NavajoWOTD founder creates website to teach Diné language

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, February 21, 2013

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Byron Shorty




B yron Shorty wanted to be a resource for those who wanted to learn how to speak the Diné language.

But instead of writing a Diné language book or teaching the language in a classroom, he created a website featuring Navajo words, which has become popularly known as NavajoWOTD or Navajo word of the day.

It was approximately one year ago (Feb. 20, 2012), Shorty published his first Navajo word of the day: "Yá'át'ééh."

Like every word, Shorty includes the English translation and an audio clip on how to correctly pronounce the word.

For his first word, Shorty explained Yá'át'ééh: "Literally: it is good (alternatively: it is well). This is considered the Navajo 'hello,' so it can be used to greet people. It can also be used with 'shi?' as in 'shi? yá'át'ééh' to mean 'I like it.'"

After leaving Stanford University last year, where he was an industrial engineer major, the 21-year-old created his Website as a way of giving back to his community.

"I was just thinking of ways I could give back," said Shorty of his reason for creating NavajoWOTD adding that being a young Navajo on the reservation he has constantly heard leaders and elders say that young people need to give back to their communities.

According to his Website, Shory is giving back "…By introducing small pieces of the language at a time...We know many people out there want to learn Navajo, but maybe sometime down the road. There are also those who are actively exploring the Navajo language, but have difficulty finding resources to take with them when they're away from the Internet.

"This NavajoWOTD collection is meant to be a simple companion for both of these types of learners - the casual reader and the devout student - alike."

Shorty, who is Tódích'íí'nii (Bitter Water Clan) and born for Hashk'aan Hadzóhí (Yucca Fruit Strung Out On A Line Clan), is originally from the Round Cedar, Ariz., a community located west of Leupp, Ariz., but residents in Winslow.

With over 1,600 likes on Facebook and over 450 followers on Twitter, people seem to be enjoying NavajoWOTD.

Shorty said the word selections for his posts come from suggestions from his fans or just whatever he feels is a good word of the day.

"By the time I wake up I am already thinking about it and sometimes I will even dream about things I should post," Shorty said of his inspiration.




Sometimes he will even have a word selected the night before.

After deciding on a word to feature, Shorty said he begins researching the word to find out its history and to help compose its definition. Once he feels the information is correct, Shorty records an audio clip to ensure that his fans are pronouncing the word correctly.

Once those steps have been completed, he publishes it online and then shares it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. He will also send the information through a newsletter to people subscribed to his Website.

"Social web is everywhere now and the web demographic that uses social media is my age. That is (who) I wanted to reach out to," Shorty said of his efforts in reaching the younger generation. "…I am glad and really happy to contribute like this."

As of Feb. 18, 2012, Shorty said his website has reached 102,000 page views, and roughly 25,000 unique visitors since then.

The most popular pages from the Website, Shorty said, from the highest to lowest views are Beeshbii'koo'í tsoh, Yá'át'ééh, Bilagáana, Ahéhee', and Nda'iiníísh.

March 12, 2012, which featured the word "Kin?ání," still remains the most visited day, according to Shorty, which was the same day the Navajo Times featured NavajoWOTD on its own Facebook page.

Its description was: "Literally: many houses. The Navajo language uses kin in reference to a house or building. This is distinct from hooghan, which is more in reference to a home, or dwelling. ?ání approximates to many, or much. Generally, kin?ání is a town.

"If you say or hear Kin?ánídi, this refers to a place called many houses. There are two places that share this Navajo name: Durango, Colorado and Flagstaff, Arizona. The -di suffix means approximately "at" and is sometimes followed by another word with a -gi suffix to name a specific place within the prior named location."

Shorty added, "I just want to be able to provide people with a really easy, accessible resource. Anyone is welcome to contribute. I am open to suggestions all the time and I take feedback seriously."

Shorty has also complied an eBook, which is a collection of all the words he has posted since the Website was created.

The book can be found at https://leanpub.com/nwotdbook and is available for $6.

Shorty's Navajo words can also be found through his posts on his website navajowotd.com, Facebook page Navajo WOTD or Twitter feed @NavajoWOTD.

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