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Spanish in Bolivia

Updated on October 24, 2012

Bolivia is a multi-cultural country in South America with a population of 10.125 million as of 2010. People in Bolivia belong to various ethnic groups such as the Amerindians, Asians, Africans, Mestizos and the Europeans. Based on the 2011 census, the country has a young population with 60 percent younger than 25 while 39 percent is below 15 years old.

Spanish as its official language although 34 other indigenous languages are also spoken around the country. These include the Guarani, Aymara and Quechua.


Bolivia used to be called Upper Peru during the Spanish colonial period. It was then under the administration of the Viceroyalty of Peru together with the other Spanish colonies.

The country gained its independence of 1809 but it went through 16 years of war after that. By August 1825, Bolivia became a Republic although it continued to experience period of political instability, economic problems and dictatorships including 200 coups and countercoups.

Bolivia today is divided into nine departments. These are Beni, Chuquisaca, Pando, Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Oruro, Potosi and Tarija. Majority or 70 percent of the population live in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. presented several ethnic groups that are presented below.

Ethnic groups


Due to the mix of cultures that exists in the country, the Constitution of Bolivia recognizes 37 official languages including Spanish. The most spoken official language, however, is Spanish.

A 2001 census showed that 88.4 percent of the population speaks Spanish as their first or second language even among indigenous groups. In addition, all legal and official documents issued by the State as well as those from the private and public institutions, the media and commercial establishments are in Spanish. There is a law in Bolivia, though, that requires people working in civil service to learn to speak at least one indigenous language.

The Quechua language, on the other hand, is spoken by 28 percent of the population. This used to be the Inca Empire’s official language and is now spoken mostly in the departments of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Potosi.

Spanish language schools

A number of Spanish language schools exist today in Bolivia, most of them in Sucre and Santa Cruz. Foreign students who wish to enroll have two options – enroll directly with the school or hire a U.S. or European agent. Enrolling directly with the school is more affordable as it can cost only less than $100 per week.

Various groups are operating these language schools around Bolivia. Most of them are in the private sector. Some offer one-on-one lessons while the others offer group classes but all commonly focus on the four aspects of learning which are reading, writing, speaking and listening.

International students are most welcome to enroll in a Spanish language program in Bolivia. Most schools provide accommodation and modern facilities to make learning very comfortable and convenient for their students. Depending on your destination, there is sure to be one Spanish language school available to cater to every need of the student.

You may browse the internet to find out the best school that fits your lifestyle and other needs.


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