University at Albany researchers are working with members of a local Mexican immigrant community to ensure their native language doesn’t fade as their ties to their adopted home strengthen.

UAlbany’s Anthropology Department and Institute for Mesoamerican Studies has built an online dictionary of some 1,500 Copala Triqui words in hopes of preserving the language as more and more of its native speakers leave their homelands in the mountains of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Immigrant communities’ grasp on their native tongue often decays over successive generations — with the first generation speaking and understanding it, the second generation understanding it and the third losing it entirely, said linguistics professor George Aaron Broadwell, who has overseen the project with the help of graduate students.

The UAlbany effort — a partnership with a local Triqui community estimated to be between 600 and 800 strong — builds on existing efforts to preserve the language by incorporating translations into and from English in addition to Spanish, Broadwell said.

The dictionary includes recorded pronunciations for many of the translations in part because the language — part of a family of indigenous Mexican languages very different from Spanish — includes eight tones that are difficult to convey in writing, Broadwell said.

“It’s important because for us we don’t want to lose our language,” said Roman Vidal Lopez of Latham, a leader in the local Triqui community who has lived in the Albany area since 1989. “That’s the real reason. We try to share and keep (it) alive.”

Lopez, for whom English is a third language, said he first met Broadwell 11 years ago. Since then the two have collaborated with others on two books in Triqui — one retelling an ancient legend about the birth of the universe and another called “Words of counsel for the Triqui people.”

Lopez said many of the Triqui people in the Capital Region arrived here by way of California, where they immigrated fleeing violence at home and initially worked picking grapes, avocados, tomatoes and other crops. Here, many in the Triqui community — like himself, a longtime employee of the ’76 Diner in Latham — work in the restaurant industry, he said.