niciativa para la


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Welcome to our home page!


Home page



v      The Nawat language

v      Grammar

v      Vocabulary

v      Conversation

v      Texts

v      Song


Who we are:

v      IRIN

v      TIT

v      IRIN-International


Join us!

v      We need you!

v      Come in and say hello!

v      Visitors’ comments

v      Write to us


The Nawat language recovery initiative:


v      The recovery plan

v      Nawat goes to school

v      Inside NNT

v      Nawat for adults

v      Linguistic work on Nawat

v      Other objectives



Please help us!


This website tells about a native language spoken in the Central American country El Salvador and about the effort to save it from extinction.


Nawat is now spoken by perhaps a few hundred people, perhaps only a few dozen – there are no reliable figures. Most of the speakers, called Pipils, are elderly people who will soon be gone. There still exists a small number of younger Pipils who have learnt the language from their parents or grandparents and are interested in working with the old people to keep alive their ancestral language and culture.


A hundred years ago Nawat was still a thriving spoken language in much of  the west of El Salvador. The Pipils have been victims of such brutal government-supported oppression and massacres in the past that their ethnic identity became a threat to their physical integrity. Pipils learnt to survive by staying out of sight or abandoning outward signs of their customs, such as use of their traditional dress and their native language. This explains why few people can speak Nawat today, but it is also the reason why it is not easy to be certain how many people may still remember the language, but not want to admit it. Supposedly, times have changed; but keeping quiet about their native identity and habits has become a standard behaviour pattern for many Pipils.


It is a pattern of behaviour that will eventually kill the language if it continues. In the mind of many Pipils and non-Pipils today, being Pipil, and hence speaking Nawat, has no prestige value whatsoever. For the Pipils, the majority of whom live below the poverty line, the trouble is that they perceive their language as having no value, meaning above all no economic value. Speaking Nawat may also imply a lack of education (most of its speakers are illiterate).


The idea that Nawat may be associated with school and educational opportunities, or even with the possible acquisition of even limited wealth, is unfamiliar to Pipils. So is the notion of building up a useful and positive concept of Pipil identity in which their language plays an instrumental and uniting role.


Welcome to the new IRIN-International website!


Today a last-minute move is being made to change things. In this website you can read about the Nawat language, the people who are involved in the effort to make Nawat language recovery possible, and what they are doing about it. We invite you to take a look around.


Here you can find out more about the Nawat language’s background, study some of its grammar and vocabulary, and familiarise yourself with the language through elementary conversations, short texts and a song.


We hope you will also want to read about the Nawat Language Recovery Initiative (IRIN) and the Office for the Nawat Language (TIT). This website is offered by an international support group backing the initiative, IRIN-International.


In another section you can read about the work being carried out, such as an important university project to introduce Nawat classes into schools and provide them with language textbooks; another programme that offers Nawat courses for adults within Pipil communities; recent and ongoing progress in the area of Nawat linguistics; and several other objectives within the overall recovery plan.


Your turn to help


And now we must turn to you to ask for help. All the projects described here require certain human and material resources. The quantity of help needed is modest, since in a poor country a little can be made to go a long way; yet in a poor country even a little money is hard to find! Projects described here do depend on some local support but this will be insufficient to pay for plans for 2004. We need your help to help us keep Nawat alive and maintain the present language recovery plan on track.


If you would like more information than you can find on this site or want to make a suggestion, please write to us. Why not send us your visitor’s comments too and allow us to display them to our readers!


Pal tinejmachnemikan tik tutechan, tikinmachtikan ne tukujkunew!

‘Let us educate our children to live in peace in our country!’



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(Read this page in Nawat.)


© 2004 Alan R. King, Monica Ward and IRIN.