Cheyenne language learning

As we emphasize on the page for Cheyenne word lists, it is not possible to learn to speak a language just by memorizing word lists. To learn a language you must learn natural phrases, words put together which make sense for everyday talking, just as people use any living language. However, it can be useful to learn some words from lists, since this will increase your vocabulary. Just be sure that you use these words in natural phrases and sentences.

Too often, when bilingual education programs are developed to try to revive or maintain a Native American language, children are asked to memorize lists of words, such as counting numbers from 1 to 10, or colors. This is not real language learning, however. To be real language learning, a student must learn when to say a number in a natural conversation. If he knows the names of colors, he must learn how to use those names in a natural way when he is speaking. Actually, numbers and colors are not usually the most important words to learn in a language. It is usually more important to learn to say things like: "I'm hungry," "I'm thirsty," "Are you tired?" "Would you like a cookie?" "Do you want to play ball?" "What's your name?" "It sure is hot today," etc. If you learn how to say words connected together to make sense, so that you can actually talk with other people, then you will truly be speaking the language.

If you want to learn to speak Cheyenne, try to think back to how you learned to speak your first language. You learned the names of things by pointing to them. Your parents told you the names of things over and over and you repeated the names. You learned to understand simple commands, such as, "Shh!" or "Please eat!" or "Go to bed now," even if you couldn't pronounce the words yet. In the same way, if you want to learn to speak Cheyenne, you need to start with the most natural things to say. Stop and ask yourself what you want to say to a Cheyenne person, and what they might say to you. Then learn how to say those things. We have designed a cassette tape program to teach some beginning Cheyenne. On the tapes and in the booklet, we tried to teach useful, natural things to learn to say. We have also posted on this Web site some useful Cheyenne words and phrases for you to learn.

It can be of value to listen to a Cheyenne language learning tape. It can also be of some value to memorize some words written on paper or from a Web site. But you will learn to speak the language best if you have a patient teacher who speaks Cheyenne well. Don't worry about how a word is written. Learn to listen and speak first. Reading and writing a language can come later, if at all. Many people in the world cannot read or write at all, yet they are fluent speakers of languages. Actually, if you spend too much time trying to look at Cheyenne words on paper, it can interfere with your language learning process, since the words have to go through your eyes to your brain, which thinks about them and tries to figure out how to pronoune them, and then your brain has to send that information to your mouth for you to speak. It is more natural and efficient for human beings to HEAR words through our ears and then repeat them. It can still be hard work, but it's not as hard as trying to read words on a page, remember them, and then try to pronounce them.

Finally, you must be patient with yourself and practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more to learn a language. Be willing to make mistakes. Don't give up if fluent speakers laugh at you. Sometimes they want to laugh WITH you, not AT you. Most of the time they will be proud of you, proud that you are making the effort to learn the language. Again, try to remember how little children learn to speak. They listen and they imitate a lot. They repeat a lot. And their parents are proud of them. Have fun!

Return to the main page of the Cheyenne Language Web Site.

Hosting by WebRing.