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I’m in it for the Long Haul

April 30, 2011

I have been reading a few blogs lately about the amount of input and study time requirement to become fluent in your language of choice. There have been references to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and the “10,000-Hour Rule”. In short, what it means is that if you want to become an expert in whatever  practice you desire, you need to put in 10,000 hours. That sounds like a lot.

That is 416 days or 1 year and 2 months without sleeping. That is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It sounds possible. However, I need my sleep. So let’s consider this to be a full-time job, 8 hours each day including weekends. This calculates into 1250 days, that’s about 3 1/2 years. Wow.

I won’t lose heart. I forget where I heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. I am learning that language acquisition is possible by digesting chunks in your target everyday. I am in the process in evaluating my study schedule. I was doing well for a little while, but I have let my schedule fall apart in the last few weeks. I blame my mattress. I am in the process of finding a better way to get a good night’s sleep.

I have made note of the advice in Learning a Language is like Having a Pet while I evaluate my study schedule.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Matt McReynolds permalink
    May 9, 2011 3:01 pm

    Wow! I had no idea that there are so many Navajo langauge materials on the web, now. I’ve seen an uptick in interest in the Navajo langauge in the last few months, and I think it’s really great. I wish that more of it had existed when I began learning, 11 years ago, or when I was tutoring at Dine College and NAU, for my students. I think that taking pride in the langauge and culture is the first step to revitalizing it, and I see alot more of that lately. I still have so much to learn and these resources can help me take care of my hippo, while I live far from the rez , too. Plus, it warms my heart to hear Navajo spoken.

    I learned the old fashioned way, from Garth Wilson’s Conversational Navajo Workbook, and a little notepad. I would study in the morning before going out, and then practice whatever I learned that morning all day with people. Grandmas probably wondered why I was so curious about the laundromat or other random things that I studied earlier those mornings, but I took their bewilderment at my random questions as my own private joke.

    After a couple of months I finished that book, and found an old copy of Irvy Goosen’s “Navajo Made Easier”- (still an ironic name), and worked my through that one. Everyday I practiced, and spoke Navajo as much as I could, and listened to it whenever I wasn’t speaking (via KTNN, Radmilla Cody, and KGAK). I also made special efforts to visit with elderly people we knew. They tended to be more patient and longsuffering with me, in the early days. Upon fininshing that book, I haven’t really relied on any other books, that much, but have just learned from conversations with friends and dear relatives.

    After going back to Oregon after my mission, I missed hearing and speaking Navajo so much. I was much more homesick for Navajo than I’d ever been for home as a new missionary. I even called all the Yazzies, Begays and Tsos inteh phonebook looking for someone to talk to. Just like the Apache joke about Navajo goes, Navajos are everywhere!

    My wife is White Mountain Apache and Navajo, and she learned to understand Navajo pretty well at Dine College when we were there, but she’s too shy to speak Navajo or her langauge to me, except when she’s being discreet around non-Natives.

    I can converse pretty comfortably, but I still have tons and tons of verbs to learn. I’ve been using Dine bi Naaltsoostsoh’s verb paradigms, and have made flashcards and books of paradigms, and have read parts of the Foutz book on verbs. Still, I think I only make real progress when I’m able to live on the reservation for awhile. That said, my hippo is going seriously under-nourished while I finish up law school. Next week I’ll return to Window Rock for my summer internship, though, a little more motivated to begin feeding my pet langauge, again.

    Thanks for the links, and it has been fun to read a little about your journey to relearn your language.

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