For educators: Create an illustrated glossary of Nahuatl/English loan words

When you’re teaching from many textbooks, it’s easy to think of native societies as “the other” – the Aztec are conquered and swept aside, if they’re mentioned at all, and they appear from the perspective of their conquerors.  They didn’t even call themselves the Aztec, for that matter – they referred to themselves as the Mexica, a name lent to the modern nation, and often excluded from your textbooks to prevent confusion between the two among students.  

But maybe educators should be emphasizing those connections – Mexico is a blended culture, not simply Spanish or Mexica, with roots that go way back and reach into the modern day.  In a time when ignorance and prejudice persist as barriers to peace and prosperity, let’s examine the ways in which our cultures represent the contributions of many world civilizations, past and present.

Have your students:

Create an illustrated glossary of English loan words from Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica.  Consider the following questions: Why have these particular words come over into English and not others?  Examine the history of this language in general – where did the written form of this language come from?  Is Nahuatl still spoken, and if so, by whom?

Find more information and lesson plans on the Mexica here.

Open Ended Social Studies is home to dozens of resources for teaching the history of Pre-Columbian America.