Flutes, Facts, and the Future of the Navajo Language

In October 2010, Allison Harper of the Social Media Team and Danny Hieber and I of the Endangered Language Program at Rosetta Stone had the pleasure of traveling to the capital of the Navajo Nation, Window Rock, Arizona, to attend the celebration of the release of the newly completed Rosetta Stone Navajo software. The event was the culmination of over two years of work by Navajo Language Renaissance, the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program, and dozens of individuals who contributed their time, labor, and knowledge.

We’d been really curious to learn what the Navajo people themselves think about their language and the idea of creating software to learn it. So, while in Window Rock, we filmed some interviews, then compiled them into a short video about the project, The Navajo Handprint. The Navajo Nation Museum provided a scenic locale. Vince Redhouse was kind enough to let us use his silvery flute music. And project participants contributed their thoughts and words, in English and Navajo, about their language and their lives.

I think the video has captured the essence of what the Navajo language represents to its speakers—something unique and central to a way of life. The language is “…like a handprint. It is imperative that it be saved,” says Michelle Whitstone, Navajo voicer for the Rosetta Stone software.

Many thanks to all who helped make this video a powerful commentary about the beauty and significance of the Navajo language.

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Marion Bittinger

Marion was fascinated with languages from an early age, and has been learning ever since. She is a 1979 Modern Languages graduate of Elizabethtown College; and 1981 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with an M.A. degree in Ibero-American Studies. Teaching Spanish occupied the early years of her professional life, but she’s been a part of the Rosetta Stone family since 2003. Marion loves to travel and read, and would love to learn the endangered language of her own heritage, Pennsylvania Dutch.
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