I grew up in Canada and in the United States. I was always interested in languages. In the places where I lived, many languages are spoken all the time. I love languages, so I became a linguistic anthropologist. That’s a person who studies languages. I’m interested in how languages are used and how they change.

When I was in college, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be interesting to discover a new language? I know. It sounds crazy. Yet, it’s possible.

Languages don’t stay the same. Over time, they change. Sometimes a new version is created that is not like any other spoken language. To find it, you must be at the right place at the right time. I decided to look in Peru, in South America. In the Puno region of Peru, people speak two indigenous languages. That’s a language that is native to a place. Puno’s languages are Quechua and Aymara.

Learn a little Quechua or Aymara. Try these useful words and phrases:


Imanaylla kashanki?

(i-ma-naa-ya ka-shan-kee)





How are you?

Puno overlooks Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in the Andes.

Living the High Life

I wondered if, over time, Quechua and Aymara might have combined into something new. To test my idea, I packed my notebooks, my audio recorder, and a microphone.

It took me a while to adjust to my new surroundings. The communities in Puno are way above sea level. It’s so high you can feel the effects on your body. At first, I could feel myself breathing faster and feeling dizzy. Later, I felt sick and had a headache.

coca tea








I am good.

I had altitude sickness! So, I drank a local tea made from coca leaves. Soon, I felt better. Being high in the sky also means less ozone in the air. Less ozone means less protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Here, people never go out without their sun hats.

Mountains loom over this market.