A woman looks at a head of lettuce in her hand at a market. She is surrounded by colorful bags and produce.
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Take a Closer Look at the 3 New Additions to CLI’s Language List

Welcome Afar, Chuj, and Tarahumara to our interpreter lineup!

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last summer, the U.S. received thousands of Afghan evacuees, creating a high demand for language services in Pashto and Dari. 

But immigration is increasing from countries all over the world, including from places like Guatemala and Ethiopia, and sometimes those migrants speak languages not often heard in this country. Last year, CLI welcomed a few new interpreters who speak such rare languages. 

Often referred to as languages of limited diffusion (LLD), these less common languages are spoken by smaller populations, but they contribute to the growth and diversity of our country. 

So here’s a peek at three rare languages that CLI now offers to our clients and their limited English proficient (LEP) customers.


Afar is spoken in Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, which are located in the Horn of Africa. The geographic area of these countries is sometimes referred to as the “Afar Triangle.” 

In both Djibouti and Eritrea, Afar is recognized as one of the national languages. But Ethiopia, where the Afar people make up less than 3% of the total population, is much more ethnically diverse and recognizes various languages spoken throughout the country.

Traditionally the Afar people have been nomadic livestock holders, but environmental degradation and fewer pastures have made some Afar people move to larger cities to look for work or become traders. 

Estimates vary, but approximately 2 million people speak Afar in the Horn of Africa. However, a lack of informational material in the Afar language makes it an important language to learn and creates a serious need for more interpreters. 

Related: Rare Languages: A Deeper Dive into CLI’s Recent Additions


Learn how to greet people in Chuj, one of many Mayan languages.

Chuj is one of over 20 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala and some parts of Mexico. It is estimated that there are about 40,000 Chuj speakers, mostly located in the highland region of Guatemala.

The Chuj have occupied their land for 4,000 years, but their population was greatly reduced during the Spanish conquests due to conflict and hardships. 

Even to this day, the Chuj people are often engaged in conflict to protect their land from acquisition by government and large agriculture owners. 

There has been some immigration to the U.S. in recent decades, particularly to cities in California, but the numbers are unclear. 

Many migrants relocated from Guatemala and surrounding countries due to recent conflict and food insecurity in the region. 


Get a glimpse into the life of the Tarahumara people.

Tarahumara is an indigenous language spoken by approximately 70,000 people in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. 

Chihuahua is located along the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, a rugged territory and one of Mexico’s natural wonders. The Tarahumara are one of the most isolated groups because of their location in the mountains, but it has also helped them maintain their customs and traditions. 

The Tarahumara people call themselves Rarámuri, which translates to “those who run fast.” They have earned a reputation as long-distance runners. 

One Tarahumara woman even won an ultramarathon wearing her traditional handmade sandals called huaraches. A 2009 book titled Born to Run further explores the Tarahumara’s tradition and ability of running long distances over rugged terrain.

The Tarahumara language is used in schools, local administration, and religious ceremonies, although Spanish is becoming more prevalent within the Tarahumara and other indigenous communities. 

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With the addition of these languages, CLI now offers telephone interpreters in 233 spoken languages! Check out CLI’s full list of languages.

Do you have experience interpreting a language of limited diffusion? If so, or if you know anyone who does, please submit your résumé!