Yet today, officials and intellectuals in Paraguay are working to promote a positive image of the language, in an effort to make good on the 1992 Constitution’s aim to put it on equal footing with Spanish.

It has been a slog. Centuries of subjugation made Guaraní a second-class language in the minds of many Paraguayans.

Photo

Rolando Ruiz Diaz, a dental patient who prefers to communicate in Guaraní, is being examined by Anthia Balbuena, seated, who speaks the language fluently.

Credit
Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

Spanish is the dominant language in government ministries, the courts, the news media, literature, schools and professions.

“There is a stigma, a prejudice, associated with Guaraní,” said Ladislaa Alcaraz, the government’s Minister for Language Policy. “It is associated with poverty, rurality, ignorance, with people who are illiterate.”

An effort to make public education bilingual, however, has met resistance from a surprising group: Parents who were raised speaking Guaraní.

Many still hold negative stereotypes of their language, and have pushed back against their children being taught in Guaraní, with its high-pitched, nasal and guttural sounds. They say that an emphasis on Spanish, or a foreign language, would make their children more competitive in the job market.

Photo

A graduation party in Asunción for future teachers of the Guaraní language.

Credit
Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

“Parents say: ‘At home we speak Guaraní, so in the school they attend, I want them to learn Spanish,’ ” said Nancy Benítez, a curriculum official at the Ministry of Education. “They say: ‘Let other people’s kids learn it. But not mine.’ ”

The government is hoping to change people’s perspective on the language by encouraging its use in official circles.

The Ministry of Language Policy, established in 2011, has been tasked with normalizing and promoting the use of Guaraní across the government, including in the Legislature and the courts. Judicial officials are being taught Guaraní, and Paraguayans now have the right to a trial in either Spanish or Guaraní.

The ministry in 2017 set up units in every government department — where less than 1 percent of written communication with the public is carried out in the language — to train civil servants in Guaraní.

Photo

Members of the Sport Socho amateur soccer club drinking beer after a match in Asunción. (“Socho” means “drunk” in Guaraní slang.)

Credit
Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

“It’s a human rights issue,” Ms. Alcaraz said. “People who use Guaraní deserve to be tended to in Guaraní.”