The official languages of Ecuador

What language do they speak in Ecuador?

Spanish is an official language in Ecuador when talking about business and government.

If you visit Ecuador for the first time, you will notice several types of Ecuador languages, which are officially supported by locals. And English is not one of them. You can definitely use it in the hotels or in the airport with ease, but you won’t have much success outside these areas. The reason lies behind the rich, historical legacy of this country, which supports up to 24 languages. A small part of Ecuador languages are nearly extinct and some of them are popular among millions of people. So what language do they speak in Ecuador, and how to earn the sympathy of the locals by using the right Ecuador language?

The historical roots of Ecuador languages


native ecuadorian girl who speaks Quechua language

The greatest empire in Pre-Colombian America was the Inca Empire, with its capital Cuzco. There is a common myth that Incas have innovated the Quechua language, also called “Runa simi”. In fact, it was spoken much earlier by the indigenous tribes, such as Chanka, the rivals of the Inca Empire. Some of these tribes, like Huanca and Kanari, also adopted it.

It was first described by the Spanish missionary and grammarian Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás in the 16th century. The Incas spread Quechua language across the north of Ecuador, south of Tahuantinsuyo, and also highlands. It was so popular that nowadays it has 9 language varieties, such as Imbabura, Calderón, Salasaca, and others. Quechua remained one of the most popular Ecuador main language even after the invasion of Spanish conquistadors. The

Unfortunately, some indigenous languages of Ecuador are nearly extinct (like Záparo) as only a few native speakers left. Still, the Southern Quechua language of Ecuador is preferred even nowadays among the bilingual highland Indians. The Quechua Indians refer to themselves as “Runa”, which simple meaning is “People”. If you visit the local markets – some words of Quechua will grant you the sympathy of the locals and probably even more.


Children who speaks Kichwa language in Ecuador

Eventually, the Quechua language became much simpler, and it is known as the Kichwa language of Ecuador. It is the most spoken Ecuador language of Native American speakers. For today, there are around 450 000 people in Ecuador, who speak it. That is 7% of Ecuador’s population. It became a combination of Quechua, used in Ecuador and Colombia. However, its historical roots are referred to Bolivia and Peru. The most popular dialect of Kichwa language is Chimborazo. It was described by the known linguist Alfredo Torero, who wrote “The Dialects of Quechua” in 1964.

This pre-Hispanic Ecuador language sounds simpler in comparison to Southern Quechua. One of the main reasons for this is a process of creolization with pre-Inca languages (the process when culture and language merge). It is still taught in schools, even though, it may not be as useful as an Ecuador main language.


ecuadorians with national flag who speaks Spanish language

You’ve probably already figured out what is the official language of Ecuador, and it is definitely Spanish. The popularization of the Spanish language across South America’s continent began in the 16th century, specifically in 1531. Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors founded two of the most known cities in Ecuador – the capital Quito and the Guayaquil. This tendency alone made Spanish one of the most popular Ecuador languages, including the rest of South America as well. Highly populous cities allow Spanish to become Ecuador official language. For today, Spanish is an Ecuador main language for 93% of people, which makes it an undeniable leader among other languages.

What are main language dialects in Ecuador?

ecuadorian tribes, native speakers of Ecuador

It is separated into 3 main language dialects, such as Andean Spanish, Equatorial Pacific Spanish, and Amazonian Spanish.

  • The Equatorial Pacific Spanish dialect

    The Equatorial Pacific Spanish dialect is spoken mainly in the largest city of Ecuador – the Guayaquil city. The different social classes use this dialect differently due to the pronunciation nuances. Educated people usually try to use a standard, which is close to the typical Spanish language. There is also a common stereotype, that people with African roots use a different rhyme and intonation while learning and speaking this dialect of Ecuador language.

  • The Andean Spanish dialect

    The Andean Spanish dialect is spoken in various highland cities, including Quito – the main highland capital of Ecuador. Sometimes it is considered a “purest” variation of Ecuador language. It is commonly used in newspapers and other sorts of written literature.

  • Amazonian Spanish dialect

    Amazonian Spanish dialect, also known as Jungle Spanish, is classified as a distinct language from a standard Spanish language. This dialect is mainly popular among the locals in the Amazon riversides of Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru. The main feature of the Amazonian Spanish language is a way to construct a possessive form in place of genitive forms of the original Spanish language.

It is important to know, that people here speak the main language of Ecuador quite slowly. It allows beginners to better understand the local people and have time to prepare a proper reply. Also, it’s a great way to learn Spanish if you visit language courses in Ecuado. After these courses, you won’t have issues with knowing what language is spoken in Ecuador and how to use it in the right circumstances.


back to Culture