Languages of Bolivia

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The languages of Bolivia include Spanish; several dozen indigenous languages, most prominently Quechua, Aymara, and Tupi Guaraní; Bolivian Sign Language (a local variant of American Sign Language); and language of immigrants such as Plautdietsch. Indigenous languages and Spanish are official languages of the state according to the 2009 Constitution. The constitution says that all indigenous languages are official, but then defines "all" as 36 specific languages, some long extinct. Spanish and Quechua are spoken primarily in the Andes region; Aymara is mainly spoken in the Altiplano around Lake Titicaca, and Guaraní in the southeast on the border with Paraguay.

List of official languages[edit]

Geographic distribution of the indigenous languages of Bolivia.
На карте отображено распределение лиц с родным языком кастильским по муниципалитетам Боливии.

"In Bolivia through Act 269 Art. 8 and Political Constitution Art. 5 establish the following languages as official of the state."[1]


Other native49,4320.54%
Only native960,49110.56%
Native and Spanish2,739,40730.12%
Spanish and foreign4,115,75145.25%
Only Spanish4,082,21944.89%
All native3,918,52643.09%

Official status[edit]

The 2009 Constitution specifies 37 languages as official:

Article 5-I: Son idiomas oficiales del Estado el castellano y todos los idiomas de las naciones y pueblos indígena originario campesinos, que son el aymara, araona, baure, bésiro, canichana, cavineño, cayubaba, chácobo, chimán, ese ejja, guaraní, guarasu'we, guarayu, itonama, leco, machajuyai-kallawaya, machineri, maropa, mojeño-trinitario, mojeño-ignaciano, moré, mosetén, movima, pacawara, puquina, quechua, sirionó, tacana, tapieté, toromona, uru-chipaya, weenhayek, yawanawa, yuki, yuracaré y zamuco.[2]

The Bolivian government and the departmental governments are also required to use at least two languages in their operation, while smaller-scale autonomous governments must also use two, including Spanish.[3]

Following the National Education Reform of 1994, all thirty indigenous languages were introduced alongside Spanish in the country's schools.[4] However, many schools did not implement the reforms, especially urban schools.[citation needed]

Languages without official status[edit]

Standard German is spoken by 160,000 of whom about 70,000 are Mennonites in Santa Cruz Department. These Mennonites speak Plautdietsch, a German dialect, as everyday language but use Standard German for reading and writing and as formal language e.g. in church.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ COUTHBERT, George,"Official Languages of Plurinational State of Bolivia", Apuntes Juridicos™, 2012 Consulta: Sabado, 25 Agosto de 2012
  2. ^ Bolivian Constitution
  3. ^ Nueva Constitución Política Del Estado, Aprobada en grande, detalle y revisión. December 2007, article 5.
  4. ^ Hornberger, Nancy. 1997. Language policy, language education, language rights: Indigenous, immigrant, and international perspectives. Language in Society 27:443. Retrieved on April 28, 2009.
  5. ^ Ethnologue: Paraguay [1]

External links[edit]