This week my group traveled to Nebaj,¨the southern gateway to the Ixil region¨ and hub of the Ixil triangle. This is the farthest from home I´ve felt since leaving for Guatemala. Aside from literally being a good 6 hours from Antigua on oftentimes harrowing dirt roads, the prevelence of the indiginous Mayan language native to this town, Ixil, makes it a gateway to another world for outsiders. Gringos are much less common in this less traveled tregion, and kids in the street often giggle in response to us. Spanish is the second language of this region, and for many of the older generation, Spanish isn´t spoken at all.
So in terms of communicating, I´m back to square one.
I´m being a little dramatic – its not as if Spanish is useless here, as the majority of people speak a good amount, if not fluently. But the majority of conversations, even around us Spanish speakers during organization meetings, are in Ixil, a language sprinkled with sounds and halts in speech that would make any beatboxer jealous. Plus,  knowing that I need to worry about getting accross what I want to say in my second language to someone else understanding in their own second language can add a little more intimidation to the mix.
To help us out, Soluciones Comunitarias hooked the entire group up with a two hour Ixil class. I fantasized about being able to talk to Mayan Emporers, but we were reminded that Ixil is only one of more than 20 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala – so regardless of how hard we study, there´s still will be some major disconnect.  Only 70,000 people still speak this Mayan variant, and my host mother here mentioned how it was dying out among the younger generation, who goes to school to take classes only in Spanish as mandated by the government.
To do my part in preserving this cultural gem, I´ve decided to post some key Ixil words and phrases for extranjero use, all in Ixil spelling. Also included is a pronunciation guide – but be warned, the rubric for pronunciation is nowhere near scientific. You´ll see what I mean below, and I´m sorry in advance.
B – b alone has no sound, like a h in spanish
B´- make a soft bop noise bay closing your lips and blowing
Xh – sounds like the english ¨sh¨
Q´- a short, throatal ¨k¨ of sharp ¨ch¨ sound separated from the next syllable
Ch´- A sounjd I can only describe like this: ¨tchi¨ (but with a short i and emphasis on the consonants)
X´- make a chic sound, but cut t off your breath. Think beat boxing.
´ – any time you see this, cut off your breath, and quickly.
All vowels – Spanish pronunciation. All short vowels.
Hello – Ka che´
How are you – Kam tolelaxh
I´m well – B´an kuxhin
Please – B´anvanil
Shut up – Chiatz´ii
Thank you – Tantixh
I love you – Nun saaxh
I don´t love you, I hate you – ye nun saaxh ni chian vama se
And the most important: Marcos – Kuxh
I always knew I had a spiritual connection to that 90´s fad