Languages of Guatemala

A language map of Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala. The "Castilian" areas represent Spanish.

Spanish is the official language of Guatemala. As a first and second language, Spanish is spoken by 93% of the population. Guatemalan Spanish is the local variant of the Spanish language.

Twenty-one Mayan languages are spoken, especially in rural areas, as well as two non-Mayan Amerindian languages, Xinca, an indigenous language, and Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken on the Caribbean coast. According to the Language Law of 2003, the languages of Mayas, Xincas, and Garifunas are unrecognized as National Languages.[1]

The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages (see summary of main substantive accords) and mandate the provision of interpreters in legal cases for non-Spanish speakers. The accord also sanctioned bilingual education in Spanish and indigenous languages. It is common for indigenous Guatemalans to learn or speak between two and five of the nation's other languages, and Spanish.

List of languages of Guatemala

language Familybranchmaternal SpeakersNotes
Spanish Indo-European Romance 9,481,907 Although Spanish is the official language, it is not spoken by the entire population, or else is used as a second language. There are twenty-four distinct indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala.
K’icheMayanKiche'1,000,000Language spoken in six departments: in five municipalities of Sololá, Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango, El Quiché, Suchitepéquez and Retalhuleu. Spoken by 11.31% of the population.[2]
Q'eqchi'MayanKiche'555,461Spoken in Alta Verapaz, El Petén, Izabal and in El Quiché. It is spoken by 7.58% of the population.[3]
KaqchikelMayanKiche'500,000Spoken in six departments: Guatemala, Chimaltenango, Escuintla, Suchitepéquez, Baja Verapaz and Sololá. It is spoken by 7.41% of the population.[3]
MamMayanMam480,000Spoken in three departments: Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, and Huehuetenango. Spoken by 5.49% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
PoqomchiMayanKiche'92,000Spoken in Baja Verapaz and in Alta Verapaz. Spoken by 1.02% of the population.[3]
Tz’utujilMayanKiche'88,300Spoken in two departments: Sololá y Suchitepéquez. It is only spoken by 0.7% of the population.[3]
AchíMayanKiche'85,552Spoken in five municipalities of Baja Verapaz. Only spoken by 0.94% of the population.[3]
Q’anjob’alMayanQ'anjob'al77,700Spoken in four municipalities of the Huehuetenango department, by 1.42% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
IxilMayanMam70,000Spoken in three municipalities of the El Quiché department, also known as the Ixil Triangle: Santa María Nebaj, San Gaspar Chajul, and San Juan Cotzal. Ixil is spoken by 0.85% of the Guatemalan population.[3]
AkatekMayanQ'anjob'al48,500Spoken in two municipalities in Huehuetenango: San Miguel Acatán y San Rafael La Independencia, by 0.35% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
JakaltekMayanQ'anjob'al40,000Spoken in Huehuetenango, by 0.42% of the population of the country.[3]
ChujMayanQ'anjob'al40,000Spoken in three municipalities of Huehuetenango, by 0.57% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
PoqomamMayanKiche'30,000Spoken in Guatemala, Jalapa, and Escuintla. Spoken only by 0.37% of the population.[3]
Ch'orti'MayanChol30,000Spoken in two municipalities of the Chiquimula department (Jocotán y Camotán). Also spoken in a part of the La Unión municipality in Zacapa. Spoken by 0.42% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
AwakatekMayanMam18,000Primarily spoken in the municipality of Aguacatán in the Huehuetenango department. Spoken by 0.10% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
SakapultekMayanKiche'9,763Spoken in the municipality of Sacapulas in El Quiché. Only spoken by 0.09% of the population.[3]
SipakapaMayanKiche'8,000Only spoken in the Sipacapa municipality in the department of San Marcos.
GarífunaArawakanCaribeña5,860A non-Mayan-derived language, this language, unique to the inhabitants of Izabal, is one of the languages imported into Guatemala via the black slaves Spanish colonists brought from other places. Spoken by 0.04% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
UspantekMayanKiche'3,000Spoken in the municipalities of Uspantán and Chicamán in the El Quiché department. Spoken only by 0.07% of the population.[3]
TektitekMayanMam2,265Spoken in the municipality of Tectitán in Huehuetenango, by 0.02% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
MopanMayanYucateca2,000Spoken in El Petén, by 0.03% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
Xincan languages Isolate Xincan languages16A language not derived from Mayan with unclear origins. Some hypotheses suggest that the Xincan languages may have arrived from the South. Xinca is spoken by only about two hundred people in the Santa Rosa and Jutiapa departments, and is currently an endangered language, spoken by 0.14% of the population of Guatemala.[3]
ItzaMayanYucateca12Spoken in six municipalities of the El Petén department, by 0.02% of the population of Guatemala


  1. "Ley de Idiomas Nacionales, Decreto Número 19-2003" (PDF) (in Spanish). El Congreso de la República de Guatemala. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  2. Datos de los Censos XI de población y VI de Habitación, 2002
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Datos de los Censos arriba mencionados
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