Hundreds of thousands of Maya living on the Yucatán Peninsula today speak at least some of their mother tongue. Most speak Yucatec Maya (commonly called simply "Maya"), one of more than 30 Mayan languages used today that can be traced back about 4,000 years to a single language believed to have originated in northwestern Guatemala. You will see numerous spelling variations around the peninsula. Note: The term "Mayan" is reserved for Mayan languages. The noun or the adjective for the people is "Maya."
Mayan vowels are pronounced as they are in Spanish. Double vowels are pronounced like their single counterparts but are held longer. The "x" is pronounced "sh," as in "ship"; the "j" sounds like "h," as in "home." Consonants that come before an accent (') are glottalized. Though the difference is hard for a newcomer to discern, glottalized consonants have a harder, more emphatic sound. Accents in Mayan words usually fall on the last syllable (unlike Spanish, which emphasizes the penultimate syllable unless an accent mark indicates otherwise). Plurals in Mayan are formed by adding the suffix -ob.
English Mayan Pronunciation
Hello Ola oh-lah
How are you? Biix a beel? Beesh a bell
What is your name? Bix a k'aaba? Beesh ah k-ah-bah
My name is . . . in k'aaba . . . een k-ah-bah . . .
So long Tu heel k'iin Too heel k-een
Goodbye/Take care/Good luck Xi'ik tech utsil Shee-eek tech oot-seel
See you tomorrow Asta sa'amal Ahs-ta sah-ah-mahl
Okay (fine, well) Ma'aloob Mah-ah-lohby
Yes (That's the way it will be) He'le' Hey-leh
No Ma' Mah
I don't understand Min na'atik Meen na-ah-teek
Thank you Dyos bo'otik Dee-yos boh-oh-teek
You're welcome Mixba'al Meesh-bah-ahl
Stop Wa'alen Wah-ah-lehn
I'm hungry Wi'hen Wee-hehn
I'm going home Kin bin tin nah Keen been teen nah
Bon appetit Hach ki' a wi'ih Hach kee ah wee-ee
Let's (go) Ko'ox (tun) Koh-osh (toon)
Where is the beach? Tuxan há? Too-shan hah
A Basic Mayan Glossary
Ah kin -- A high priest.
Aktun -- Cave.
Atl-atl -- Spear-throwing device.
Bacab -- A class of important gods.
Balam -- Jaguar spirit that keeps evil away.
Cán -- Serpent.
Cenote -- A natural waterhole created by the collapse of limestone caves; corruption by the Spanish of the Maya word dzonot.
Ch'en -- Pool.
Chilan -- A soothsayer or medium.
Chultun -- A bottle-shaped, underground cistern.
Corte -- Indian woman's traditional full-length skirt.
Há -- Cacao seed.
Huipil -- A traditional Maya wraparound, woven cotton dress, worn leaving the shoulders bare.
Ka'a'anab háal ha -- Beach.
Kayab -- A turtle-shell drum.
Kayem -- Ground maize.
Kin -- The sun, the day, unity of time.
Ku'um -- Pumpkin.
Manta -- A square of cloth, used as a cloak or blanket; still worn by the Maya today.
Milpa -- A cornfield.
Muxubbak -- Tamale.
Nohoch -- Important, big.
P'ac -- Tomatoes.
Palapa -- Traditional thatched-roof Maya structure built without nails.
Pok-a-tok -- A Maya ball game.
Pom -- Resin of the copal tree, used for rubber, chewing gum, and incense.
Quetzal -- A rare Central American bird, now almost extinct, prized by Maya kings for its long, brilliant blue-green tail feathers.
Sacbé -- Literally "white road," a raised limestone causeway linking Maya buildings and settlements.
Xibalbá -- The Maya underworld.
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