Rare language spotlight: U’wa

Here at The Language Shop we like to shine a light on some of the rarer languages spoken across the world, many of which have long and fascinating histories. This month we take a closer look at U'wa.

Fact file

Native to: Northeastern Colombia and Venezuela

Number of native speakers: 2,000

Spoken by: The U’wa people

Learn some U’wa: The most common greeting is ‘eyariki?’, which translates literally to ‘are you there?’. Respond with ‘usatro’, which means ‘I’m here’.

Interesting facts:

  • The U’wa believe that the world was created by a god called Sira, who punishes any exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources. They believe that Sira will send natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, floods or darkness to punish humans who violate the planet.
  • The U’wa are known for their strength as a community and willingness to stand up for what they believe in. Despite being very insular, they are well known internationally for the stand they took in the 1990s against Occidental Petroleum, a US oil extraction company who wanted to mine their land. The U’wa mounted a campaign and threatened to commit mass suicide if Occidental succeeded. This drew international attention to the story and the U’wa won.
  • The U’wa are still engaged in legal battles to keep their ancestral lands free from exploitation by foreign and domestic companies. They have the additional problem of armed guerrilla groups who are active in Colombia, such as FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), who blow up pipelines and poison wildlife.

The Language Shop provides support in any language you may need, including many of the rarer ones. Get in touch with us to find out more.

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