the 16th-century Spanish conquest of Central and South America,
the Nahuatl language was, according to San Diego educator Mario
Aguilar, "the lingua franca" from central Mexico through
one of about 250 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico, is related
to other tongues spoken by North American Indian groups such as
the Comanche, Pima and Shoshone. Nahuatl writings represented words
influence meant some Nahuatl words and dialects changed, taking
it from its classic to its present-day form. Aguilar likened the
process to old English evolving into American English.
of Nahuatl words is challenging. The language is pronounced NAH-waht
and the "tl" in many Nahuatl words is pronounced like
the "tl" in the word "Atlantic," not as in "bottle."
The "x" in Nahuatl words is pronounced "sh"
as in "shark."
know you're saying words right," Aguilar said, "when you
feel the air coming out of both sides of your mouth."
words range from the recognizable, such as ahuacamolli (guacamole),
chilli (chili) and ahuacatl (avocado) to the unfamiliar, like miztontli
(little cat), conetl (baby) and huitzilin (hummingbird).
fact that Nahuatl words such as tomatl, (tomato) chocoatl, (chocolate)
and coyotl (coyote) found their way into everyday words in Mexican
Spanish and English attest to its ongoing significance.
you're interested in learning the language through the Aztec dance
group Danza Mexi'cayotl, contact Mario Aguilar at (619) 948-8861.
Classes are held Monday nights at the San Ysidro Recreation Center,
212 W. Park. Ave., and on Thursday nights at the Sherman Heights
Community center, 2260 Island Ave., San Diego. The group's Web site
can also check out www.mrs.umn.edu/academic/history/Nahuatl/gateway.html
for more information on Nahuatl.