I think we should say LIVE, instead of TEACH
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.