Tiktok teen teaches Mayan language


Screenshot by Michael Ortego- Portillo '21

Tuz Santos started teaching the Mayan language using TikTok during the pandemic.

Michael Ortega-Portillo '21, Staff Reporter


TikTok is an app that’s mainly known for dances and comedy, but an 18-year-old teen named Santos Tuz went viral mid-July for teaching the Mayan language. 

Santos Tuz is from Yucatán and he said he was inspired by others who were teaching English. Santos Tuz was taught the language when he moved in with his grandma at the age of 6 or 7 and has been speaking it now for more than a decade.  

“I always wanted to show people how proud I feel about my roots,” he said, according to Yucatan News. 

When he first started, he never imagined he would have thousands of people who were interested in the Mayan language. 

“I saw him on my ‘For You’ page on TikTok when he first started teaching and I’ve been following him since,” said Jose Gonzalez Campos ’21. 

Santos currently has 72,300 followers on TikTok and 7,610 followers on his YouTube channel. 

Santos has also faced criticism when he was posting videos teaching. “People asked me why I was teaching Mayan, that I should teach English, that Mayan was useless, that people from Yucatan did not even understand Spanish, and that made me feel very bad. They discriminated against me for teaching Mayan, and later I realized that people began to support me,” he told Yucatan News. 

He also said that young people who speak the Mayan language are afraid to be made fun of. Santos never stopped teaching, even though he was criticized. 

Now that millions of people around the world are social distancing because of the coronavirus, Spanish teacher Armando Castillo said this is the perfect time to learn a new language. 

“When you learn a new language it teaches you to think in that language and it expands the parameters of individual learning. It is a good way to exercise your mind.” 

Castillo also said more young people should take an active role in teaching a language. 

“It teaches young people that they as individuals can make a significant difference in the world,” he said. “It gives me hope for the future. A dying language can be brought back to life through the individual efforts of like-minded people. This has been demonstrated in Ireland where the native Irish language has been resuscitated and been given new life and, in Israel where the ancient Hebrew –  once in danger of disappearing- is now widely taught and spoken.”

Santos Tuz has taken a proactive approach to revitalize the Mayan language by taking advantage of media platforms. 

Castillo said, “I feel very happy when anyone takes steps to preserve the history, language, and culture of the Mayan people. This is an ancient culture that revered the natural world and tried to live in harmony with it – it offers much that we in the modern world can learn and apply.”