This is the title of the new sign posted in the bathroom, conveniently at eye level when you are sitting on the porcelain throne. I find it to be a vast improvement over the sign hung there by the boys when I was here last time (ask me if you’re really interested). The sign is just one of many improvements this year at the Foundation. As a preview to longer posts on my San Mateo visit, and for your own edification, I have assembled a list of Chuj’ words, of varying utility, that have been thrown around. In some cases, I learned only the Spanish translation, so I included it with the English.*


Quick [incomplete] pronunciation guide:

b’, k’, p’, j’, e’, etc. are glottal stops… it sounds abrupt, like you stopped the flow of air from leaving your mouth… because you did.

x = English “sh”

w = Spanish v/b

nh = nasal n

ch = English “ch”

j= English “h”


Tas xi ha k’o’ol?

Lit: What is your stomach saying?

Gloss: How are you? (An appropriate way to inquire as to one’s state of being, in my opinion, given widespread stomach/ intestinal discomfort among locals and gringos alike.)

chukla– bad; wach– good

ka’k– hot; sik– cold

Ay wejel? –> Tienes hambre? Are you hungry?

hi’i– yes; ma’ay– no

Manhxalaj–> Ya no hay. There isn’t any left/ There aren’t any left/ There isn’t any anymore. (Very commonly heard in restaurants, stores, etc.)

Yujwalyos–> Muchas gracias. Thanks a lot (It should be noted that “yos” is also “God” and “sun”)

Ob’iltak hun unin tik–> Pobrecito este niño. Poor little kid./ This poor little kid.

In ganna ach. –> I love you. (Borrowed gana from Spanish. In = I, gana = “love” in this context, ach = you.)


* It should be noted that, while all Mayan languages are theoretically related somewhere down the line, Chuj’ has pretty much nothing in common with K’iche’, which I’ll be spending part of June and all of July studying.

I’m contemplating sitting in the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala (Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala), which is right across the street, tomorrow and pestering the library director into teaching me more. As far as I know, each linguistic community in Guate has at least one of these Academies, which supply books and teaching materials in the language (all part of the “Pan-Mayan” movement and post-war cultural revitalization). I didn’t have much time to study Chuj’ last time I was here, which is really unfortunate. It is truly the primary language in these parts (though Spanish is used for “official” business and school).


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