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Language Immersion

March 9, 2011

I have been reading up on learning languages through immersion. With the few blogs I’ve come across “immersion” is not living in the land of the target language, but having exposure to the target language as much as possible. This comes in the form of reading, writing, listening to music or radio,watching videos, and conversing with native speakers.

I’ve previously put this into practice with Spanish. I had Latina roommates in college, so I would hear music and watch television in Spanish. I am currently putting this into practice with my Portuguese study and this is quickly becoming difficult with Navajo. I have found online television and movie channels with endless Spanish and Portuguese content, but I can’t seem to find something that could provide the same type of immersion for my Navajo.

I did discover that the Navajo Nation has The Navajo Nation Television Network (NNTV), Navajo programing available back on the local reservation channels since the 70’s. Who knew?  The network is currently off-air and has not announced when they will continue with their programming. I would love to watch this. Part of the introduction states, “A majority of the programs produced by NNTV are in Navajo simply because many of the viewer’s English vocabulary is inadequate.” What an awesome resource; even though I see no evidence of an online video feed.

(Unexpected reproach)

I’m a little frustrated that as an individual living off the reservation I have very little access to the Navajo language. With what I’ve been currently researching, even if you lived on the reservation the only resource for immersion appear to be the fluent speakers you come into contact with. There are no Navajo-only newspapers, radio shows, or television stations(currently on-air). There is KTNN and I’m grateful for their contribution, but it is not consistent enough to really immerse yourself. How can this be? The topic of Navajo language fluency and revitalization has been a major topic for YEARS! While everyone thinks it is the best strategy to teach the language in grade and secondary schools, I think someone has to focus on other ways to keep the rest of the Navajo population immersed in Navajo.

(End of reproach)

So onto my personal goal for immersion. YouTube user Lingosteve suggests immersing yourself for one hour each day in your target language. There are not a lot of options for me. I have decided to listen to one hour of Navajo audio each day provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of their General Conferences. The upside to this is that I have heard the addresses previously in English (yes, I am a Mormon) so I can somewhat understand what I am listening to because I am familiar with the content. There is no Navajo transcript, so this requires that I actively LISTEN.

I have also contemplated listening to music in Navajo. Right now I am only familiar with singer/songwriter Sharon Burch who writes music with Navajo lyrics. Last I checked each of her albums includes Navajo lyrics with English translations. I’m going to look into this.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Matt McReynolds permalink
    May 9, 2011 2:24 pm

    When I was first learning Navajo, as a young missionarry, I found Radmilla Cody’s cds very useful. I love Sharon’s voice, but some of the words sound kind of funny in Bilagaana 4/4 rhythym. Radmilla’s words are very simple and pronounced clearly and naturally in Navajo beat, plus the music is so beautiful and the songs teach about culture. The songs are more actual words than vocables (syllables traditionally repeated in songs, such as “nee yan gha”), so you get to hear consistent, clear sentences. I recommend her whole-heartedly. Good luck!

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