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Guatemala Field Station

The Maryland Language Science Center has established a research field station near the beautiful Lake Atitlán in the western highlands of Guatemala. This is the first of several planned field stations outside the US, which will support multi-disciplinary research involving local communities, languages and environments. 

The field station officially opened in 2016 and activities so far include an annual summer field school (2016, 2017), the groundwork for several major research projects, and developing relationships with local organizations and researchers. (Find out more about the summer field schools from the students' blog.)

Although the concept of a field station is not new and there are a number of them across the globe, LSC's Guatemala field station has several distinguishing characteristics which are central to its mission:

  • It is founded on close connections with the local community. Incoming researchers and students are based in the community, living in local families and interacting with them on a daily basis. Based on a careful assessment of local needs and priorities, the field station is developing research in several areas relevant to the community, and combines local expertise with that of incoming researchers.

  • It is genuinely interdisciplinary, connecting expertise in fields as diverse as linguistics, nutrition, and business to address complex questions which are locally relevant.

  • Research in language is at the heart of the field station; access to local languages is crucial for developing cultural and communal trust, and language serves as the core connecting different research areas.  Researchers working on different projects are all trained in at least one local indigenous language. For the 2016 and 2017 summer field schools the language chosen was Kaqchikel, one of the more widely-spoken Mayan languages of the area. We hope to offer classes in other languages in future years.

  • Visiting researchers at the Field Station can conduct research on any Mayan language of their choosing. With his connections in the Mayan communities of Guatemala, our Executive Director has been able to provide logistical support to groups and individual researchers working on different Mayan languages, including: Kaqchikel, Tz'utujiil, K'iche', Chuj, Awakateko, and Q'anjob'al.

Field School Outline

In collaboration with the NGO Wuqu' Kawoq, we offer beginner and continuing two-week immersion classes in Kaqchikel. Both classes are taught by experienced Kaqchikel teachers who plan the lessons, provide one-one-one help, and provide language learning materials. Following the two-week classes, University of Maryland linguistics faculty provide guidance and mentoring as students collect language data from native Kaqchikel speakers. During the trip, students stay with local families to gain a better insight into everyday Guatemalan life. Students and faculty also take several field trips, including trips to sites where Wuqu' Kawoq is providing healthcare and nutrition programs. 

Costs

We aim to keep costs as manageable as possible for participants who are full-time students. In 2017, the cost for the four-week program was $2250. A small number of places were available for students to participate only in the two-week Kaqchikel language school, at a cost of $1300 - primarily for NGO workers and interns with Wuqu' Kawoq. These fees include housing, tranportation, classes and excursions.

For Summer 2018, an application link will be posted on this site in December or January. If you have any questions about the field school, please contact Tess Wood or Pedro Mateo Pedro

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