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Mayan Language for Beginners 3

If you have opened this article, then it’s likely that you have already read Yucatan Living’s two previous features: Mayan for Ts’ulo’ob and Mayan Language for Beginners. Based on the great response from our readers, we are offering this continuation of our informal Mayan language lessons.

Building Bridges With Language

One goal of Yucatan Living’s Mayan Language series is to build linguistic bridges between ourselves and our Yucatecan Maya friends by offering non-Mayan speakers the chance to break the ice with simple friendly phrases, questions, and answers. When sitting down to a home-made bowl of pavo en relleno negro in some little village where you have been invited to a wedding or a quinceaños, a few Mayan phrases can help you get to know your neighbor at the dinner table. At the very least, it will impress him or her that you have made an attempt to learn their language and understand their culture, Talking Mayan to a Mayanand it will be sure to produce a round of smiles to go with your beers and ice-cold Coca Colas. It turns out that both City Maya and Country Maya are often tickled to death to hear good Mayan spoken by the same people who butcher Spanish. Keep in mind that for many of the Yucatecans who speak Mayan, it is their first language just like English is yours. So you can enjoy butchering the Spanish language together!

In the last article, we covered basic phrases like:  “How are you?”   “Where are you from?” and “What’s your name?”.   Here, we will continue with additional useful questions, replies, and phrases about families.


Finding Out About Families


  Yaan wáa a paalal?

Yaahn aa a paahlahl

Do you have children?

Reply: Bey, yaan in paalal

Bay, yaahn een paahlal

I have children.

Reply: Má, mina’an in paalal

Mah me-nah-ahn eehn paahlal

I have no children.

Bix u K’aaba’ a paalalo’ob?

Beesh uuh k’-aah-bah ah paah-lah-low-ob

What is your child’s name?

Reply: U K’aaba’ in _____ .

Uuh k’-aah-bah een _____

His/her name is ____ .

 Bix u K’aaba’ a atán?

Beesh uuh k’-aah-bah ah ah-tahn

What is your wife’s name?

Reply: U K’aaba’ in _____ .

Uuh k’-aah-bah een _____

Her name is ____ .

 Ts’oKa’an a beel wáa a paalal?

 Ts-oh-kah-ahn ah bell ah

Are you married?

 Reply: Bey ts’ooka’an in beel

Bay ts-ohkah-ahn een bell)

I’m married.

 Reply: Má ts’ooka’an in beeli’

Mah ts-ohkah-ahn een belee’

I’m not married.

 Reply: Chen kajakbalen

Chen kah-hahk-bahlen

I’m am single.


Mayan girlsPronunciation of Maya

Are things making sense?   How are you doing with pronouncing the ‘ K –’ sound?  (This is where you make a K sound with no vowel, like the sound we make when we skewer or gig something.)   How are you doing with pronoucing the  ‘ Ts –’ ?  (This is like starting to say Tsar,  without the ar sound following.)    Did you remember from the last article that Bey is affirmative and is spoken harshly and louder for ‘no’.  The way to pronounce is to make it sound kind of like a goat bleating loudly.

Also, note that we have used uuhl to describe an elongated ‘ooh’ like in ‘poodle’ or like in ‘suuuuu-ie’ when you call hogs. You do that all the time, don’t you?

Has it occurred to you that you now know enough Mayan to ask a lot of questions about someone’s family, if you only knew some common words for family members? Great! Let’s learn those then…

Words For Family Members









 Father / Papa











Keek  (like geek)




 Little Brother











Shuuh –nah-ahn



Sheeb  (like sheep)










Young person



Young woman

   Chan ch’úupal

Chahn ch-‘uu-pahl

Little girl

   Chan xíipal

Chahn sheee-pahl

Little boy

   J Baal       

Huh Baahl = H’Baahl

Brother in Law

   X Baal       

Ish Baahl

Sister in Law





You can easily take these simple nouns and plug them into some of the questions from above. What follows are some examples.

Bix u K’aaba’ a paalalo’ob? can be switched around to ask someone’s wife’s name, for instance. And as you may remember from the previous Mayan Language article, you can add a nice Kux Teech? to the end of any of your replies, to ask or reflect the same question back to the other person.

Lunch in the pueblo in Yucatan MexicoSo Bix u K’aaba’ a Atán? means What is your wife’s name? U K’aaba’ in Maria Alba means My wife’s name is Maria Alba. Kux Teech? following that would mean What is your wife’s name?

Here is one important point about pronunciation in Mayan. The ‘X’ is pronounced ‘Eesh’ when followed by a consonant but the same letter is pronounced as ‘Sh-’ when followed by a vowel. Think of Xcaret (Eesch-kah-rette) versus Xiib (Sheeb).

Also remember that the ‘b’ is silent at the end of a word, if there is no vowel after the ‘b’. Are you popping the vowels harder when they have the accent mark above them? (as in xíipal?) and making longer vowel sounds when the vowels are doubled ( ii, ee, aa, etc)? And do not forget about the freestanding ‘J’  as a ‘He’  sound without much of a vowel  (J Baal).

Is it starting to make sense why few native Spanish speakers also speak Mayan? The Mayan language has lots of glottal stops and hard consonants at the beginnings and ends of words, creating a little space between words, very similar to the English and German languages. The good news is that this makes it a little bit easier for those of us who speak English to learn Mayan.

A Few More Phrases

Here’s a parting set of phrases and questions to work on until next time:

 Tu’ux ka meyaj?

 Too-oosh kah may-yah

Where do you work?

 Reply: Kin meyaj ti’___?

Keen may-yah tee

I work in ____.
T’ho, or Jo’ or Ho’ are Merida

 Jayp’eel ja’ab yaantech?’

High-p’-ehl hah-ahb yaahn-teeech

How many years do you have?  (How old?)

 Reply: Yaanten  __75__. 

Yahntehn siete cinco

I’m 75 years old.

 Ba’ax k’íin síijech?

Bah-ash k’-een see-hech

What is your date of birth?


Not A Standardized Language

As we have told you before, keep in mind that the Mayan Language is not standardized, and each pueblo has some of it’s own ways of saying things. So if  Bix a beel  (beesh-uh-bell) draws only blank stares, shift to Bax ka’wali  (Bah-sch kah wah-lee ).  And be ready for their  Ma’alob, Kux teech? (Mah ah-loh, Koosh tehhch?)  and if neither of the first two phrases work, then jump to  Bix Anikech!  (Beesch Ahn-nee-kech).

And until next time,
Xi’i kech yéetel utsil  (She-ee kech yeeh-tehl uuht-seal),  Be Well and Vaya Bien!


Interested readers can find more Maya lessons at Dr. Stephen Fry’s website, Yucalandia:

The first two Maya language articles are here:

More Mayan vocabulary can also be found at:

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5 Responses to “Mayan Language for Beginners 3”

  1. I stumbled upon Yucatán Living back in 2006 while researching my first month-long visit to the peninsula. I still return here often and have to say that this is the best source for everything under the heading of Yucatán! Keep up the great articles, stories, and information, mi amigos! -Andrew

  2. Please could you help us with my daughter’s school project?

    We’re trying to collect the words ‘one hundred and forty’ in 140 different languages, as part of her idea to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the school.

    Would you be able to help us with the Mayan version of this?

    Many thanks, it would be much appreciated.

    Best regards

    Clare Ryland, London

  3. Hello Clare,
    The official answer is: 140 in Yucatec Maya is ” U’uk-Kaal ” Seven Twenties .

    The Maya counted time using a vegesimal base 20 system for counting time, as in your 140 years. Vegesimal: 10 fingers and 10 toes?

    If you want more details on this, a good friend, Sid Hollander has volunteered his help. Sid has been a student of the 7, 8 or 9 different Maya calanders for over 30 years, and he has a dandy Maya Calendar & Clock program that even talks. I can send you an email if you like.
    Happy Trails,

  4. Thank you, Steve!

  5. I’ve always wanted to be able to speak MAYAN


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