Rosetta Stone, creator of the renowned language learning
software, on Tuesday released its Navajo version, the first large-scale
language revitalization project for the dialect.
traditionally an oral language, still is spoken by more than 100,000
people, making it the most common American Indian language north
use and fluency among the younger generations is on a decline with
about 50 percent of Navajo age 17 and younger unable to speak their
native language at all, according to data from the 2000 U.S. Census.
software is the result of thousands of hours of work and hundreds
of volunteers who provided expertise, photos, audio recordings and
cultural support to the project.
in December 2007 through a nonprofit group of Navajo educators called
Navajo Language Renaissance, the project sought to revitalize what
is considered to be an endangered language.
is very hard to learn," said Lorraine Manavi, language professor
at San Juan College. "It's difficult when the concepts and
sentence structures are dramatically different from a person's first
native English speakers, for example, learning Navajo is less about
the words and more about rearranging the sentence structure and
putting the verb last.
of saying "the bird is sitting on a tree," Manavi said,
the Navajo translation would be "the bird, the tree, on it,
software, which is immersion-based, not memory-based, has assisted
English speakers to learn other difficult languages, such as Russian
and Arabic, said Marion Bittinger, manager of Rosetta Stone's Endangered
excited that the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program can play
a role in encouraging younger generations to use the Navajo language,"
Bittinger said in a prepared statement. "We're optimistic our
work with indigenous groups will be a step toward reversing the
tide of global language extinction."
is one of five endangered languages adopted by the Virginia-based
Rosetta Stone. The company already has produced language-learning
software in 30 languages.
Stone launched its Endangered Language Program in 2004 to help revitalize
native dialects. The program has completed software programs for
Mohawk, Alaskan Inupiac and Labrador, an Eskimo language.
who teaches Navajo language classes at the college, was on a team
of linguists, editors and native speakers who developed the first
Navajo language software available to anyone with a computer.
first two levels are complete, Manavi said. Navajo Language Renaissance
will own and market the software, with a goal of getting it into
every school on the reservation and in border towns. The software
will not be part of Rosetta Stone's commercial product line.
said she hopes to use it in the classroom, but that it will not
take the place of her regular curriculum.
is another supplement," she said. "It's a beginning process,
but we need more training on it. I haven't really seen the product
or how it works, so we need to look at it before we use it in the
software also comes out the same month the Central Consolidated
School District offers its first Navajo immersion class for kindergarten