I thought it would be beneficial to know my beginning point.
So how many words in Navajo do I actually know? Well, I grew up on the reservation so I should know some. And although my parents never used much Navajo in the house I did catch simple words, commands and phrases they used at home or in conversation with others.
So this is what I did.
I took the only Navajo dictionary I owned (Conversational Navajo Dictionary by Garth A. Wilson) and went page by page spotting English words and recorded their Navajo equivalent. I gave no thought to correct spelling; in fact I’ve known some of these words all my life without ever seeing the spelling.
Most words I knew without any reminder, and few of the others I remembered with a small hint.
In all I know about 100 Navajo words and short one word commands. The words are single words and not combinations. Combining these would actually increase the 100 to probably 125 or so. For example: I know the word for cat and horse; adding yazhi to these words gives you the Navajo word for kitten and colt (little cat and little horse).
I am surprised I know this many. I should also not forget that this dictionary only has a select number of words from a myriad of other terms. I also should consider that it is possible I had a larger vocabulary in the past.
So I am different than others that want to learn Navajo. I have a vocabulary base and I am familiar with the different sounds made in the language. For a novice it would be more difficult obviously. But for other Navajo individuals that want to learn, I think it’s possible that our vocabulary settles in or around this area.