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Mayan Language Institute

June 22 - August 3, 2024
Applications due March 1, 2024

Applications for the Summer 2024 program open November 13, 2023.
Applications for the 2024 program are now closed.

Please contact sclassum@tulane.edu with any questions about the program or application process. If we cannot answer your question directly, we will forward it to the appropriate member of our faculty or staff. 

Program Overview

mayan language institute

The Mayan Language Institute is a 6-week program to train students in either Kaqchikel or K’iche’ Maya, two of the most widely-spoken Mayan languages in Iximulew (Guatemala) today. Thanks to the collaboration between U.S. American faculty and Maya teachers, participants can study at the beginning, intermediate, or advanced levels of either language. The program’s highly individualized classes combine language immersion activities, lectures, one-on-one conversations, guest speakers and cultural excursions. The intensive nature of these classes, along with students’ daily immersion in Maya communities, enables them to enhance their language skills rapidly while interacting with the Indigenous peoples that sustain them.

About Maya Languages and Communities

The Mayan language family encompasses approximately 30 different languages currently spoken by communities in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize and Honduras. Iximulew (Guatemala) is home to speakers of over 22 different Maya languages. K’iche’, with approximately one million speakers, and Kaqchikel, with around a half million speakers, are among the most widely spoken and along with Mam and Q’eqchi’ are considered part of “The big four.” Between European colonization and the middle of the twentieth century, these languages were sustained primarily within the intimate spaces of home and community. Starting in the 1930s, a push for bilingual education began promoting public use of the languages and creating a need for greater standardization of the languages. This trend gave rise to collaboration between missionaries, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to train linguists and create pedagogical materials. The PLFM, founded in 1972, was an early and active participant in this literacy campaign, as it trained local Maya language speakers to write and analyze their native languages. It was the alphabet developed by their scholars that was approved by the Second National Linguistic Conference in 1984 and is currently the official orthography for all 22 local Mayan languages. 

The violence and discrimination historically suffered by Indigenous peoples, especially during the nation’s civil war (1960-1996), has resulted in a complex relationship between many Maya people and their languages. On the one hand, some remain ashamed to speak them in public or reticent to teach them to their children. On the other hand, decades of activism have led to greater visibility, acceptance, and promotion, at least in the official state rhetoric. Since 2010 the Guatemalan Ministry of Education has required all schools to teach both Spanish and the local Indigenous language, though enforcement and resources remain spotty. Meanwhile, the works of writers, artists, and activists have increased their visibility and respect.

For more information about courses, housing, and cost, choose the language you plan to study: 

Kaqchikel Maya K'iche' Maya 

Program Cost: $7,250 

Tuition: $5,000
Housing and Logistics Fees: $2,250

This price represents the maximum program price. Final price is dependent on enrollment.

Tuition and fees include 6 Tulane credits, course materials full room and board, in-country excursions, group activities, and celebrations. Program costs do not include travel to/from Guatemala, airport transportation, some meals, or personal expenses like souvenirs, laundry, etc. 

Financial Aid

The Mayan Language Institute has been designed to meet all requirements of the federal FLAS grant, which may cover much of the cost.

Tulane students should review Stone Center funding opportunities for Graduate and Undergraduate Students. They may also check out this chart of undergraduate funding opportunities across Tulane's campus.

Registration and Billing

Students will receive admission decisions within 3-4 weeks of the application deadline. Once admitted, they will be asked to pay a program deposit of $50 to secure their spot (this deposit will be waived for FLAS applicants who contact sclassum@tulane.edu). From there, all MLI registration will be processed by Stone Center staff. Students will initially be enrolled in one 3- credit Latin American Studies placeholder course, used for billing purposes only. After students’ language placement in Guatemala, they will be enrolled in their respective culture and language courses. Tuition and fees are charged to student accounts in the late spring. Students are responsible for making sure that the bill is paid in full according to the policies outlined on the Accounts Receivable website. Students can access their accounts through the Gibson Portal.

FLAS Students:

The Stone Center works closely with FLAS coordinators at other institutions to apply these grants to student accounts. However, every school has a different policy regarding the issue of funds: some pay the full bill directly to Tulane, some pay tuition directly to Tulane and issue the living stipend to individual students, and others issue the entire award to students to pay their own tuition and housing/logistics fees. Each student is responsible for making sure that his/her bill is paid in full and on time. If you have questions or foresee potential issues, please contact the Stone Center.

Refund and Cancelation Policy

If a student withdraws from the program at any point between acceptance and departure, the student forfeits their deposit plus any additional expenses that the Stone Center cannot recover from program providers. Prior to 15 days before the program start date, a student may submit a written withdrawal request to be considered for a refund of up to 75% of the program fee (deposit excluded). Refund requests received less than 15 days before the program start date will only be eligible for a maximum of 25% refund of the program fees (deposit excluded). Students withdrawing after the program start date will not be eligible for any refund. 

Accessibility and Accommodations

The MLI is a strenuous program that challenges its participants physically, emotionally, and academically. Nevertheless, the Stone Center is committed to making all its programs accessible to all students. Persons requiring special facilities or accommodations should notify the Stone Center as soon as possible. All effort will be made to accommodate their needs, but students should be aware that reasonable accommodation may be required.

Medical Insurance and Travel Emergency Assistance

The Stone Center enrolls students in a comprehensive study abroad medical insurance policy provided by GeoBlue. This insurance is included in the cost of the program.

Tulane also provides travel emergency assistance through Crisis24. Information about this program is available on the Tulane Global website.

Applicant Eligibility

Both Tulane and non-Tulane students at the graduate and undergraduate levels are encouraged to apply. Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and hold a passport valid for at least six months following the program end date.

Application Materials 

Application available through the Tulane Study Abroad portal.


  • General Student Information
  • Current Transcript
  • Personal Statement (approx. 500 words)
  • Faculty Recommendation
  • Proof of Valid Passport
  • Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination

Application Deadline: March 1, 2024


Contact the Stone Center
Phone: (504) 862 – 8629
Email: sclassum@tulane.edu
100 Jones Hall, Tulane Uptown Campus