I had the most interesting experience not too long ago on Facebook. I was perusing the Navajo Language Renaissance page for any new information that I could share with everyone when I started reading comments.
I read the post and comments you see to the left. Although I didn’t understand the post completely, I understood what the comment was saying. It’s a simple phrase and I’m sure you can catch the meaning.
I’ve decided that it is a good practice to read through the comments to see the conversation that continues. I pick up new vocabulary this way. Here are a few other Facebook pages and groups you might be interested in:
Dine Bizaad Immersion Camp – Information about upcoming language immersion camp opportunities
Navajo WOTD – Daily words and occasional cultural insight
Navajo Word of the Day – Commonly used words, phrases, sentences
Dine Bizaad – NAU students learning the Navajo language & culture
Waashindoon Dine Bizaad – Navajo language club in the Washington D.C. area
Navajo Language Renaissance – non-profit working to revitalize the Navajo language, provides Navajo-only postings.
My title today comes from the preface of Interactional Navajo. Simply greeting others to encourage Navajo language usage was a concept I had thought of a few months ago. How many individuals on the reservation actually initiate their conversations in Navajo anymore?
Referring to my Spanish language experience, if an individual initiates a conversation with Hola, Mucho gusto…. I am inclined to respond in Spanish and the conversation continues in Spanish. We need more of this in Navajo. Depending on the language ability of the two conversing individuals it will continue for a deferential amount of time. But the goal is not to see how long people continue, we want to encourage everyone to use the Navajo they do know.
If I ever get the chance I want to initiate some random Navajos in conversation with Navajo salutations. It won’t matter their speaking level or knowledge, I just want to see what their response will be. Will they continue to follow suit? Will they switch to English? If anyone else wants to take this idea and run with it, do it. Let’s experiment.
It makes me think of how different our language situation might be if we all initiated conversations in Navajo.
Note: Sorry for the break in posts. The new year has been interestingly frustrating. I have plenty to continue to share with everyone through Navajo Now, and I should be posting regularly from now on.
Orson J. is originally from the small community of Twin Lakes, New Mexico. He grew up on the rez, attended college at New Mexico Tech then moved to the east coast. He now resides in the Maryland/DC Metropolitan Area where he works as an engineer designing and building satellites and participates in the Wááshindoon Diné bizaad group.
1. What is your earliest memory of the Navajo language?
My earliest memory would be my childhood. Growing up, my family was always talking Navajo.
2. When did you decide to study/learn Navajo? How long have you been learning/studying?
I always wanted to learn/study but decided when I moved away from the “Rez.” I have been studying off and on throughout my life.
3. What kind of challenges do you face as you have been learning?
I can understand it better than I can speak it.
4. What level of fluency did you have when you started studying/learning? What level of fluency do you have now?
Early childhood I could speak and understand but over the years I drifted away from speaking it. When I hear it I can understand it. Now I’m starting out as a beginner.
5. What is your ultimate goal with the language?
To speak it fluently, carry a conversation with my elders.
6. I personally have a wish list of types of media I would like to see mainstream in Navajo, what is something you would want on your Navajo Learning WishList?
More smartphone apps. I rather like to hear/speak it rather than learn the grammar/spelling
7. There are quite a few Navajos wanting to learn Navajo but probably don’t know where to begin. What do you suggest they do to begin?
I am in the same situation. If I was back on the rez it would be easier since family speaks it, but away from the rez I would suggest Rosetta Stone. I am new to it. The Dine Bizaad group, we found that Rosetta stone was an easier way of learning. Then again there are also Navajo classes in college and in high school. I would recommend taking such classes if available.
8. For those who are fluent or have a level of speaking fluency, what do you think they should do to either maintain that fluency or improve it?
I can’t think of any other way to maintain the language other than speaking and hearing it.
9. What kind of materials do you use, etc.?
Now, Rosetta Stone, local Navajo radio stations using the internet, and family. I try to talk to family in Navajo.
10. What should fluent speakers of the language be doing to help this generation who wants to learn?
Back to question 8. Speak it fluently, encourage the younger generation to maintain and keep the language. Teach that it is important to maintain. At one point in our history it helped save this country. We, as a people, have to keep that.
11. What kind of advice or words of encouragement do you have for Navajo language learners?
Keep trying. I am still learning and I still want to learn. I know there are many things I can learn from my elders who only know Navajo.
There are an increasing number of volunteer opportunities for Navajo speakers in the Navajo language community. I’ve mentioned a few before: Facebook, Rhinospike, and Google in You Language. (By the way, we could always use more help with Facebook to speed up the process. Email me if you want to help out.)
Today, I’d like to mention a few other Navajo language projects that have been brought to my attention.
Mozilla, web browser
Volunteer translator Akerbeltz has informed me that translation of Mozilla into Navajo has already started and that they could use some more help to move along the process. Go to: http://mozilla.locamotion.org/
Memrise.com – language learning wiki
Not so much a program, but a learning community. Some people expressed an interest in learning some vocabulary, so I’ve started everyone on Navajo phrases. Anyone can add content just go to http://memrise.com to create a new course. A full review of Memrise.com is coming soon.
LibreOffice, word processor, spreadsheets, etc
This is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Akerbeltz has said this is also a prime candidate for translation. Although I have no link for everyone just yet, I will keep a close eye on this. In the mean time, if you would like to download the program and start thinking of Navajo translations go to: http://www.libreoffice.org/
VLC mini – media player
This another that has not commenced, but I will keep a close eye on it.
There are, of course, more opportunities for Navajo speakers to volunteer than non-Navajo speakers. But hopeful that is going to change very soon. In the meantime, I will added a link and page with all volunteer opportunities for Navajo speakers and non-speakers if they are interested.
With the help of Twitter I have discovered a new useful Navajo app. The Navajo Keyboard app is just that, a keyboard to type in Navajo. The default iPhone/iPod keyboard has some functionality as a Navajo keyboard, but doesn’t have the nasal marks for any of the vowels. Accents are plentiful because of their frequency in other languages, but nasal-less vowels leave Navajo writers at a disadvantage.
The app is free and it works great, but it takes some getting use to. The biggest drawback is that it is not integrated directly into the default iPhone/iPod keyboard. Nope, this is a completely separate app.The app functions as a sort of notepad and keyboard. Type what you want and use it where you want. The app does allow you to send your text via email, send IMs, and post as a tweet. It looks like posts to Facebook can be made from the preview images on the app page, I don’t use Facebook on my iPod so I can’t confirm this. For any other use the text must be typed in the app, copied, switch apps and paste into a text field of your choice.
Now this is only for iPhone/iPod users. Someone mentioned on Twitter that Droid has something already, but with not having a Droid product at my disposal it is difficult to verify this. If there is any one else that would like to find, test, and review the Droid counterpart let me know. In the meantime, go and check out the app .
The holiday season is here again! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving.
I wanted to share with everyone this website I have been using to know how to say holiday greetings. If you follow me via Twitter or Facebook I have been sharing a few of these greetings since Halloween.
Just about every holiday greeting is listed on the site with minimal explanation and alternates. A good percentage have an audio link to know how each phrase should be pronounced.
Here are a few examples with audio:
Tazhįį Da’aghął Góne’ Nizhónígo ’Idíílghął!
Eat well, This Thanksgiving!
Késhmish Yázhí Góne’ Nił Hózhóo Doo
Yá’át’ééh Késhmish Dóó Baa Hózhǫ́ǫgo Nee Nínáadoohąh!
Merry Christmas & Have a Happy New Year!
When my mother would play Sharon Burch’s cassette “Yazzie Girl” on long car trips when I was little, maybe 3 or 4 years old.
At school we were required to complete a language component, I decided to study Navajo so I could have a better grasp at a language that I have heard all my life and yet had very little understanding of. While, I have technically studied the language for, at least, 3 years I have had my most progress in intensive studying sessions over 3 months.
Variation, much like the English language, words/phrases in Navajo can be spoken in different ways too. So, this would be especially difficult when I trained myself to conceptualize a word/phrase in one way only to find that it can be said in another way.
At the beginning, I could only pick out certain words that I could understand. Now, I’m a little better but I’ve been slacking on my studying so it’s maybe almost back to my initial stage.
To be able to speak during a conversation, naturally.
I definitely would like to see more picture books with Navajo, possibly even in a comic book format. I think that would be awesome! To see the conversations and the narration in Navajo would be interesting.
If you can, I highly suggest the Navajo Rosetta Stone but take the lessons with a grain of salt and write down all the questions you have on certain lessons. Then take the questions to someone is fairly fluent and can help clarify, this really helped me understand the language a lot more. Also, I it was a good way to casually ask for help.
I would also suggest practicing the sounds and to interchange the various pronouns suffixes in words (shi, ni, bi, etc).
Find other ways to maintain your fluency. At my height, I typed up a one page personal essay.
I usually used two different sources like the Rosetta Stone program and a unrelated Navajo language book and used the book to supplement what the computer program went over. I would write out example sentences and highlight any questions I had. My sessions would usually last for an hour per day.
I think that’s difficult to say, especially since a majority are elders. Although they are a great resource, I think it’s a bit daunting to be approached by a younger person and be asked to teach them Navajo.
Keep going! I know it can be daunting but if you can even get your hands on one language book I think it’s worth it to study it and to ask for help from others.
I just graduated from college, so right now it’s figuring out what’s next…graduate school? employment? Staying home? Moving away? Many questions.