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Navajo vs. Na’vi

March 3, 2011

I found a website and wiki dedicated to learning the Na’vi language. If you don’t know already the Na’vi are an indigenous population that inhabit the planet Pandora in the movie Avatar. The Na’vi language used throughout the scenes is an actual language that was created for the movie. Na’vi has its own vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, word order, etc. Impressive, isn’t it?

But I am not blogging about how awesome the Na’vi language is, I’m blogging about how it is probably easier to learn Na’vi than Navajo. This does not mean that by nature the language is easier. I have no linguistic knowledge or experience to base such an assumption. What I can say is that there seems to be a vested learning community online; more than Navajo.  The Na’vi speaking population is relatively small; however, I am somehow convinced a determined individual would learn Na’vi before mastering Navajo.

Why?

The fact that there is an organized Na’vi learning community online is advantageous. All resources are free and both the main and wiki sites are relatively easy to navigate.  There are a number of documents that break down the language to facilitate learning. There is a Wiki section exclusively for beginners; these are the things you should learn first. There are articles on phonetics, dictionaries, and crash courses on linguistics. There are also online lounges to speak live with other individuals learning to speak or perfect their Na’vi.

As of now, I know of no Navajo equivalent. Thus is my reasoning that it would be easier to learn Na’vi than Navajo. There are more free online tools and supplements to facilitate learning the Na’vi language. Now, should you learn Na’vi? You could. That’s up to you, but this just reminds me of how little Navajo content and resources are available online.

What should we do about it?

I would like to see a wiki page where Navajos, fluent and novice, are contributing to Navajo language materials for everyone. We are in an amazing technological age where there are limitless possibilities for what we can share and learn online. The young Navajo population has access to internet. Why don’t we use this to our advantage?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2011 10:23 pm

    Kaltxì, ma Krystle. Yá’át’ééh!

    (I suppose Na’vi “kaltxì” would sound quite like Navajo-spelling “galt’í.”)

    I added your blog to my RSS reader a few days ago. I was a bit confused to see a Na’vi post. I’ve been pretty involved in the development of Na’vi learning material, and my name is all over the site you link to. But I have, in the last two years or so, made a few attempts to learn Navajo, too. So far, I haven’t had good luck. First, the Navajo verb scares me to death (really — I can read Homer in ancient Greek, and have read Confucius in Chinese, but Navajo verbs make me cry). Second, I live in Wisconsin — far from native speakers of the language.

    I agree with you that there isn’t a lot of material online that encourages people to learn and use Navajo. For a while I considered setting up a wiki and forum for Navajo, but it seemed to me a little, ah…, presumptuous for a nerdy bilagáana to set up web sites about someone else’s language. And I have no way to judge if there would be much interest in it.

    In any case, in my work and in my language hobby (Ancient Greek, and a lot of Na’vi these days), I have the technical background to set up web sites (wikis, forums, etc.), especially ones focused on language learning. I gladly offer myself as an intellectual resource for the technical side of things if you ever decide to head out into such a project.

    • March 9, 2011 11:13 pm

      I am glad to see you are interested in my blog and that you have also have attempted (or are still attempting) to learn Navajo. It is refreshing that another person out there is interested in the Navajo language. I am really impressed with all the work you’ve contribute to Na’vi. Thank you for offering up your technical skills and knowledge; I haven’t decided to head up anything in the near future. But I think inevitably such a site is essential.

  2. March 4, 2011 4:22 pm

    Kaltxì!

    As a speaker/learner of Na’vi and it being the first language I really ever was excited to learn I feel you couldn’t stress enough that, in my opinion, the biggest success with Na’vi is derived from the community. Learning a language, even with support from others, is hard to keep up, especially if there are no native speakers around or daily uses you have for the language. However, I know I personally have been continuously “spurred on” by the various community members and their exploits over the course of Learning Na’vi and I suspect this it true for many others as well.

    For example, I may be studying Na’vi on my own and I’ll come across a post on the forum made by a community member in which they attempted to translate their favorite song into Na’vi. Thus, I would break down their verses, translate them, offer advice, discuss various usages of verbs, and so on. That ends up being an hour or so that two (or more) people spend collectively discussing and expanding their knowledge of the language. This makes it very appealing to people who have difficulty maintaining focus on something that’s tedious and has little short-term practical value. They can break things down into short-term projects, goals, and activities.

    So, in the end, if you do setup such a website/forum/wiki/etc. make sure there are as many avenues as possible for community members to discuss, teach, learn, collaborate, and display various works with other members of the community. Also, if you do ever want to learn Na’vi I think you’ll agree that it’s probably easier to learn than Navajo (goodness Annis has some great horror stories for us linguistic “newbies” such as myself).

    • March 9, 2011 11:05 pm

      Yeah. My mind is moving more and more toward finding a way for learning Navajo to be community effort. Figuring out what is the best approach is probably my next step.

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