Learn The Hawaiian And Navajo Languages On Duolingo 

Claramae Armajo, 14, helped to create Duolingo’s Navajo course. (Photo: Justin Merriman, Duolingo)

Duolingo has previously launched two courses for endangered indigenous languages, both created by native speakers. While most people will take the time to learn some French or Japanese with the app, why not consider something a little more obscure?

You can use the app to learn the languages spoken by native Hawaiians and by the Diné, better known as the Navajo nation.

Both are living languages still spoken today, but not many fluent speakers remain. Beginning in the late 1800s, Navajo children were sent to boarding schools where they were forced to speak only English.

The Hawaiian language was likewise outlawed in Hawaiian schools. Speakers of both languages are trying to teach the languages within their communities, and the Duolingo partnerships grew out of those efforts.

The Hawaiian language (ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi) course was developed by Kanaeokana, a network of Hawaiian schools and organisations, and Kamehameha Schools. Today, Hawaiian is one of the official languages of the state of Hawaii, and organisations like these are trying to preserve and teach the language so that more people can become fluent in it.

The Navajo (Diné bizaad) course was developed by Diné speakers, including students and teachers at the San Juan school district in Utah. Duolingo team members told us that as teachers were working on the course, students volunteered to help with the project, and brought in community elders for their expertise.

Both courses were developed with the community’s speakers in mind, but the courses are free and open to anyone interested in learning — whether you want to connect with a language of your ancestors, or just want to be a more thoughtful traveller when you visit Hawaii or the southwest.

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, a Hawaiian language expert, said in a Duolingo press release: “Our language is our foundation, but it is also the language of this land, and everyone, Hawaiian or not, can connect to the ʻāina more deeply through it.”

You can find the new courses in the Duolingo app (free on iOS and Android) or at duolingo.com.


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