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Interview with Time for Diné Bizaad Blogger – Dez D

November 1, 2012
Our second interview installment is with Time for Dine Bizaad blogger, Dez D. I was very excited to find out there was another blogger writing on her experience with learning Navajo. I enjoy reading about these experiences because I don’t often get speaking opportunities like she does. Dez currently lives in New Mexico.
1. What is your earliest memory of Navajo?

When my mother would play Sharon Burch’s cassette “Yazzie Girl” on long car trips when I was little, maybe 3 or 4 years old.

2. When did you decide to study Navajo?

At school we were required to complete a language component, I decided to study Navajo so I could have a better grasp at a language that I have heard all my life and yet had very little understanding of. While, I have technically studied the language for, at least, 3 years I have had my most progress in intensive studying sessions over 3 months.

3. What kind of challenges do you face as you have been learning?

Variation, much like the English language, words/phrases in Navajo can be spoken in different ways too. So, this would be especially difficult when I trained myself to conceptualize a word/phrase in one way only to find that it can be said in another way.

4. What level of fluency were you at when you started? And now?

At the beginning, I could only pick out certain words that I could understand. Now, I’m a little better but I’ve been slacking on my studying so it’s maybe almost back to my initial stage.

5. What is your ultimate goal?

To be able to speak during a conversation, naturally.

6. I personally have a wishlist of types of media I would like to see mainstream in Navajo, what is something you would want on your Navajo Learning WishList?

I definitely would like to see more picture books with Navajo, possibly even in a comic book format. I think that would be awesome! To see the conversations and the narration in Navajo would be interesting.

7. There are quite a few Navajos wanting to learn Navajo but probably don’t know where to begin. What do you suggest they do to begin?

If you can, I highly suggest the Navajo Rosetta Stone but take the lessons with a grain of salt and write down all the questions you have on certain lessons. Then take the questions to someone is fairly fluent and can help clarify, this really helped me understand the language a lot more. Also, I it was a good way to casually ask for help.

I would also suggest practicing the sounds and to interchange the various pronouns suffixes in words (shi, ni, bi, etc).

8. For those who are fluent or have a level of speaking fluency, how should one maintain that fluency?

Find other ways to maintain your fluency. At my height, I typed up a one page personal essay.

9. What is your study routine like? What kind of materials do you use?

I usually used two different sources like the Rosetta Stone program and a unrelated Navajo language book and used the book to supplement what the computer program went over. I would write out example sentences and highlight any questions I had. My sessions would usually last for an hour per day.

10. What should fluent speakers of the language do to help this generation of Navajo language learners?

I think that’s difficult to say, especially since a majority are elders. Although they are a great resource, I think it’s a bit daunting to be approached by a younger person and be asked to teach them Navajo.

11. What kind of advice do you have for Navajo language learners?

Keep going! I know it can be daunting but if you can even get your hands on one language book I think it’s worth it to study it and to ask for help from others.

12. What is your profession or what otherwise keeps you busy from day to day?

I just graduated from college, so right now it’s figuring out what’s next…graduate school? employment? Staying home? Moving away? Many questions.

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