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Vocabulary List of Navajo Words

written by: Michelle McFarland-McDaniels • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

This article provides a basic Navajo vocabulary word list for teaching elementary students about the Navajo language. The Navajo language is a beautiful Native American language that narrowly survived extinction.

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    A Navajo vocabulary word list is the perfect complement to a unit on Native American languages, Navajo history and culture, endangered languages, Native American history and culture, cultural diversity or multiculturalism. Numerous resources for teaching a vocabulary list of Navajo words to students of all ages are readily available free of charge to help you implement engaging and enlightening lessons about one of the most interesting cultural groups in the United States.

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    Preparing to Introduce a Navajo Vocabulary Word List

    Here are some steps you'll need to take in order to prepare your students to gain an appreciation of Navajo culture before experimenting with their new Navajo vocabulary:

    Assess your students' prior knowledge about Navajo history and culture. Having your students freewrite about a prompt such as "What I Know about the Navajo" for one minute would give you a good sense of what they do and don't know about the Navajo. A KWL chart is also a great strategy for identifying your students' knowledge, impressions, perceptions and misconceptions about the Navajo.

    Set a context for learning. Setup an exhibit of Navajo photographs and artifacts. Include short pieces of informational text that provide information about Navajo people, history, culture and society. A graphic organizer comparing the Navajo to some other Native American cultures would be a great tool for helping students to understand that the Navajo are one of many Native American cultures.

    Arrange some framed photographs of Navajo people interacting. Place speaking bubbles or captions on the pictures that contain short pieces of conversational text. Set out some illustrated Navajo myths. Use Navajo words to label some common objects. All of these tactics will pique your students' curiosity and make them want to learn about Navajo language. This is a great way to get them excited about working with their new Navajo vocabulary word list.

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    Introduce a Navajo Vocabulary Word List

    Before your students begin working with their Navajo vocabulary word list, have them familiarize themselves with the sounds and letters of the language by using a pronunciation guide.

    Your vocabulary word list should ideally consist of simple words that have English counterparts your students can easily draw parallels to. When introducing new languages, it is also helpful to choose vocabulary words that have readily available audio pronunciation keys if at all possible.

    Keep your list short, simple and unintimidating. Familiar animals, numbers, colors and greetings make good choices. The following Navajo vocabulary word list consists of the aforementioned types of words.

    Navajo Vocabulary Words:

    English...................................................Navajo

    dog..........................................................łééchąą'í

    horse......................................................łįį'

    bison.......................................................ayání

    wolf.........................................................ma'iitsoh

    bear........................................................shash

    raccoon..................................................tábąąh mą'ii

    skunk......................................................gólízhii

    rabbit......................................................gah

    eagle......................................................'atsá

    one.........................................................tʼááłáʼí

    two..........................................................naaki

    three.......................................................tááʼ

    four.........................................................dį́į́ʼ

    five.........................................................ashdlaʼ

    white.......................................................łigaii

    yellow.....................................................łitsooí

    red.........................................................łizhiní

    black......................................................łizhiní

    hello......................................................Yá'át'ééh

    Getting Students Started Working with Navajo Vocabulary

    Initially, have your students practice pronouncing their Navajo vocabulary words individually, with partners and as a whole group. Use flash cards – preferably that prepare the Navajo word with a familiar picture. You can use the flash cards to create matching and bingo games to help students focus on using only the Navajo word for a concept without relying on its English counterpart.

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    Increase Your Students' Knowledge of Navajo Vocabulary

    Once your students have mastered their initial Navajo vocabulary word list, you may want to allow them to engage in further study of the Navajo language. Following are some ideas and for helping your students increase their mastery of the Navajo language.

    Extension Activities

    • Host a Navajo Immersion Day wherein students will adopt Navajo names, speak only the Navajo language, engage in activities Navajo children would engage in, study the Navajo people intensively, and eat Navajo food.

    • Have an authentic Navajo celebration where students will perform Navajo rituals, deliver celebratory speeches in the Navajo language, and enjoy a traditional Navajo feast.

    Resources for Learning More about the Navajo Language

    The following websites provide additional Navajo vocabulary resources that will help your students extend, expand, broaden and deepen their understanding of the Navajo language:

    http://www.native-languages.org/navajo_animals.htm – This site lists additional animals in the Navajo language and pairs them with photographs that would be great for making photo flash cards.

    http://www.lapahie.com/Dine_Bizaad.cfm – This site provides a wide variety of Navajo word lists.

    http://www.suduva.com/el_morro_words.htm – This site contains an impressive list of Navajo nouns.

    http://www.spottedeagle.com/dine.htm – This site pairs lists of common Navajo words and phrases with an audio pronunciation feature.

    http://www.gomyson.com/lang1.htm – This site features common Navajo phrases enhanced by an audio pronunciation feature.

    http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/navajo.php – This site lists common Navajo conversational phrases.