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FARMINGTON — At the start of the newest version of the song, "Baby Shark," the words, Łóó' Hashkéii Awéé', appear in big yellow letters before a yellow baby shark swims across the screen singing the phrase.

On Dec. 28, Pinkfong released this latest adaptation – dubbed Łóó' Hashkéii Awéé' – of its popular kids' song in the Navajo language. It is the 20th time the catchy tune has been translated since its release in 2015 by Pinkfong, a subsidiary of the educational content provider, SmartStudy Co.

Shawn R. Jim was among dozens of people who auditioned on Dec. 8 to voice a member of the shark family. He was chosen and voiced Łóó'shkéii acheii (Grandpa Shark).

"'Baby Shark' is a well-known song. … I think it's a good thing they can listen to it now in Navajo – Diné Bizaad," Jim said.

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Jim learned to speak the Navajo language while being raised by his parental grandmother, but he never thought his proficiency would result in a role in the first version of "Baby Shark" adapted into a Native American language.

"If it weren't for me learning Navajo and speaking it, I would have never been able to do this," he said.

This is not his first work with the Navajo Nation Museum to adapt a piece of popular culture into the Navajo language. Jim also voiced Clint Eastwood's character in the upcoming Navajo language version of the 1964 Western film, "A Fistful of Dollars."

For "Baby Shark Navajo," the museum in Window Rock, Arizona worked with Pinkfong to bring the song to the company's YouTube channel.

The work included folks from Pinkfong using Skype to watch the recording process and museum staff working with Navajo language specialists, Joe H. Kee Jr. and Jennifer Jackson Wheeler, to proofread the script and help with pronunciation.

The video had 220,543 views as of the morning of Dec. 30.

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The number surprised Shandiin Yazzie, who voiced Łóó'shkéii amá (Mommy Shark). She also provided vocals for the little fish the shark family chases and background for the "doo, doo, doo, doo, doo" chorus.

"It didn't really hit me to think that this would be that big. … It's a wild thing to think about. Like, oh my gosh, people are listening to me," Yazzie said with a chuckle.

Yazzie is fluent in speaking, reading and writing Diné Bizaad, having learned from her grandparents and from attending the Navajo language immersion school, Tséhootsooí Diné Bi'Ólta', in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

She views the song as a new way to creatively teach the Navajo language in a contemporary setting.

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"I want our younger generation to have fun with it. … I want them to continue to learn Diné Bizaad. I encourage the caregivers, parents and grandparents to have fun with your kids. Sing with them," she said.

That is a sentiment shared by Jim.

"I hope listeners of all ages learn that the Navajo language doesn't have to be – how would I say this – it can be transformed into our daily lives by song, by video and that can help those who don't know the language," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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