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Navajo: Word of Advice

Dear Learners,

As I hope that you would already know this, Duolingo Navajo is not perfect and that some things sound unnaturally said. In addition to that, Duolingo WILL NOT replace a native speaker of Navajo. If anyone wishes to have clarification with anything related to Navajo, I am here to assist; as this used to be my job helping students at the community college.

If you all are curious my qualifications I am a native speaker of English and Navajo; I have taken extensive Navajo courses and went above and beyond in regards to how much writing I have done. I also tweet and write Facebook statuses in Navajo. I also speak and hear the language daily.

Please do not hesitate to ask any questions.

Thank you and best of luck,

Derek, the native speaker

October 12, 2018



Thank you! I know I will have questions!


Hi Derek. If I remember correctly, didn't you once do a Skype class for Duolingo people?

Have you considered applying to contribute?


Yes, I did . I have applied whether they will consider me is another question. However, how high school students are more qualified than me, I don't know.



Good luck, and thank you for providing assistance for those wanting to learn. I've lived in New Mexico for a long time, so I'm very exciting to see my neighbors talking about their language and culture.


I will be holding a Skype night tonight for questions regarding Navajo. :)

For more info, check this post https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/29239674



’Aoo’, lą́’ąą. Jó nizhóní nihizaad bóhooł’aahígíí. You are welcome and it is good that you are learning Navajo. It gives me an opportunity to use my language more and maybe completely give up English like I almost did when I was a senior in high school.

My senior year of high school I spoke about 90% Navajo and about 5% English and 5% Spanish. I only spoke English when I had to.


Speaking as a linguist who works on Indigenous language revitalization, that's amazing to hear. That's the goal: Native language use as much as possible, English only when necessary and when the speaker chooses to.


Maybe the idea is that a team of high schoolers led by a native-speaking teacher who assigns their work is qualified, not that random teenagers each applying on their own are qualified?


I think you hit the nail. This is about tying up Duolingo to the school system. As there were previous attempts to tie into the Pearsons system. It's diversification before the IPO.


I just now thought of something: what if you reached out to the faculty on the team at San Juan High School, instead of to the Duolingo staff?


These days it takes a long time to get clearance for any person to help out at a High School due to the bureacracy around child protection. Plus this involves computer access. It's not like the old days they can't just say this sounds reasonable muck in. It would be easier to try to reach out to duolingo because here it doesn't directly give you access to minors. They seem to have built into the system an avoidance of dealing with any of the regulations to do with allowing minors to work for a company because of the legal nightmare. I wouldn't advise anyone to go down that route until or unless there is a clear set of rules of how you can apply to work as some kind of assistant on a course like this agreed and published by the school itself.


Yeah, I was thinking more of working with the adults in the San Juan team (teachers, etc.). Like if kids keep adding sentences and adults add tips & notes or some other split.


Sure he could try. But it seems to me this is more about a new business model. It's a pretty big company and it's been getting good publicity. Nothing wrong with cashing in on that. Nobody is asking me for money. I don't think this model is necessarily about getting experts in on courses. I think the idea is to push the connection between duolingo and at first the American Educational systems. Some kind of private public partnership. The kids are going to learn something even if they never actually get to speak Navajo. It's a good opportunity for this school. If they are more flexible because its more like a school project with big corporate backing then courses will be brought into play sooner and they will be able to add to the modules much faster than the usual long wait. For whatever reason things took a lot longer to get done before. The strength of duolingo courses aside from the original spanish one was that it relied on volunteers who loved their language and wanted others to experience it giving their time and talents for free. Kids are even better as workers. They do as they are told. They don't question why something is the way it is once they get what teacher wants you can pretty much move on to the next kid. They naturally compete with one another and others schools. And they are used to working and not getting paid. Plus it will look good on their resumes. Apparently this one will update in November. Who knows I have no idea how the system works who gets chosen or why and why some stuff takes so long to correct. This is like the KFC secret sauce. Anybody who does know isn't saying. It would be nice to have the ability to learn Navajo for me because of the windtalkers. Things are getting better no doubt. It just seems to me that this dual lingual Navajo Indian native speaker wasn't a fit for what they were looking for. But God knows what they were looking for.


Duolingo Navajo is not perfect and that some things sound unnaturally said.

This seems to imply you're hearing some audio; are you? I'm not getting any. Or do you just mean the way in which some sentences are phrased?


It is the way things are phrased. I don't need audio since I'm a native speaker. Well, it is the way some things are phrased that sound influenced by English or are in the manner of how English would phrase things.

I am creating a video as I type this in regards to the word list and I am going to provide audio with it on my Navajo Language - Youtube Channel.

Stay tuned! :)


Thanks for clarifying this. Any audio you could provide would be greatly appreciated; thank you for your effort. I look forward to seeing the video when you are ready to share it.


Yá'át'ééh Dereknak12 ! Can you please give us a link of your tube channel? I couldn't find using your name here... Ahéhee'


On my iPhone, words with apostrophes often get marked as wrong. Is there a workaround for this?


I'm not an iPhone user, but someone had a similar issue with the Hawaiian course and the 'okina. They added the Hawaiian keyboard to get the correct symbol. See if there is one for Navajo in your phone settings.


I keep having this problem too. It's very frustrating because if it's impossible to type the correct answer, it's impossible to complete the lesson. All I can do is report that there's a problem and quit out of the lesson. And no, there is no Navajo keyboard in the current iOS (and besides, it shouldn't be hard for the app to recognize the apostrophe from any keyboard and treat is as correct)


Thank you for that helpful note. If I have any trouble I will ask you for certain.


I'm grateful for people like you on Duolingo because when languages like Navajo and Hawaiian are still in beta mode, I don't think Duolingo will get everything right. I'm not Native American from the modern-day USA but I'm interested in learning about the culture and languages of Natives everywhere.


I have started the course and have not once heard any of the words pronounced. This is a great start but do you know if this is something they are working on?


Nice . I enjoy it. Yes natives speaker far better .I believe it is a help in getting closer to the culture.


Can I see the Navajo trophy? I completed the entire skill tree and nothing happened

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