Flagstaff, AZ – The new software was designed by Rosetta Stone, a company that uses technology to teach languages. It works by associating pictures with words in Navajo. The first lesson teaches different ways to say hello
Native Navajo speakers voice the words, and the user is asked to match the word or phrase with the appropriate picture. Marion Bittinger manages Rosetta Stone's Endangered Language Program. She says it was challenging to adapt the company's software to the Navajo language.
"The Navajo language is very, very challenging. It's not like any other language we've had the opportunity to work with. And we used well over 100 different Navajo speakers themselves during the creation of the project."
Bittinger says Navajo is the most widely spoken indigenous language north of Mexico, with well over 100 thousand speakers.
"However, if you look at the average age of speakers, or what's happening with the younger generations in the home, there's a pretty dramatic decline in the level of fluency and first language speakers."
The goal is to use the Rosetta Stone software in Navajo chapter houses, schools and even universities. Navajo language teachers at Northern Arizona University hope to start using the software next month.