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Honest Navajo Duolingo Review – Can You Actually Learn Navajo With Duolingo?

I tested out the Duolingo Navajo course to see if it’s worth doing. 

This Duolingo Navajo review will go into detail on whether I think it’s worth doing the Duolingo Navajo course as well as the positives & negatives of the course.

The review is broken up into different sections and I’ve gone into detail on how good Duolingo Navajo is in teaching you to speak, listen, read and write in Navajo.


Here I’ve written a brief summary of my thoughts on the Duolingo Navajo course. After this summary, I have gone into much more detail into the course, what you’ll learn and more.

Good Things About Duolingo Navajo

  • Introduces some basic words in Navajo.
  • Lots of reading and writing practice.
  • Gets you used to the look of the language in writing.
  • Lots of opportunities to practice what you’ve learnt.

Bad Things About Duolingo Navajo

  • No audio clips and no pronunciation guidance
  • No speaking practice – the course mainly focuses on reading and writing.
  • No explanations on grammar points.
  • Some irrelevant and not useful words/phrases taught.
  • Some mistakes identified in translations.
  • Extremely short and limited course (only took me 4 hours to fully complete it).

Would I Recommend Duolingo Navajo And Who For?

  • I wouldn’t recommend doing the Duolingo Navajo course if you want to learn to speak Navajo.
  • You won’t be able to learn to speak fluent Navajo from this course – that would require a lot of other input such as videos, audio courses, books and more.
  • This course will teach you some basic words and phrases but it also teaches lots of irrelevant words/phrases too such as ‘skunk’, ‘what is the skunk’s name?’, ‘the goat has a cheek’ and ‘there is beauty below me’.
  • I’ve not learnt how to say ‘how are you?’ or ‘how old are you?’ or ‘where do you live?’ etc., but I can say ‘the goat has a cheek’ which is a useless phrase.
  • The course is very short, consisting of just 11 topics, it only took me 12 days (20 minutes a day) to complete the whole course and get all topics to level 5.
  • This amounts to exactly 4 hours worth of learning and practice before I’d completely finished the course.
  • The majority of the course doesn’t have audio clips and it doesn’t have any pronunciation guidance. This means that I’ve got no idea how to say any of the words/phrases that I’ve learnt. 
  • I also identified some mistakes in the Duolingo Navajo course. These included incorrect translations and poor English. 
  • To me, it seemed like the course had been rushed and had not been completed properly before being released.
  • I can see the course was originally released on Indigenous Peoples’ Day (October 8th) in 2018. It’s a possibility that the course was rushed to ensure it was released on this day which lead to the quality of the course being low. 
  • Due to the above reasons, I would not recommend the Duolingo Navajo course.

Alternatives To Duolingo Navajo

  • As Navajo isn’t a super popular language to learn there’s not a lot of good resources available.
  • Currently one of the best resources available is the Navajo Language, a book which covers lots of vocabulary and grammar.
  • The YouTube channel ran by Terry called daybreakwarrior also has a wealth of information and guidance on the Navajo language.

Background Information

Here’s a bit of background information on myself to give you some context to this review. 

I did the Duolingo Navajo course for 12 days in a row and each day I did 20 minutes of Duolingo practice.

I did plan to do the course for 30 days but I completed the entire course in just 12 days.

During the 12 days, I did no other Navajo courses and only learnt Navajo from the Duolingo course.

I’ve never studied Navajo before doing this course and I’ve also never studied a similar language.

What Did I Learn In The Duolingo Navajo Course

Having spent 12 days (20 minutes each day) studying Navajo with Duolingo, I did learn a range of vocabulary and a few phrases. I did actually complete the entire course during this time.

So what did I actually learn?

According to Duolingo, I learnt 143 words in the 12 days.

Duolingo breaks up the language into different topics and each topic will have a different focus. For example, some of the topics I learnt included family, food, animals, numbers, body parts, colors etc. 

Below are some examples of words I learnt:

Hello, goodbye, thank you, grandmother, mother, father, uncle, banana, apple, cherry, watermelon, onion, fish, horse, bear, skunk, one, two, three, ear, face, nose, arm, toenail, white, yellow, red, coins, 1 cent, 1 dollar, north, east, today, rain, sunny

Below are some examples of verbs I learnt: 

To eat, to go, to like, to have

Below are some examples of phrases/sentences that I learnt:

What is your name?, he has a younger brother, she likes potato, I am eating a potato, my dad likes dogs, my father has 2 sheep, the goat has a cheek, the sheep is white, my grandmother has 1 dollar, what is the cow’s name?, the east is orange, there is beauty again, it is sunny

Example Sentence

These are just a few examples of words, verbs and sentences that I learnt during my 12 days on Duolingo. There are some more things that I learnt in addition to these. 

The course was very short and only took me 4 hours to complete overall. 

Duolingo Features & Teaching Style

Duolingo Navajo Course

The Duolingo Navajo course has 1 unit with 11 different topics. Each topic contains 5 levels with between 1 and 5 lessons on each level. There is no checkpoint at the end of the unit.

Topic Examples


Many Duolingo courses include ‘tips’ pages with each new topic.

This is usually just a bit of information about what will be covered in the new lessons and usually explains the grammar points in more detail. 

Unfortunately, the Duolingo Navajo course does not have any ‘tips’ sections.

This was really disappointing as in the past I’ve found these pages to be extremely helpful.

As Navajo is a complex language, it would have been very beneficial to include tips pages to explain the grammar points as well as explaining more about the words and phrases we were learning.

I sometimes got confused about the grammar whilst doing the course so it’s a shame they didn’t bother creating the tips pages.

The tips page would also have been a great place to explain pronunciation.

As the course also does not include audio, learners have no idea how to pronounce new words so the tips page would have been a great place to include some pronunciation guidance. 

I think I would have got a lot more out of the course if there was some form of explanation of the lessons.


Stories are a feature of some Duolingo courses where you are given short stories to help your comprehension of the language.

Unfortunately Navajo doesn’t currently have any stories which is a shame because in the past I have found these super helpful when doing other Duolingo courses and I do think they are fantastic for improving your comprehension skills.

Podcast/audio lessons

Unfortunately the Duolingo Navajo course doesn’t currently have any podcasts or audio lessons. They have introduced this as a feature on some courses but not on Navajo yet.

Teaching Style

When doing new lessons on Duolingo they tend to teach you new words/phrases by giving you a few new words often by just asking you to select the correct meaning and showing you a picture to help.

New Word Example

After they’ve introduced the new words, you get a range of exercises to practice including translating from English to Navajo and also from Navajo to English.

Example Exercises

I found that the Navajo course was very inconsistent with introducing new words. In some topics they introduced 20 new words (as in the body parts topic) whereas in other topics they only introduced 4 new words (as in the directions topic).

I also found that the sentences taught were limited. Most of the practice was based on single words e.g. translating single words into Navajo or English. There wasn’t as much sentence practice.

I also found that a lot of the vocabulary and sentences taught were irrelevant and not appropriate for a beginner e.g. skunk. 

I was disappointed to find that there were lots of mistakes in translations and some of the English translations were poor. 

For example, I noticed on one exercise it asked us to translate ‘I am eating a potato’ into Navajo which I did. Duolingo then told me I was wrong, the correct answer provided by them used the ‘he/she eats’ form of the verb which is a mistake.

Incorrect Translation

I also noticed some errors in the English of certain phrases such as ‘bull likes corn’, ‘he like watermelon’, ‘bear eats fish, and ‘horse is eating apples’.

Poor English Example

It seems like Duolingo just rushed through developing this course and released it before it was ready.

Speaking & Listening

Learning Pronunciation

  • Learning correct pronunciation of words was extremely difficult using the Duolingo Navajo course. In fact, it was virtually impossible
  • Apart from the first 2 topics, none of the lessons include audio.
  • Usually on Duolingo courses every single word and sentence included in the course has a sound clip to go with it so you can hear the correct pronunciation of the word/phrase.
  • Unfortunately, Duolingo didn’t bother with this for the Navajo course.
  • There was also no explanation of pronunciation either so we were just given new words and sentences in Navajo with no help on how to pronounce them.
  • For example, the sentence ‘he eats an onion’ is ‘Chʼil Łichxíʼí yį́yą́’ in Navajo. With no audio clip, I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce this.
  • Another example is ‘bįįh yildeeʼį́’ which means ‘cherry’ or ‘Łį́į́ʼ’ which means horse – I’ve got no idea how to pronounce these words.
  • As you can see, there are lots of accents on Navajo words so some explanation is essential to ensure we’re pronouncing them correctly.
  • It’s almost pointless learning new words and phrases if you don’t know how to pronounce them because this means I can’t ever use them when speaking (and isn’t that the whole point of learning a language?).

Voice Recognition

  • In some Duolingo courses they include voice recognition.
  • This is where a word/phrase will appear on the screen and you have to say the word/phrase out loud into the microphone. Duolingo will then tell you if you pronounced it correctly or not.
  • Unfortunately, the Navajo course doesn’t include these types of exercises which is a shame because I have found them to be useful in the past when doing other Duolingo courses.
  • As mentioned above, Duolingo Navajo provides no help with pronunciation so I’ve got no idea if I’m pronouncing any of the words/phrases I’ve learnt correctly. 
  • There’s no opportunity to practice speaking when doing the Duolingo Navajo course which is a shame as I think speaking practice is essential to learning a language.

Fluency in Conversation

  • Fluency or being able to hold a conversation with someone in Navajo is probably one of the main reasons that anyone would choose to start the Duolingo Navajo course.
  • After doing the course for 12 days, I wouldn’t be confident at all in speaking with someone in Navajo.
  • Of course, after just 12 days there’s no way I would ever be at a fluent level but I’d even say that after this short time I wouldn’t be confident at all to say anything in Navajo other than ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’.
  • One of the main negatives of the Duolingo Navajo course is that there isn’t any speaking practice and there’s no pronunciation guidance. It’s all reading and writing.
  • The lack of speaking practice means that I can’t confidently recall many of the words and phrases that I learnt during the course and say them. Also due to the lack of pronunciation guidance, I wouldn’t be confident in even attempting to say them correctly.
  • I’m quite confident in recognising all the words/phrases when they appear in front of me but recall is much harder and that is the most important skill in being able to speak a language.

Listening Comprehension

  • The Duolingo Navajo course didn’t include any listening exercises.
  • Most Duolingo courses do include listening exercises which is where they play you an audio clip of a word or phrase and you then have to try and write what was said. There are no prompts other than just the audio clip so it forces you to listen.
  • I have found these listening exercises to be really effective in the past as we often rely on the words on the screen when listening.
  • Unfortunately as Duolingo didn’t include any audio clips for the words/phrases in Navajo, listening exercises were also not included.
  • This is a shame because it means that even if I did have the opportunity to listen to someone speak Navajo, I probably wouldn’t understand a word they were saying even if they did use words/phrases that I’d learnt during the course.
  • I don’t think you can successfully learn to listen to Navajo without any listening practice.

Reading & Writing

Learning To Read The Script

  • Overall learning to read the Navajo script wasn’t too difficult as it uses mostly the same letters as English.
  • There are quite a few additional letters that have accents on them and the Duolingo Navajo course made no attempt to explain these.
  • For example, the letters ą́, ǫ́, į́, ł, į came up regularly and I’ve no idea how to pronounce them. I would have needed extra guidance to be able to confidently read in Navajo as there was no guidance at all on the alphabet.
Example Of Accents

Writing In Navajo

  • I found that writing in Navajo was not too difficult as there are lots of opportunities to practice writing. 
  • One thing I did think was good about the course was that Duolingo provides you with the additional letters (that aren’t in the English alphabet) so you can easily select them when you need them.
Additional Letters
  • Duolingo often gives exercises where they give you an English word/phrase and ask you to type it in Navajo.
  • I found these to be the most difficult exercises on the course but I do think they’re really important as you need to be able to recall the words. 
Writing Exercise
  • It often took me multiple attempts to get the correct spelling of certain words because the spelling was very difficult to remember. This is probably because a lot of Navajo words are long and have lots of accents on the letters.
  • This can be quite disheartening but the more I practiced, the more this became easier. Towards the end of the 12 days, I could spell most words with ease.
  • Of course as the Duolingo course is virtual, the writing practice mentioned here is actually typing practice – I still haven’t actually physically written any Navajo words with a pen yet. This is something you’d need to do in your own time if you wanted to practice it.
  • One negative point about the Duolingo course is that during these writing exercises, Duolingo accepts words that are written without the correct accents. 
  • An example, ‘Adá’i dóó shimá yazhí’ means ‘my uncle and my aunt’. Duolingo will accept ‘adai doo shima yazhi’ as correct even though none of the accents were included.
Duolingo Accepts Wrong Answer
  • Whilst I understand why they have allowed this, I don’t think it actually helps learners because when writing or typing in real life they would need to use the correct accent marks.
  • It leads to learners not learning correct spellings which will hinder them in future.
  • On one occasion, I actually got a question wrong and Duolingo marked it as correct.
  • I put the answer as ‘15 cents’ but the correct answer was ‘25 cents’. This was my mistake as I got the 2 mixed up.
  • Duolingo, however, told me I had a typo and accepted my answer.
Duolingo Accepts Incorrect Answer
  • This is poor and I think Duolingo should be more strict with the answers they accept to ensure people learn the language correctly.

Verbs & Verb Tenses Covered

  • Tenses are super important when it comes to learning a new language. After completing 12 days of the Duolingo Navajo course, I have only used the present tense.
  • I think it would have been nice to have learnt another tense, especially past tense as I would like to be able to discuss things that happened in the past.
  • As well as only learning the present tense, we were only taught just 4 verbs during the entire course.
  • This is very limited, it seemed that Duolingo was so focused on teaching us lots of vocabulary words they didn’t actually teach us many ways to use the words we were learning.
  • Verbs taught – To eat, to go, to like, to have
Verb Example
  • Having only taught us 4 verbs, you’d think they’d at least teach different tenses so we could use them in more ways but this wasn’t the case.
  • As well as only teaching us 4 verbs, they also only taught us 2 forms of each verb. 
  • For example, one of the verbs taught was ‘to eat’. We learnt the form ‘yishą́’ which means ‘I eat’ and the form ‘yį́yą́’ which means ‘he/she eats’.
  • We didn’t learn any other forms such as ‘we eat’ or ‘they eat’. This essentially meant that I was only able to use the verbs in very limited scenarios.

Vocabulary Building And Relevancy

  • Overall I found that whilst the course did teach us lots of useful words, they did also teach lots of irrelevant words/phrases that I didn’t think were appropriate for a beginner.
  • I did learn lots of useful words such as hello, thank you, mother, father and the main numbers from 1 to 50. These are super relevant and helpful for everyday situations.
Useful Phrase
  • However I did find lots of words and sentences taught were not useful.
  • An example of an irrelevant word taught by Duolingo was the word for ‘skunk’. I think that teaching a beginner the word for ‘skunk’ was unnecessary.
  • I would have preferred to learn words and phrases that I’m likely to need in day to day conversations.
  • Other irrelevant words/phrases include ‘toenail’, ‘jaw’,  ‘what is the skunk’s name?’, ‘there is beauty below me’ and ‘the east is orange’. 
Not Useful Sentence
  • Some of these sentences don’t even make sense e.g. ‘the east is orange’. I’m guessing this phrase means something to do with a sunrise but there was no explanation behind it. 
  • Other phrases like ‘there is beauty below me’ and ‘what is the skunk’s name?’ are very strange things to teach a beginner.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever said these sentences in my life in English so I’m not sure why Duolingo thinks they are appropriate phrases to teach a beginner.
  • It may be that these phrases make sense in the context of the Navajo language or culture, but if that’s the case then there should have been some sort of explanation behind these phrases.
Not Useful Sentence
  • Another thing that was disappointing about the course is that each topic was very inconsistent in terms of how much new vocabulary you were taught.
  • Most of the early topics taught lots of new words such as the body parts topic and the numbers topic. There were at least 20 – 30 new words taught in these topics. 
  • The last few topics which were directions, weather and phrases only taught 4 words each.
  • This meant that the lessons were incredibly short and there was only 1 lesson on each level.
  • I found this to be very disappointing as it seemed like they’d just rushed through creating the course without even bothering to finish writing it.


  • Being able to remember and recall words and phrases in Navajo is one of the most important things for a language learner.
  • Overall, I found that the Duolingo Navajo course mainly focused on reading but they did also have lots of writing exercises too. 
  • They put in plenty of exercises where you have to recall and type words and phrases from memory.
Writing Exercise
  • This is usually much harder than reading a phrase in Navajo and typing in English what it means.
  • This was helpful as I developed my recall skills and can confidently recall many of the words/phrases I learnt.
  • However, the main caveat of the course is that whilst I am able to read and write the words/phrases learnt with ease, I can’t say any of them and I probably wouldn’t understand them if I ever heard them being said.
  • This is due to the fact Duolingo only teaches you how to read/write but has no speaking practice and no pronunciation guidance.
  • I also found that you have to have a plan on how you’re going to use Duolingo to ensure you don’t forget words that you’ve already learnt.
  • It’s up to you how long you spend on each topic before moving onto the next and it’s up to you to go back to previous topics and review them.
  • This can be difficult for a new language learner because after a while there’s tons of older topics that need reviewing and I can’t always remember when I last reviewed a particular topic and when’s the best time to review it again.
Day 1 Tree Progress
  • SRS or a spaced repetition system is best for this but Duolingo doesn’t use SRS. 
  • SRS is a method where a learner is asked to remember a certain word/phrase with the time intervals increasing each time the word is presented.
  • I think the Duolingo Navajo course could be improved by incorporating a more structured review process to ensure you don’t forget anything you learn in previous lessons.

Was It Fun?

  • One of the main positives of using something like Duolingo to learn a new language is that it is a gamified course.
  • They have lots of incentives that help you to come back everyday and do a few lessons. These include the streak, where you build up a streak everyday that you do Duolingo.
  • They also have leaderboards where you compete against other people to build points and finish top of your league. 
  • I found the actual course and content to be quite enjoyable, it’s not boring like reading a textbook.
  • The exercises are varied so you don’t get bored. I definitely think that it would be easy to keep up this routine.  

Overall Progression

Overall I was disappointed with the progress I made doing 12 days of Navajo on Duolingo even though I did complete the entire course.

Finishing Duolingo Navajo
  • I felt that I didn’t make much progress because I still cannot confidently say any words in Navajo. This was mainly due to the lack of pronunciation guidance and lack of audio clips.
  • I think the course was designed as an introduction to the language and the course does introduce some useful words/phrases, but personally I found that it fell short.
  • For reading and writing, there’s tons of practice so you can really become confident using the new words and phrases that you’ve learnt. 
  • As I mentioned before, I found that Duolingo wasn’t great for someone looking to speak the language as there’s no speaking practice and no pronunciation guidance.
  • If your main goal is to be able to speak then there is no point in doing the Duolingo Navajo course. 

Can You Actually Learn The Navajo Language With Duolingo?

If you want to become fluent in Navajo then you won’t be able to do this with Duolingo alone.

Becoming fully fluent will require lots of different inputs including videos, books, audio lessons and much more. 

This is especially true as Navajo is a hard language to learn for English speakers.

Duolingo alone won’t get you there as it has no speaking practice and no pronunciation guidance.

The course also teaches you lots of vocabulary words but doesn’t show you many ways to use them in a sentence.

For example, I learnt over 20 different words for various body parts such as arm, hand, foot, jaw, lip, fingernail, forehead, cheek, toenail, palm, wrist, ankle, heel etc however I wasn’t taught many sentences using these words.

The only sentence that Duolingo taught us was how to say ‘the goat has a cheek’ which isn’t something I would use on a regular basis (if ever!). 

Is Duolingo Navajo Worth It Or Is It A Waste Of Time?

I don’t think the Duolingo Navajo course is worth doing even if you are a beginner and are just looking for an introduction to the language. 

I don’t think you get anything out of doing the course, especially if your main goal is to be able to speak the language.

After doing the course, I have no idea how to say anything in Navajo (I can read/write the words/phrases taught with confidence but can’t say any of them).

I also found the quality of the course to be quite poor. In addition to the irrelevant words/phrases taught, there were actually quite a few mistakes in the course that I identified. 

I also noticed some errors in the English of certain phrases such as ‘bull likes corn’, ‘he like watermelon’, ‘bear eats fish, and ‘horse is eating apples’.

The course is also incredibly short with just 11 topics. It only took me 4 hours overall to complete all the learning and practice exercises.

There just wasn’t enough content on the course to make any sort of progress with the language.

It seems like Duolingo just rushed through developing this course and released it before it was ready. 

Additionally, at the time of writing, the Duolingo Navajo course has been out for over 2.5 years and there still has been no improvements or extension of the course.

It seems unlikely that Duolingo has any intention of improving or extending this course which is a shame as in its current state it’s not worth doing at all.

Alternatives To Duolingo

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good Navajo resources out there. 

If you’re wanting to learn Navajo then I’d suggest firstly getting a Navajo book. This is a great reference point and makes it easy to learn new words.

As I mentioned, one of the main negatives of the Duolingo Navajo course was the lack of pronunciation guidance. Luckily YouTube has lots of great videos where native speakers teach you how to pronounce the letters in Navajo. 

I’d recommend the below video for pronunciation guidance:

There are not many good online courses that teach Navajo.

The best and easiest way to learn Navajo is through YouTube.

There are some excellent channels that focus on teaching Navajo including daybreakwarrior.

This channel is run by Terry and he has been uploading videos on the Navajo language for over 12 years and still regularly uploads new videos teaching new words/phrases in Navajo. 

Check out one of his most popular videos below:

Thanks for reading this Duolingo Navajo review. 

I spent 12 days testing out the Duolingo Navajo course to find out if it’s worth it – and it’s not.

If you’re interested in learning more Navajo then check our other Navajo content here.

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