San Juan College assistant professor of Navajo language will present on Thursday

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FARMINGTON — Efforts to preserve the Navajo language will take center stage during San Juan College’s Broadening Horizons Lecture Series on Thursday.
Lorraine Begay Manavi, assistant professor of Navajo language at the college, will speak about how a collaboration between Rosetta Stone and Navajo Language Renaissance resulted in the Navajo Rosetta Stone software, as well as the current status of the project.
The lecture is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Little Theatre on the San Juan College campus in Farmington.
In an interview Tuesday, Manavi said she got involved with the project through Navajo Language Renaissance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization and preservation of the Navajo language.
The software was developed as part of Rosetta Stone’s Endangered Language Program, which was founded in 2004 by the company and indigenous groups to help revitalize at-risk languages.

“We had to be creative in developing,” she said while recalling the work to develop words and phrases not common in the Navajo language, like "subway."
In addition to talking about the project, Manavi will discuss how the software is used in the courses she teaches at the college, Elementary Navajo I and Elementary Navajo II. Since starting at the college in 2003, interest in learning Navajo continues to increase, she said.
“Those are our two most popular classes,” she said. The college offers five Elementary Navajo I courses at campuses in Farmington, Kirtland and Aztec.
As part of the lesson, Manavi encourages students to speak Navajo whenever possible, even if that means visiting senior centers and practicing with older family members.
“I tell them, 'Don’t be roly polies,'” she said, explaining she tells student not to get discouraged when someone corrects their Navajo pronunciation.
As for Navajo Language Renaissance, the group is developing student workbooks for levels 1 and 2 of the Navajo Rosetta Stone. This project started two years ago and is close to publication.
Manavi, who is originally from Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter, first learned Navajo and later picked up English when she started school.
“I fell into it,” she said about her interest in the Navajo language.

She earned two associate degrees — one in computer science and the other in Navajo language — from Diné College, a bachelor's degree in education from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and a master's degree in education from a partnership between Diné College and Arizona State University.

This is the first time Manavi will participate in the college's lecture series.
When asked if she is nervous about discussing her work in front of the hometown audience, she said, “Not really because I know my stuff.”

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

IF YOU GO

What: San Juan College's Broadening Horizons Lecture Series, "Rosetta Stone and Navajo Renaissance: Collaboration for Revitalization"

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Little Theatre at San Juan College, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington

Admission: Free

More information: Call the college box office at 505-566-3430.

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