K’iche’ Maya

The Tikal ruins in Guatemala in the sunshine

K’iche’ Maya is one of the most common indigenous languages in Latin America, spoken by about 1 million Maya in the western Highlands of Guatemala, the heartland of Maya culture. K’iche’ is the language of the Popol Wuj, the sacred book of the Maya, which dates to the 16th century.  Because of the precarious status of minority languages in Latin America, these classes might also appeal to students interested in issues of language maintenance in a globalized world, language planning, multilingualism, language diversity, and linguistic human rights.


Fall Courses 

KICHE 101 / 701 (Elementary K’iche’ Maya I) T Th 4:00 – 5:15  pm

Introduction to essential elements of K’iche’ Maya language and aspects of Maya culture. K’iche’ Maya, a language spoken by about a million people in the western Highlands of Guatemala, is one of the major indigenous languages in the Americas. Emphasis on active language production to develop basic conversational skills for everyday interactions. Course taught at Vanderbilt University; Duke students participate through video conference and/or telepresence classroom. No pre-requisite.

KICHE 203 / 703 (Intermediate K’iche’ Maya I) T Th 2:00 – 3:15 pm

Online synchronous (Class Note: Class meets synchronously TTH 2:00-3:15. Taught by Mareike Sattler at Vanderbilt University through the Duke-UVA-Vanderbilt Partnership for Less Commonly Taught Languages.)

Develops greater competencies in writing in K’iche’ and translation to/from K’iche’. Covers more advanced grammar (verb modalities) and broader range of scripts (colonial vs. modern orthography). Research conducted in K’iche’ using the Oral History archive at the University of New Mexico (http://laii.unm.edu/kiche.html). Students select a story from the online archive, listen to audio, correct transcription, rewrite it in modern orthography and translate it into contemporary English to present to classmates. Taught at Vanderbilt University; Duke students participate through video conference/telepresence classroom. Prerequisite: K’iche’ Maya 102 or equivalent.

Spring Courses 

KICHE 102 / 702 (Elementary K’iche’ Maya II) T Th 4:00 – 5:15  pm

KICHE 204 / 704 (Intermediate K’iche’ Maya I) T Th 2:00 – 3:15 pm


Faculty: Mareike Sattler holds a master’s degree in Pre-Columbian Languages and Cultures from the University of Hamburg, Germany and has been teaching  K’iche’  Maya at Vanderbilt University since 2012, for many years assisted by Manuela Tahay. For the past 10 years she has directed the Maya Language Institute K’iche’, an immersive language learning program in Guatemala.  She has published articles on Mayan Food Groups and is currently working on elaborating teaching materials in K’iche’, some of which are available online through the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning at the U of Texas Austin.  https://tzij.coerll.utexas.edu/