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I think we should say LIVE, instead of TEACH

September 30, 2011

I hear this all the time, as I am sure you all do, “Teach your children”.

This kind of frustrates me when I hear this phrase coupled with learning languages, especially when it comes to the Navajo language. Parents don’t teach languages, they simply live the language in everyday interactions with the children and the children pick it up. Teach conjures up visions of  teaching sessions with children; kind of like piano lessons.

I worry that teach is a word used in revitalization that might intimidate parents. Think about your upbringing. Did your parents teach you to speak English? Did they teach you English grammar rules and what verbs, adjectives, and pronouns were? I think we, in a way, put this on the parent unknowingly. We shouldn’t expect the indigenous parent to teach these things, because they simply might not know. This is especially true in the case of some fluent Navajo speakers, I doubt my grandmother knew what an adjective was.

So don’t teach, you don’t need to sit children down for a grammar lesson. Live the language and the human brain is able to pick out patterns and sequences. The brain figures it out. I don’t think we give our brains enough credit.

So live the language, for those who are fortunate to have a Navajo speaker in the household. Speak. Once we are able to live our language in the house we should be able to live that language in our communities.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. conceptuallytuscarora permalink
    September 30, 2011 3:24 pm

    I am really enjoying reading the posts that you have made to the blog! I am a young Tuscarora woman trying to “reclaim” my language and I have started a blog to critically think about what that mission really entails. I would be delighted if you could comment on my posts sometime or even if you could recommend me other sources for reading-learning.

    My blog is very new and I only have one post, but I am working on it as much as I can!


    • October 7, 2011 8:56 am

      Wow, Tuscarora. I have popped in to read your post and I really enjoyed it. In fact, I might write a similar post and link back to yours in the future. Keep up the good work. I’ll be sure to follow.

  2. kana permalink
    September 30, 2011 4:48 pm

    So True! ;)

  3. October 7, 2011 5:00 am

    Great point. Very good thoughts and I agree so much. Teach is a big work and often a stumbling block for those who don’t feel “qualified” somehow. If you are a native speaker, your qualified. Teach also has an effect on the learner I think. It sort of turns them into passive recievers rather than curious explorers.

    Keep up the great work. I’ll be linking to your site in Monday’s post. Just a little shout out to the cool stuff you are doing here.


    • October 7, 2011 9:28 am

      Yes, you have two very good points as well, Aaron. “Qualified”, that was what I was also thinking; and yes, learning is very much inquiry and exploration. Wow, thanks for the shout out; and also thanks for the opportunity to participate in your recent post.

  4. deidre permalink
    January 4, 2012 9:36 pm

    very true.
    my niece lives with us ( my parents, me and younger sister)
    her mother doesnt talk navajo to her much (which i get after her for) but when shes here, its all she hears from me and my parents.
    once, She was trying to get me to move out of her way but i was busy fixing something and kept telling her to hold on, wait. and then she yells at me ” Nah’chii!!!” (move!!)
    completely surprised me
    now i try use as much navajo as i know around her so she can starting picking up more of it.
    plus she loves the navajo toddler app. the way she says dog and cow is so adorable!!

    • January 14, 2012 2:01 pm

      Isn’t that crazy. That’s really all we have to do is talk. No teaching degree required. Thanks for sharing your story with me. I hope you continue.

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