Mayan Languages Glossary:About

From Mayan Languages Glossary


Board of Advisors:

Kawoq Baldomero Cuma, Licenciado

Kaqchikel language activist, teacher, author, and Maya Spiritual Guide (Ajq'ij). Author of three books ("Pensamiento Filosófico y Espiritualidad Maya", "Runataxik, Qak'aslem: Reviviendo Nuestra Cultura", and "Tawetamaj Kaqchikel: Aprenda Kaqchikel, Camino Para Entender la Cosmovisión"). A native Kaqchikel speaker from the town of Santa Maria de Jesús, Kawoq has over two decades of experience as a professional language teacher and has collaborated with language and culture courses hosted by USAC (Guatemala), Tulane University, the University of Texas at Austin, The University of New Orleans, and The University of Redlands.

Maria Tomás Gaspar

My name is Maria Gaspar. I Live in Greenville, South Carolina and I am a freelance interpreter in the following language pairs: Chuj<>English Spanish<>English. I am an immigrant from Guatemala, born in San Sebastian Coatan in the highlands of Huehuetenango. I was blessed and privileged to be born in a village where one of the indigenous languages are spoken, and I am thankful for it. Chuj, one of the many Indigenous Mayan languages from Guatemala is one of the language pairs that I interpret in. Being able to learn it during my childhood was the greatest gift because it does not only represent who I am and where I come from, but it also gives me a chance to help others. I am proud to share it with others. Facing some hardships of learning and adapting to another culture and language, was not easy however it has helped me learn and understand the struggles that many immigrants are facing coming to the USA not being able to speak or understand another language and culture. Being an interpreter is my passion because it gives me the opportunity to serve and help others and make their lives somewhat easier with communication especially in the Chuj community by breaking the barriers of languages, which are both fulfilling and rewarding. With the easy access to internet and other sources of information nowadays, children now growing up are being taught in Spanish at school even in their hometowns without access to learning materials that will also teach them to read or write in their indigenous languages, therefore our languages are slowly disappearing. My hope and goal with this group are that hopefully in the years to come children and adults will be able to find a place for learning and teaching these languages that will always represent who we are and pass it down to generations and keep them alive because it represents who we are. Being part of this project to me is very special and exciting and also necessary in the hopes of achieving just that.

I am a Court certified Interpreter ATA & CATI member Recipient of ATA & AFTI Membership Diversity Award for Indigenous Language Interpreters at #ATA64 Miami

Dr. Stephanie Wood

Dr. Stephanie Wood directs the collaborative Wired Humanities Projects, founded at the University of Oregon but now independent. She helped design and still contributes daily to the searchable database behind the <a href ="">Online Nahuatl Dictionary</a>, which has over 150,000 users annually. This dictionary enjoys contributions from John Sullivan and a large team of native speakers of the Zacatecas Institute for Teaching and Research in Ethnology (IDIEZ). She is also building the <a href="">Visual Lexicon of Aztec Hieroglyphs</a>, with searchable detailed descriptions and analysis of over 5,000 Nahuatl glyphs (as of May 2024). Another searchable digital collection designed by Dr. Wood is called the <a href =""> Mapas Project(/a>, which comprises Indigenous-authored pictorial manuscripts with added transcriptions and translations. She has written one monograph, edited five anthologies, and published dozens of articles in print. She has been awarded all or parts of 14 grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and over 11 years of funding from the National Park Service for books and Indigenous-authored online curriculum, Honoring Tribal Legacies. She recently held the Kislak Chair at the Library of Congress (2022–23) in recognition of her work with Nahuatl.


K'iche Moderator - Pedro Tambriz Och

I was born amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Guatemalan highlands, surrounded by the rich cultural tapestry of the K’iche’ people. My first language was K’iche’, a cornerstone of my identity. As I grew, I realized the significance of communication and pursued Spanish and English, which opened new possibilities and connections with the wider world.Fueled by a thirst for knowledge and the desire to make a difference, I embarked on my academic journey, majoring in Computer Information Technology at Brigham Young University – Idaho, online. In 2017, I took a leap of faith into the world of professional interpretation as an independent contractor. Using my knowledge of K’iche’, Spanish, English, Q’eqchi’, and even Achi, I started providing vital services in medical, educational, legal, and community settings. Over the years I have discovered the power of written language. My translation and interpretation diploma (awarded by La Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala (ALMG) for K’iche’ as further driven my commitment to my craft.My life’s journey reminds me of the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of language. From humble beginning in the Guatemala highlands to my present-day endeavors as a multilingual interpreter and computer information technology specialist, I’ve embraced new challenges and opportunities along the way. Connecting people through words has not only changed lives but also exemplified the profound impact one individual can have on the world by celebrating and preserving the rich tapestry of languages and cultures. As I continue in this effort of language preservation I am excited to work in this community effort and hope to inspire others who have the desire to celebrate our cultures and languages.

K'iche Moderator - Natasha Hewitt

My husband and I enjoyed living in the mountainous region of Guatemala for 10 years. In that time, we learned the local language K'iche. As someone who believes all languages are beautiful and deserve to be respected. I enjoy not only interpreting but also continuing to learn more about the K'iche language and its native speakers. Currently I live in Mexico and have traveled to many places around the world and thus far I can say Guatemala is truly unique!

K'iche Moderator - Adriel Hewitt

K'iche Moderator - Misael Itzep

Languages spoken: K’iche, Achi, Spanish and English.


Place of residence: I live in the beautiful state of California

I am very enthusiastic about being part of this project, I believe that it is important to preserve the Mayan languages, not only in the forms spoken locally, but also at the level of the needs of migrant groups that are beginning to develop in another country and in another language.

Q’eqchi’ Moderator - Claudia Pacay Col

I’m an indigenous woman born in a unified family of Q’eqchi’ speakers in Guatemala with the will to succeed in life and the ability to be an agent of change and show pride in my roots. I learned my native language with my parents and siblings in the home and learned Spanish with my teachers in school. While I was in 8th grade, I applied for an English scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for 4 years. Since childhood, my parents taught us the importance of education and hard work to accomplish our goals. Since then, and up to now, I understand that studying is the best way to invest in yourself! We were empowered to be successful in life! I currently work as an interpreter for Q’eqchi’ to English and vice versa since 2015 for social services, as well as in legal, health, and educational functions.

Being the first woman speaking three languages in my rural community is one great step in my life. I’m being an agent of change because I’m communicating that no matter the distance, language and social status, if you have the will to change yourself all is possible. Of this I am sure. Our country is beautiful and rich, therefore we are lucky to be born in this natural paradise. I’m proud of my roots and culture.

Q'eqchi' Moderator - Arturo Antonio Chinchilla

I come from the beautiful hamlet of Seococ in the mountains above the Polochic Valley. I feel that language preservation, in particular our Mayan languages, and my Q'eqchi' language is a most necessary endeavor. Preservation will ensure its survival for all of our descendants that follow us in the years to come. There are some who reject their native languages and we must work together to remind them of its beauty and importance to the world. We are involved in this work so that our languages do not die and that they may remain strong just as we remain strong, our language, our communities, and our culture must also remain strong. For that reason our work and speaking our languages is very important.

Q'eqchi Moderator - Marlon Choc Maaz

My name is Marlon Choc, I was born and live in Cobán, a city in the central highlands of Guatemala, where I enjoy the natural beauty and cultural diversity of my region. I'm a native speaker of Q'eqchi, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala and Belize. I speak English and Spanish fluently and work as a remote interpreter and translator. I am currently pursuing a degree in business management at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala. I am passionate about my Mayan language and identity and like to share my knowledge and experience with others. I collaborate with various entities and organizations to provide high-quality linguistic services and foster intercultural dialogue. I am always curious and willing to learn new things and challenge myself. I am a skillful and enthusiastic multilingual professional who respects his roots and embraces diversity. I am passionate about my Mayan heritage and love to share my knowledge and skills with others. I enjoy reading, traveling and learning new things.

Chuj Moderator - Maria Gaspar, CHI-Spanish, Core CHI-P (Chuj)

Q'anjob'al Moderator - Gaspar Tomas

"Txajineq'teq' hemasanil, jun skawil hek'ul, k'al hewatx' jayub'al"   Greetings and a warm welcome to all. My name is Gaspar Tomas. Maya Interpreter (Q'anjob'al and Akateko), Graphic Designer of Maya Iconography, and founder of Neo-Q'anjob'al(Maya youth group). First Generation Maya American, born and raised in Laurens, South Carolina with roots from Jolom Konob' (Santa Eulalia) and Paiconop Grande (San Miguel Acatán) Huehuetenango, Guatemala. As a descendant and speaker of both linguistic groups, I've made it a personal goal to revive and replant as much of our ancestral knowledge within the borders of the U.S. so that the younger generation may be exposed to their ancestral identity. With this being said, I'm beyond excited to be part of this marvelous project and ready to overcome any challenges. So that this project may thrive and flourish with both ancient and modern knowledge, to provide a voice to the grandsons and granddaughters of all Maya nations in this ever-changing world.

Mam Moderator - Sindy Villagrez

Hola, mi nombre es Sindy Villagrez soy de guatemalteca nací en el Departamento de Quetzaltenango una ciudad típica de Guatemala llena de grandes patrimonios Mayas, arquitecturas coloniales y enormes volcanes. Actualmente vivo en el municipio de Concepción Chiquirichapa tierra de las papas, mi primer idioma es el mam , soy hablante mam por papá , mamá es decir desde los abuelos , un idioma hablado en los departamentos de San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango y Retalhuleu en el altiplano de Guatemala. Hablo, leo y escribo Mam y español, trabajo en el Proyecto Lingüístico, Francisco Marroquín enseñando idioma Mam. Soy una persona muy orgullosa de sus raíces, idioma, culturas y tradiciones, me gusta hablar y compartir mis tradiciones y cultura también me gusta aprender y respetar otras culturas así mismo me siento orgullosa y muy feliz de formar parte de este proyecto y que cada persona que visite esta página se siente confiada e irse feliz con el resultado de su investigación.

Mam/Spanish Contributor - Dulce Maria Horn

Dulce María Horn (she/ella) is a community activist and organizer who works primarily with immigrant rights. Her journey as an activist began at the tender age of two when she joined the anti-war movement with the encouragement of her father.

Throughout her life, she has been involved in a wide range of movements, from anti-war to human/child rights to immigrant rights. For the past 10 years, Dulce has supported a non-profit organization, Camino Seguro, located in Guatemala City, Guatemala. From 2018 to 2021, she worked with Comunidades Undias, a non-profit organization in Utah, USA, taking on many roles, including Youth Leader and Voter Empowerment Organizer. From 2020 to 2023, she worked with Whittier College’s Center for Engaging with Communities to connect the college with the surrounding area.

As an international adoptee from San Marcos, Guatemala, Dulce feels a deep connection to Guatemala and Latin America as a whole. She maintains these vital connections through family, language, and culture. She reconnected with her birth family at the age of fifteen. Her families, birth and adoptive, guide and support her in reconnecting with her identity. As a bilingual adoptee (Spanish/English), Dulce feels relatively privileged, in comparison to many non-bilingual adoptees. Language unites people. Language connects people to their past and present. Dulce deeply understands how language and culture are interconnected. Using her language skills, the world opened up to her and allowed her to connect to different peoples and cultures. At present, Dulce is embarking on a new journey — learning Mam, an Indigenous language of Guatemala and Mexico. Before the genocide in Guatemala, her birth family spoke Mam but in the years since, the language has been lost to them. She hopes to reunite the past with the present through her study of Mam.

Dulce graduated cum laude class of 2023 from Whittier College (Los Angeles, CA) with a Bachelor of Arts in Global and Cultural Studies and Spanish, with a minor in Political Science.


Centro Tecnológico Bilingüe, San Miguel, Tucuru. Alta Verapaz, Guatemala - Q'eqchi' and Spanish Collaborative Partner

We are a technological, educational, comprehensive, bilingual, intercultural, evolutionary, organized, efficient, and opportunity-generating center for meaningful learning, with trained and committed professional staff in the constant formation of students; to improve their personal development based on principles, values, linguistic diversity, ecological awareness, and a culture of peace, in the municipality of San Miguel Tucurú, Department of Alta Verapaz.

The Bilingual Technological Center was authorized on January 18, 2021, under Departmental Resolution - AC No. 50-2021, issued by the Departmental Directorate of Education of Alta Verapaz. We are located in Barrio La Vega, Municipality of Tucurú, department of Alta Verapaz. In our country, one of the biggest barriers to individual and collective development is the inefficient education of a traditional system that is no longer applicable to the technological and pedagogical changes of today. Therefore, our fundamental objective is to provide quality education; which implies a sacrifice and greater effort for the benefit of children and young people. Our teachers are trained to provide effective education in the area of reading and writing from the early grades, fundamental bases for the following years of schooling. Most of our teachers work without receiving a monthly salary; however, they carry out efficient work worthy of admiration. Our motto is: Bilingual Technological Center "A different way of learning."

We are proud to collaborate with the Mayan Languages Preservation Project to ensure equal access to our languages in all manners of life and learning. We are also committed to the preservation of our Mayan languages through the National Base Curriculum and through institutions that support such projects, motivating students to become bilingual individuals and professionals by learning a Mayan language, Spanish, and English. Our regional Mayan languages are primarily Q'eqchi' and Poqomchi'.

The Mayan Languages Preservation Project is directed by Winston Scott, PhD and Elena Langdon, CT, M.A., Director of the MasterWord Institute

Winston Kent Scott has conducted research and been deeply engaged with Mayan language communities in Guatemala, the United States, and Canada since 1996. A cultural anthropologist by training, Dr. Scott’s work has focused on social and economic impacts of large-scale agriculture in rural Guatemala municipalities, sociolinguistic mobilization within Indigenous communities, and traditional religious systems. He has taught courses on these topics at the University at Albany, SUNY. Dr. Scott has dedicated years working amidst Q’eqchi’, Kaqchikel, and K’iche’ Mayan language groups in Guatemala and has participated in and taught courses dedicated to these languages. Since 2015, Dr. Scott has been continuously involved in assisting Indigenous Guatemalan immigrants to the United States in receiving access to legal, medical, and educational services in their native languages. Dr. Scott has also volunteered as a project director for programs that are deicated to assisting Indigenous Guatemalans to gain access to medical and mental health resources in their native languages for alcohol and substance abuse.

Elena Langdon, a Portuguese-English community and conference interpreter and interpreter trainer, is the director of the MasterWord Institute. She is certified by the American Translators Association (Portuguese into English translation) and by CCHI (core-certified healthcare interpreter). She holds an M.A. in Translation Studies from UMass Amherst and has been teaching interpreting and translation since 2005. Elena has been on the board of directors of ATA, New England Translators Association, and National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. The daughter of two anthropologists who lived deep in the Amazon with indigenous communities before she was born, Elena's early bedtime stories were narratives from the Siona and Barasana people of Colombia. The Siona narratives collected by her mother in the 1970s are now used by the community to teach the younger generations a language they no longer actively speak. Elena has had the great honor of translating and interpreting for several indigenous activists, including Sonia Guajajara, Celia Xakriabá, and Ailton Krenak.

We are looking for other moderators to join the project, please apply here


MasterWord Services, Inc. is more than a global leading language services provider. For over three decades, we've been there alongside public organizations, NGOs, healthcare systems, and educational institutions, providing language and communication access to ensure no language and no person is left behind. MasterWord has been actively involved with both the Unesco Year and Decade of Indigenous Languages and has been an advocate for language preservation and language access.

Although this platform and initial funding for the project were provided by MasterWord, the project success is ensured by the Mayan language communities who are actively participating to bring their languages into a wide-ranging digital format. It is a site led by Indigenous Mayan language speakers and for Mayan language speakers. We believe that the sucess of this project can become a roadmap for language preservation and eventually full digital presense for other communities.

MasterWord’s founder and CEO, Ludmila Golovine, developed an interest in Mayan languages, both past and present, by way of ancestry. The great grandniece of an accomplished epigrapher and ethnographer, Yuri Knorozov, Ludmila has a personal connection to language revitalization and preservation. Yuri’s documentation and analysis of Mayan writing systems is widely credited as a major step in the eventual decipherment of ancient Mayan script. Ludmila is following in her great-uncle’s footsteps by providing support for contemporary Mayan language speakers as the wage into the waters of tomorrow. “I would like to see Mayan languages and culture fully digitally and present as a full and equitable member of the global language community. Any community, no matter how large or small, can become the Singapore of tomorrow by engaging at the digital crossroads of today.”


Language Services for Mayan Languages