the Gulf and Pacific coasts, as well as in El Salvador and Nicaragua. There are dozens of Nahuatl dialects, with about one-fourth of them speaking Nahuatl. These dialects vary greatly in history, pronunciation, and vocabulary. 

When Learning Nahuatl, How Long Does It Take?

After 90 days, delays won’t be a problem.

Is Learning Nahuatl Worthwhile?

While Classical Nahuatl is still extinct, it can be useful to independently research many of the current modern dialects in a way that honors heritage. There is a rich history and preservation to be found. In the past, glyphs and phonographs were used to create Nahuatl. Today, though, we write the lyrics using the Good Old ABCs.

How Do You Say Nahuatl?

Depending on the speaker’s location, Nahuatl can be pronounced NAwa, NAwat, or NAwal.

Who Speaks The Nahuatl Language?

Rural communities in states like Veracruz, Hidalgo, Puebla, Tlaxcala, and Guerrero in central Mexico still speak Nahuatl. El Salvador has a small speaking population as well.

Nahuatl speakers are typically Aztec ancestors. Even though many of them have migrated to the United States and other countries in Latin America, their ancestors can be found in Central Mexico, the former site of the Aztec Empire. Placing emphasis on the second to last syllable of any given word.

The Importance Of Nahuatl

Nahuatl holds the top position among Uto-Aztecan tongues. The Aztec and Toltec cultures of Mexico spoke it as their primary language. Under the Aztecs, Nahuatl was renowned for its literary flourishing, and their writings were preserved in an orthography that was later modified to adhere to Spanish tradition. See more about How Hard Is It To Learn Romanian?

Classical Nahuan To Nahuatl

The Mexica people, who made their way to the island of Lake Texcoco in 1200 AD, made up the second migration. Tenochtitlan would eventually be built as a result of this.

The three would come together to form the Aztec Empire after entering into an alliance with the Tlxacala and Tlacopan. Around this time, Classical Nahuatl took over as the language of Central Mexico.

The language began blending with Spanish in the 16th century as the Spanish began to colonize the New World, creating modern-day Nahuatl. The fact that Nahuatl is now written in the Latin alphabet is one significant difference.

Nahuatl vs Mayan

Because the Aztec Empire and the Mayan people were neighbors, many people believe that their languages and cultures are similar. However, to say that Hebrew and Levantine Arabic (the language spoken in Palestine) are similar just because they are spoken nearby is absurd. Yucatan-based languages and Nahuatl share some similarities but also have a lot of differences. They differ from one another in both grammar and phonetics. There are some similarities in more banal vocabulary, though, given that they shared a neighbor and did interact.

One significant distinction is that the Mayan writing system is regarded as complete, meaning that it is a writing system that we can understand. Yury Knorozov, a linguist, demonstrated in the 1950s that the Maya glyphs, as they are more commonly known, could be translated and that they were actually phonetic.

The Nahuatl, or Classical Nahuan, “writing system,” on the other hand, is more based on hieroglyphs and isn’t regarded as complete. See more about How Long Does It Take To Learn Dutch?

The Nahuatl Language: How Do I Learn It?

Therefore, how do you learn Nahuatl? Well, that depends entirely on your objectives. Do you want to read poetry, learn some basic phrases, or speak the language?

There are very few resources available for learning Nahuatl, as opposed to more popular languages like Spanish, French, or Japanese. The majority of the resources are in Spanish, like Akateko.

Five Apps to Help You Learn Indigenous Languages

Vamos A Aprender Náhuatl

Those who are interested in learning the Náhuatl spoken in Acatlan, Guerrero, can download the Vamos an Aprender náhuatl app from Kerala, a company that aims to create “an ecosystem of digital content for indigenous languages.” The app, which is available in Spanish and Nahuatl, has a glossary and tests to help users remember what they have learned, similar to DuoLingo. The language’s writing system won’t be available to users. When Hernán Cortés overthrew the Aztec Empire in the mid-1500s, Náhuatl was on the verge of extinction. The Spanish wanted to replace Náhult with their own language. Both iOS and Android devices support the app. Learn more here.

Vamos A Aprender Purépecha

Other language learning apps from Kernaia include ones for Puraépecha and Mixteco. The Purépecha app wants to teach users more than just words; it also wants to demonstrate how an indigenous community in Michoacan is preserving its traditions in the face of globalization. Both iOS and Android devices support the app. Learn more here. 

Habla Quechua

In the Americas, Quechua is one of the most widely used indigenous languages. The Habla Quechua app was created by PromPer with the intention of encouraging both foreigners and Peruvians to use and be interested in the Quechua language.” The app has quizzes and a live translator feature, and it is accessible to English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish speakers. Both iOS and Android devices support the app.

Eentsi (Ashaninka)

Despite being aimed at kids, this app is a fantastic resource for learning a new language. Eentsi is a learning tool for Ashaninka that was developed by the Instituto de Investigación de la Amazonia Peruana (IIAP). There is an Android version of the app. More apps from IIAP are available to teach you the indigenous languages of the Amazon.


The Paraguayan dialect of Guaran, known as Jopar, is one of the more than 20 languages that DuoLingo offers courses in. The app provides tests with immediate feedback. Android and iOS users can use Duolingo.

Read more about: How Hard is it to Learn Hebrew? How Long Does It Take To Learn Dutch?

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