Navajo keyboard app now available for Android download

By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau

FLAGSTAFF, Sept. 12, 2013

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Nearly a year after launching the Navajo keyboard application for iOS devices, Native Innovation Inc. finally unveiled one for Android.

A number of individuals including Arizona State Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai on Aug. 30 gathered at the Native American Cultural Center on the Northern Arizona University campus, where cake and finger foods were served.

"Nizhónigo ch'aanid’’naal (Have a nice trip)," said Peshlakai as she read the list of "general Diné phrases" that are integrated into the new App. "Hait"éego ni[ hoolzhish? (How is it going?) ... Shil náhod’’lnih (Let me know)."

"We've been working on this for quite some time," said Jerome Tsosie, president of Native Innovations, an American Indian and veteran-owned network management company that serves the southwestern United States. "We (had many) people that helped us, and one of the main contributors was (Florian T. Johnson)."

The free App allows users to directly type in Diné bizaad, eliminating the frustration that users had with the default Android keyboard.

"We want to target the smartphone demographic," said Kialo Winters, the education technology specialist for the company. "The whole demographic from youth to elders are almost carrying smartphones now. It'll just get even more throughout the next couple of generations, and it's bringing back in the home through that medium of mobile technology."

Language and culture preservation among cultures around the world have continuously adapted to this new technology reaching deep into diverse demographics including education, according to the company.

In fact, several schools on the Navajo Nation are inquiring into preserving language and culture. For instance, Rough Rock Community School has implemented the Immersion program where Diné language is the primary communication between instructor-learner and cultural concepts related to classroom subjects.

Tsosie says the idea of a Navajo keyboard all started more than a year ago at a local eatery.

When Johnson posted a status update, that he's having lunch while on break from a meeting, onto his Facebook page, Tsosie took advantage of the opportunity to join the Diné curriculum specialist (from Rough Rock Community School) at Chipotle Mexican Grill where he presented the idea.

The duo then created a Navajo keyboard for iPhone and iPad users and released the App on Nov. 16, 2012 in the iTunes Store.

"(Johnson) was the one that designed the keyboard," said Tsosie. "When the iPhone App came out, he was like, "What about Android?' He kept bugging us."

Thanks to Johnson, the free Navajo keyboard App can now be downloaded by going to the Native Innovation's website while iOS users can find it in the App Store on their devices.

The App features 63 embedded conversational Diné phrases that can be shared directly to popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"That's what makes this keyboard different," said Tsosie.

Besides the neat phrases, there's an option to set the default keyboard to revert automatically to the Navajo keyboard.

"Ever since we've been using this keyboard, it kind of helped me read Navajo a little bit better," said Tsosie. "We were going to put English in there, side-by-side, but (Johnson) was like, "If you really want to have people practice (Navajo) and ask each other what it means, just put it all in Navajo. That way, they'll ask the elders or parents.'"

"But the great thing about this keyboard is that it becomes your primary keyboard," added Tsosie.

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