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“It’s worthwhile to greet people and initiate conversation in Navajo”

February 27, 2013
Credit: kayveeinc

Flickr credit: kayveeinc

My title today comes from the preface of Interactional Navajo. Simply greeting others  to encourage Navajo language usage was a concept I had thought of a few months ago. How many individuals on the reservation actually initiate their conversations in Navajo anymore? 

Referring to my Spanish language experience, if an individual initiates a conversation with Hola, Mucho gusto…. I am inclined to respond in Spanish and the conversation continues in Spanish.  We need more of this in Navajo. Depending on the language ability of the two conversing individuals it will continue for a deferential amount of time.  But the goal is not to see how long people continue, we want to encourage everyone to use the Navajo they do know.

If I ever get the chance I want to initiate some random Navajos in conversation with Navajo salutations. It won’t matter their speaking level or knowledge, I just want to see what their response will be. Will they continue to follow suit? Will they switch to English? If anyone else wants to take this idea and run with it, do it. Let’s experiment.

It makes me think of how different our language situation might be if we all initiated conversations in Navajo.

Note: Sorry for the break in posts. The new year has been interestingly frustrating. I have plenty to continue to share with everyone through Navajo Now, and I should be posting regularly from now on.

Interview with Orson – Wááshindoon Diné bizaad group member

December 29, 2012

Orson J. is originally from the small community of Twin Lakes, New Mexico. He grew up on the rez, attended college at New Mexico Tech then moved to the east coast. He now resides in the Maryland/DC Metropolitan Area where he works as an engineer designing and building satellites and participates in the Wááshindoon Diné bizaad group.

1. What is your earliest memory of the Navajo language?

My earliest memory would be my childhood. Growing up, my family was always talking Navajo.

2. When did you decide to study/learn Navajo? How long have you been learning/studying?

I always wanted to learn/study but decided when I moved away from the “Rez.” I have been studying off and on throughout my life.

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

I can understand it better than I can speak it.

4. What level of fluency did you have when you started studying/learning? What level of fluency do you have now?

Early childhood I could speak and understand but over the years I drifted away from speaking it. When I hear it I can understand it. Now I’m starting out as a beginner.

5. What is your ultimate goal with the language?

To speak it fluently, carry a conversation with my elders.

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

More smartphone apps. I rather like to hear/speak it rather than learn the grammar/spelling

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?

I am in the same situation. If I was back on the rez it would be easier since family speaks it, but away from the rez I would suggest Rosetta Stone. I am new to it. The Dine Bizaad group, we found that Rosetta stone was an easier way of learning. Then again there are also Navajo classes in college and in high school. I would recommend taking such classes if available.

8. For those who are fluent or have a level of speaking fluency, what do you think they should do to either maintain that fluency or improve it?

I can’t think of any other way to maintain the language other than speaking and hearing it.

9. What kind of materials do you use, etc.?

Now, Rosetta Stone, local Navajo radio stations using the internet, and family. I try to talk to family in Navajo.

10. What should fluent speakers of the language be doing to help this generation who wants to learn?

Back to question 8. Speak it fluently, encourage the younger generation to maintain and keep the language. Teach that it is important to maintain. At one point in our history it helped save this country. We, as a people, have to keep that.

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

Keep trying. I am still learning and I still want to learn. I know there are many things I can learn from my elders who only know Navajo.

New volunteer translation projects

December 8, 2012

There are an increasing number of volunteer opportunities for Navajo speakers in the Navajo language community. I’ve mentioned a few before: Facebook, Rhinospike, and Google in You Language. (By the way, we could always use more help with Facebook to speed up the process. Email me if you want to help out.)

Today,  I’d like to mention a few other Navajo language projects that have been brought to my attention.

Mozilla, web browser
Volunteer translator Akerbeltz has informed me that translation of Mozilla into Navajo has already started and that they could use some more help to move along the process. Go to: http://mozilla.locamotion.org/

Memrise.com – language learning wiki
Not so much a program, but a learning community. Some people expressed an interest in learning some vocabulary, so I’ve started everyone on Navajo phrases. Anyone can add content just go to http://memrise.com to create a new course. A full review of Memrise.com is coming soon.

LibreOffice, word processor, spreadsheets, etc
This is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Akerbeltz has said this is also a prime candidate for translation. Although I have no link for everyone just yet, I will keep a close eye on this. In the mean time, if you would like to download the program and start thinking of Navajo translations go to: http://www.libreoffice.org/

VLC mini – media player
This another that has not commenced, but I will keep a close eye on it.

There are, of course, more opportunities for Navajo speakers to volunteer than non-Navajo speakers. But hopeful that is going to change very soon. In the meantime, I will added a link and page with all volunteer opportunities for Navajo speakers and non-speakers if they are interested.

New App: Navajo Keyboard

December 4, 2012

NavKeyboard app 3With the help of Twitter I have discovered a new useful Navajo app. The Navajo Keyboard app is just that, a keyboard to type in Navajo. The default iPhone/iPod keyboard has some functionality as a Navajo keyboard, but doesn’t have the nasal marks for any of the vowels. Accents are plentiful because of their frequency in other languages, but nasal-less vowels leave Navajo writers at a disadvantage.

The app is free and it works great, but it takes some getting use to. The biggest drawback is that it is not integrated directly into the default iPhone/iPod keyboard. Nope, this is a completely separate app.The app functions as a sort of notepad and keyboard. Type what you want and use it where you want. The app does allow you to send your text via email, send IMs, and post as a tweet. It looks like posts to Facebook can be made from the preview images on the app page, I don’t use Facebook on my iPod so I can’t confirm this. For any other use the text must be typed in the app, copied, switch apps and paste into a text field of your choice.

Now this is only for iPhone/iPod users. Someone mentioned on Twitter that Droid has something already, but with not having a Droid product at my disposal it is difficult to verify this. If there is any one else that would like to find, test, and review the Droid counterpart let me know. In the meantime, go and check out the app .

Happy Holidays Everyone!

November 22, 2012

Credit: countryboy79

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holiday season is here again! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I wanted to share with everyone this website I have been using to know how to say holiday greetings. If you follow me via Twitter or Facebook I have been sharing a few of these greetings since Halloween.

Just about every holiday greeting is listed on the site with minimal explanation and alternates. A good percentage have an audio link to know how each phrase should be pronounced.

Here are a few examples with audio:

Tazhįį Da’aghął Góne’ Nizhónígo ’Idíílghął!  
Eat well, This Thanksgiving!  

Késhmish Yázhí Góne’ Nił Hózhóo Doo
Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Yá’át’ééh Késhmish!
Merry Christmas!

Yá’át’ééh Késhmish Dóó Baa Hózhǫ́ǫgo Nee Nínáadoohąh!
Merry Christmas & Have a Happy New Year!

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.

Interview with Shane Begay

October 1, 2012

I’ve asked a few individuals from the Navajo language learning community to share with the Navajo Now audience  their language learning journey.

This first email interview is with Shane Begay. I first was made aware of Shane through the Facebook group Wááshindoon Diné bizaad. This is an informal group in the D.C. area where they share the Navajo culture through weekly language discussions.  If you live in the area and would like to participate please refer to the group page on Facebook.

Shane is originally from Lukachukai, Arizona. He is currently living in Washington, D.C.. He is Tlizilani and born for the Tachiinii  clansHe studied Politics at Brigham Young University where he received his bachelors degree. He enjoys the study of Politics which is, “part of the reason why I love being in DC.”

1. What is your earliest memory of Navajo?
The Navajo language has always been a part of my life. My parents always spoke Navajo to us. My grandparents only spoke Navajo and I have many aunts and uncles who only know Navajo. So it was something that I have grown up with.

2. When did you decide to learn Navajo?
I have always wanted to learn Navajo but felt somewhat embarrassed to ask my parents to teach me. I tried listening to them so I could grasp an understanding but never spoke back for fear of saying things wrong or being teased. (Even though I know that wouldn’t have happened.)

3. What kind of challenges have you encountered?
The biggest challenge has been finding resources. I get excited when any kind of language assistance is developed. I also wish there were more people around to speak to.

4. What level of fluency did you have when you started? And now?
I feel I have a basic understanding of the language. I just don’t speak well. When I study the language it has become easier to make connections and sense of the language.

5. What is your ultimate goal?
Definitely fluency, would love to be able to be a public speaker and converse with the elderly.

6. I personally have a wish list of types of media I would like to see mainstream in Navajo, what is something on your Navajo Learning wish list?
Nothing specific. I think any form of media can be used to learn the language. It just needs to be accessible to all.

7. There are quite a few Navajos wanting to learn Navajo but probably don’t know where to begin. Where do you suggest they start?
Don’t be afraid to contact people you know who are fluent to let them know your goals. Having people who are fluent to talk to is invaluable. Otherwise find a dictionary and other books to get you started on basic vocabulary. Then listen to KTNN and begin deciphering on your own.

8. For those who have a level of speaking fluency, what do you think they should maintain that fluency?
The only true way to maintain fluency it to speak. Even if that means having conversations with yourself. You can study all you want but it can still be lost.

9. What kind of materials do you use?
Right now mainly Rosetta Stone and conversations with a small study group. We try to find stuff on internet but there is not much.

10. What should fluent speakers do to help this generation of Navajo language learners?
I don’t know if fluent speakers need to do much more than keep speaking to friends, family, and children. If they have the resources to create new  products that will help, I say go for it. Right now anything will help.

11. What kind of advice do you have for Navajo language learners?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family. I believe that most Native speakers realize the importance of language survival.

12. What is your profession or what otherwise keeps you busy from day-to-day?
I work for American Indian Housing. Apart from work I try to keep active by running, biking, weightlifting, snowboarding, rock climbing. I love looking for inner city things to do. Obscure fun things.

Native Peoples Magazine – The New Frontier

August 30, 2012

If you have not read the July/August  issue of Native Peoples Magazine, you should. Not only does author Dr. Jessica Metcalfe‘s article The New Frontier mention Navajo Now as one of many favorited websites, she also writes about the Internet and modern-day indigenous representation.

I’m honored to be considered a favorite in the article. Visit Native Peoples Magazine website to know where you can view the recent issue.  For a preliminary list of favorite websites visit Dr. Jessica Metcalfe’s blog, Beyond Buckskin.