Santiago, Chile - 2015
Educational Purpose: My goal for this trip was to get to know the culture and language of the Mapuche, an indigenous people of southern Chile. I studied the Mapuche language, called Mapudungún, under the tutelage of Clorinda Antinao Vargas, who is the author of a Mapudungún-Spanish dictionary and who is currently writing a grammar for the language. Using my linguistics degree, I took an amateur stab at linguistic fieldwork by helping Ms. Antinao construct a comprehensive diagram of all the past tense conjugations for transitive verbs, which vary by number (singular, dual, and plural), person (first, second, and third), and by who is acting upon whom. As far as she knew, this had never been done in Mapudungún. I later explored the southern Lakes District where the language was more widely used.
The Lakes District, south of Santiago, includes the city of Temuco, which boasts the highest percentage of Mapuche residents in the country. I stayed at a Mapuche-owned hostel and even encountered the language in the streets. Sadly, interest in speaking Mapudungún has been on decline, though there are some efforts to revitalize it.
Dates: July 10-August 5, 2015
Residence: Homestay with host family and in hostels
School: Tandem, course in Mapudungún
Map image source: http://www.wordtravels.com/Travelguide/Countries/Chile/Map