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Learning With Text – Navajo Reading

April 26, 2012

A language learning program has come out called Learning With Text. This software helps with reading in what ever language you are learning. I’ve started to use the program to read in Spanish and I enjoy it very much. Of course, I wanted to know if it could be formatted to be used by Navajo language learners. I am here to tell you, it can.

The main interface of the program looks like this:

There are four boxes that the computer screen is divided into. You’ve got one screen for your text, another for translation notes, another for a dictionary, the last window is more or less a main menu.

The left bottom screen displays any text you are reading. My sample shows text from a Dine College Multimedia book, Chidi Nimazi. In other mainstream languages it is easy to find text to copy and past into the program, but with Navajo you will most likely have to type the text you want to read. This won’t be much of a problem if you are just starting out, you’ll want to stick with children’s books as a beginner and work your way up anyway. This is where your knowledge of using the Navajo keyboard comes in handy. I have been getting text from the Dine College Multimedia books, the UNM Digital Library, and also Sharon Burch lyrics.

The top right window will open with a series of fields when a word in main text is selected. This is where you can add tags, set learning levels, and provide a translation for the word or phrase you selected. Learning levels range from 1 to 5, with an option to choose a Well Known or Ignore option. When you enter a translation for the word you select the LWT program stores the data. So when you read another text these words will already be highlighted with the appropriate learning level along with the English translation you entered the first time. Smart program. This way you know how much of the text you don’t know automatically, it saves you so much time without having to look up the word again.

The bottom right window displays a dictionary in the language you are reading. Navajo does not have an official online dictionary, however Lapahie.com has an extensive glossary/dictionary he has developed. In the Navajo setup this window opens to his Dine-English Dictionary. It would be great if this window was automatically directed to the word selected, this is how it works with other languages, but this is a simple work around that works great. It might be necessary to keep another dictionary on hand because Lapahie.com’s dictionary is not extensive.

The top left window has some info about what text you are reading, # of unknown words, navigation menu, and audio navigation if you have uploaded audio for your text. Yes, audio! Audio will be rare with Navajo text, but I will try and add text I’ve typed out to RhinoSpike.com to be read and used in the LWT program.

So when you really get down to it… this program is is basically a modern version of this:

This traditional layout can involve a lot of flipping, searching, note taking, etc. To carry out a system like this online, with digital media, is just as laborious. That might work for you, and that if fine. But, Learning With Text uses this same set up and saves you study time.

I like using LWT because I can access my text from any computer with internet; I don’t have to lug around all my books. It keeps my data throughout all the text I am reading. There is also an option to transfer words, their meaning, and the sentence it is contained in to my Anki flashcard deck.

So this is a great program. The greatest downfall is the fact we have to type out our own text. Time to put those Navajo keyboard typing skills to the test. You could copy and paste text from the Navajo Wikipedia page. But,  I would suggest getting text from the Diné College Multimedia books or the UNM Digital Library. The best accompanying feature is the audio. We don’t have a lot in Navajo. But if we use Rhinospike.com, that will change. I’ve setup up page for text that I would like to have read at Shíká ‘anilyeed link on Menu bar.

To get started with the program I’ve written a post on how to get started with Learning With Text.

To close out, I’ve uploaded a video preview. Note: Please ignore my speech in some places, I get ahead of myself.

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