WBU-NAC (Senior group) Excellent Work
Why the Navajo Braille Code
Matters to Me
U.S.A Carol Begay Green (47, Female)

The following is a mock interview highlighting why the Navajo braille code I recently developed matters to me and eventually, braille users world wide.

Interviewer: Mrs. Green, it has recently been reported that you have developed a Navajo braille code which was approved by the Navajo Nation Board of Diné Education. Can you elaborate as to how this code was developed and why?

Mrs. Green: In December of 2013 I attended my first Getting in Touch With Literacy conference in Rhode Island. I spoke with BANA board members and inquiring if there was a Navajo braille code available or if they had known of one. They responded that they had not known of one. From that time on I pondered over whether there was a code or if one could be developed.

Last summer I decided to look into developing a code. A BANA board member referred me to Dr. Robert Englebretsen, a linguistics professor at Rice UNIVERSITY. First, we asked professionals within the Four Corners area if a Navajo braille code already existed. After we heard back that no one had known of one, we began developing the code. I was able to present it to the Navajo Nation Board of Diné Education on September 4, 2015 in Window Rock, Arizona and it was approved the following month.

I developed the code because I am still trying to learn Navajo. I am half Navajo and my paternal grandparents only spoke to me in Navajo. When I moved to the Four Corners area in 1989, I began formal Navajo language instruction at Northern Arizona University. Although I can now communicate and understand basic concepts, I still need to learn to conjugate verbs more proficiency. Now that I am a braille reader and writer I need an effective braille code to continue to learn Navajo. I would also enjoy using a refreshable braille display with the Navajo version of Rosetta Stone.

Interviewer: Briefly describe the code. Why do you think this code would be more beneficial than the accent symbols from Unified English Braille?

Mrs. Green: In Navajo the basic Roman letter alphabet is used. The only letter which are not used are f, p, q, r, u, v. The only additional letter is the slash l, we used dots 1456 to represent this letter. As Navajo does not use the apostrophe in grammatical expressions, dot 3 is used for the glottal stop. In addition, the vowels in Navajo are either high, low or nasal. We borrowed accented vowels from Spanish for the high tone vowels. We used dos 46 as an indicator for the nasal tone. Low tone vowels are just the pain Roman letters. Other conventions of braille such as numbers, punctuation and type form indicators can be used. I transcribed a children's story into the code and read it aloud to the Navajo Nation Boar of Diné Education. It is very easy to read and provides the reader with instant understanding of how to pronounce the words. Frequently in Navajo there can be two vowels in a row with either of them being a high or low tone. Also vowels can also be a high tone and a nasal. Using the UEB accents would create more confusion and lengthen the words. The ease in reading Navajo with this simple cod (continuation indicator) is a great joy to me. I am anxious to share it with others.

Interviewer: Who do you expect to benefit from the development of this code?

Mrs. Green: I expect the entire world of braille users to benefit from the development of this code. Of course I greatly desire Navajo children who are braille users to be able to fully participate in Navajo bilingual instruction as opposed to only participating verbally and auditorial. I am also excited for Navajo adults like myself to pursue Navajo language instruction at their local college. They could also author their own stories in Navajo thus contributing to the preservation of our language. I know how difficult it is to learn Navajo as I am not a native speaker. Since Navajo shares the world wide spotlight due to the fame of our Navajo Code Talkers from World Ward II, many non-Navajo individuals have an interest to learn the language. Now any braille user can benefit from a more simplified code to learn a difficult but rich and rewarding language.

Interviewer: What are your plans now that the code has been approved by the Navajo Nation Board of Diné Education and will soon be recognized by World Braille Usage with BANA?

Mrs. Green: My plans are to promote the code among educators, rehabilatationists, transcribers and braille users within the Four Corners region. I also hope to inform regional colleges and universities which offer courses in Navajo language. I hope to accomplish this by presenting at regional conferences. In this way I hope it will be widely used within Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and UTAH . There should be no delay in sharing this knowledge so that Navajo language can enrich the lives of braille users. I also plan to transcribe some popular Navajo children's book into Navajo braille and contribute them to www.bookshare.org.

Interviewer: Why is it important for the Navajo language to be available in braille when it has traditionally been an oral language?

Mrs. Green: Although Navajo has not traditionally been a written language there are many print materials used to teach and support Navajo language instruction. However, at the verge of a new millennium our Navajo language struggles to thrive as a living language. Especially among our youth there are fewer and fewer bilingual adults and even fewer children. Across the Navajo Nation children are taught Navajo in school, Kindergarten thru 12th grade. Print is used as part of daily instruction. This is why the development of a Navajo braille code is necessary to support the Education of braille users throughout the Navajo Nation. It is also simple enough for any teacher of the blind and visually impaired to transcribe their students materials. It will also be a joy for braille users to use as they learn Navajo.


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