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FARMINGTON — A new program at Navajo Technical University will train speakers of the Navajo language to interpret and translate terms and procedures used in elections to help Navajo voters.

The program is designed to address the need for interpreters to be present and available for Navajo voters when they are seeking information about elections or when casting ballots, according to a press release from the university.

The program, scheduled to start on Jan. 25 at the NTU campus in Crownpoint, was developed through a partnership between the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, the university and the Navajo Interpreters Association.

Dana Desiderio, program administrator and an assistant professor at NTU, said the terminology taught during the five lessons will apply to any elections.

"This is strictly a training program to prepare people for the 2020 election," Desiderio said.

The glossary that will be used in the class will list terms such as ballot, precinct voter, poll worker, registration form and voter purge, she said.

The target audience is those who speak or understand the Navajo language fluently and work for, volunteer or are involved with county clerk's offices, election administrations, campaigns, voter registration or any aspect of the election process.

"It was the nation's proactive response to have our own people trained and ready," Desiderio said.

Besides teaching such terminology to Navajo language speakers, the program was developed in response to the lawsuit the human rights commission filed against San Juan County in Utah for not providing adequate information about voting or aiding voters in the Navajo language, she explained.

Another reason is to develop uniform terminology for elections in the Navajo language.

"If we get our interpreters all on the same page to use a uniformed term for each of these ideas, we can minimize misinformation," Desiderio said.

The program is categorized as continuing education by the university. At the end of each course and after passing exams, participants will earn certificates, according to the press release.

The program consists of five courses, divided into three sessions that last five weeks and taught on Saturdays and Sundays at the NTU library, Desiderio said.

Applications will be accepted until Jan. 23. For more information, contact Dana Desiderio at ddesiderio@navajotech.edu.

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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