For decades I have not been able to make up my mind which of the over 25 Mayan languages to learn. I know many words in Yucatec Maya from decades of photographing Puuc, Chenes, and Rio Bec pyramid, temple, and palace Maya architecture in Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, plus decades studying Mayan hieroglyphic writing. I would prefer learning a Chol-related language since many of the original glyphs may have been in one of these languages, but in Guatemala there is no access to Chol-speaking people.
Learning K'iche' Mayan language is of course a good idea, since the Popol Vuh is written in this Highland language. But the origin of almost all the chapters on the Hero Twins are derived from the Lowlands three thousand years ago, so the entire Hero Twins segment is not K'iche' in origin. But we all appreciate the K'iche' for preserving these chapters of Maya sacred myths.
Itza (or Ytza) Maya would be a good option, but not many speakers remain. Mopan would also be good, but we have no connections to Mopan speakers. I doubt any Manche speakers still exist. Plus by far the easiest language instructors to find are Q’eqchi’. Plus this is the language of the cave area of Xibalba, the underworld of the Maya beliefs in the Popol Vuh. So bit by bit I am trying to learn Q’eqchi’.
Frankly I never understood why it was allowed to for a university to give a MA degree or PhD to any Mayanist who could not read and speak a Mayan language. I have a high respect for all Maya scholars who do in fact read or speak a Mayan language, or who at least can read hieroglyphs.
For studies of Maya archaeology, being capable to handle a Mayan language is also essential, since in theory at least, a Maya archaeologist is intending to do the excavations in order to understand ancient Maya culture and civilization. Thus it would be helpful if universities would require that students can at least know basic vocabulary in important topics in at least one Mayan language.
This will be a tough rule for universities to establish since probably over 50% of the current Mayanists (myself included) are not able to read or speak any Mayan language. Since the professors themselves are “illiterate” (such as myself) it’s tough to require students be better than we are, but in theory that is the life goal of a professor, to train students to be even better.
But at least I am working on it, word by word, and by turning our Maya web site into a bibliography resource, I hope I can help other students, scholars, and the interested lay public (since learning a new language is helpful exercise for your brain, and more helpful for brain health than watching soap operas or the Duck Dynasty on TV).
There are plenty of web sites on K’ekchi’ Mayan language that you can easily find; we list one here.
There are also grammars of Q’eqchi’ Mayan, but the bibliography here is for dictionaries.
Reprinted by Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1971. We (FLAAR) are scanning to prepare a digital edition, but with no funds available it takes longer.