Fluent Navajo speakers host language immersion camp at UNM

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Navajo language is reportedly one of the toughest languages to learn, but a team of fluent speakers at the University of New Mexico are holding an immersive language camp to help others learn.

Over the past few days, dozens of people have been able to take part. The camp is meant to train Navajo teachers so they can help revitalize the language in their communities.

"It can be challenging, we’re always in an English-speaking world, that’s what we hear when we leave our home," Jennie DeGroat, an immersion language consultant, said. "But the parents that are speakers need to demand, become in a sense, strict, to have their children just speak in Diné."

This three-day camp is also meant to help Navajo families.

"We’re hoping our families, parents who are speakers, grandparents, to also learn those methodologies so that they can implement them in their own homes," UNM Associate Professor Vincent Werito said.

Navajo language experts said there are still many fluent speakers on and off the Navajo Nation, so it’s possible to keep it alive for future generations – but it’s going to take some hard, dedicated work.

"I know I hear people say, I only speak English, but I’m Diné, that’s fine," DeGroat said. "That’s true but what about the stories? The prayers? The knowledge in the future, when their children want to learn and speak the language and what are they going to give them?"

Organizers said they’d love to host more immersion events in the future.