NEW YORK – Cornelia Aguilar needs help when she goes to the doctor or when her co-workers at a nail salon call her.

A Mexican who has lived in the U.S. for two years, she only speaks a variant of Mixteco, an indigenous language from the states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero in southern Mexico.

“It is hard sometimes,” whispers the 28-year-old, who was born in San Miguel Grande.

She is one of a sizable number of Latin American immigrants who have settled in New York in recent years and speak only indigenous languages — ancient tongues that existed long before Spanish conquistadors arrived.

Speaking neither the primary language in their adopted homes nor the most common language of their fellow countrymen, many say not knowing Spanish is a barrier akin to not knowing English. Experts say that’s fueling a rise in the number of Spanish classes attended by Latin American immigrants.

Arnulfo Gonzalez, an older brother of Aguilar’s husband, still remembers the mockery from his Mexican co-workers when he first arrived in the U.S. in 1993 speaking one of the many kinds of Mixteco. He said he worked at a restaurant and did not know what broccoli was because he had never seen itin his hometown of San Marcos in Oaxaca.

“I learned Spanish here. It was very hard, because I worked with people who spoke to me in Spanish and they insulted me,” he said.

According to the 2000 Census, the latest data available, more than 400,000 people living in the U.S. are of Hispanic American Indian origins.

In Staten Island, many Mexicans speak Chinanteco. In South Bronx and Astoria, some speak Otomi. Nahuatl can be heard all over the city. A community speaking Trique lives in Albany. In Trenton, N.J., some Guatemalans speak Quiche. Peruvians who speak Quechua live in Queens and Paterson, N.J. Hondurans and Nicaraguans speaking Garifuna live in the Bronx.

There about 150,000 members of the Mixteco community in California, according to a study done by Radio Bilingue, a radio company. Latin American immigrants who speak indigenous languages can also be found in North Carolina and Texas, among other areas, experts say.

Between 2005 and 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey pegged the number of Central and South American Indian language-speakers in the U.S. at 13,500.

But college professors, consulate workers and community activists say the numbers are much larger. Many of the newcomers are illegal immigrants who don’t report to the census. Others simply don’t admit they speak indigenous languages.

“They are the most marginalized,” said Joel Magallan, executive director of Asociacion Tepeyac, a Manhattan-based organization that helps immigrants. “Unfortunately, they are who suffer the most.”