Recently a close friend of mine, who is a descendant of one of the original cultures of the Americas and native speaker of the Yucatec Mayan language, asked me to help him save his language from evaporating from the pueblo ambiance, as he put it in Spanish. While his plea certainly provided the inspiration necessary for producing such an instructional guide for learning to speak the Yucatec Maya language; living in the Pueblo of Chicxulub over the past five years has provided the perspective necessary for presenting the lifestyle of a culture that is disappearing as rapidly as its speech community. After several authentic language lessons with my ‘compadre’ and language guide Don Tristeza, followed-up by hundreds of hours studying and practicing his language in my own time, I now find myself in a position to respond to this seemingly overwhelming yet undeniable request.
Though the number of speakers of Mayan languages numbers in the millions, and there are supposedly at least 800,000 speakers of the Yucatec Mayan variety, current trends towards greater cultural convergence on the face of a shrinking world map that encroaches on the agrarian pueblos that seem to get closer-and-closer to the city with every son or daughter that exchanges the cultural conventions of the pueblo for the undeniable corporate profits of the city. As a result of my unique positioning in the pueblo as both a formally-trained Anthropologist and Linguist, and an active participant in the bilingual community, I am now motivated to present my findings both informal and academic in this hybridized format for learning the Yucatec Mayan language with cultural adaptation at its core.
Serving as both a ‘Language Instruction Manual’ as well as a ‘Travel Guide Book’ for the Yucatan Peninsula, Experience Yucatan: En Busca de Los Pueblos Yucatecos includes ten chapters of 15 language-dense pages designed to guide the backpack adventurer to a greater understanding of a culture that time has nearly forgotten. Preparing for just such a trip makes up the formative chapters of the text, including a fast-paced review of highly-applicable grammar and several useful phrases for use by Second Language learners who already have an introduction to the Spanish language. Serving as a medium for authentic activity in the form of a travel simulator, the reader prepares for travel in the first chapter, and arrives to Cancun International Airport in the second, in which the traveler becomes accustomed to the Spanish-speaking environment through a series of applicable dialogues for use in taking advantage of public transportation, ordering inexpensive meals, and obtaining economy hotels rooms. However, upon arrival to the State of Yucatan in the fourth chapter, this one-of-a-kind “Language Tour Guide Book” offers an opportunity for the reader to exchange the tourist zones on the eastern coast of the peninsula for a chance to get better acquainted with the people and places associated with the contemporary Mayan Culture.