Learn the Language of the Navajo Code Talkers

Learn the Language of the Navajo Code Talkers

This article answers common questions about the Navajo language code system created in 1942 by the “first twenty-nine” U.S. Marine Corps Navajo recruits.

Since 1903, the Navajo language was forbidden on the campuses of the Navajo boarding schools, but ironically, our language was used as the key to winning WWII. The Navajo code system was created by the “first twenty-nine.” The 677 code system consisted of alphabet and words.

“Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer

Arbuckle, A. (2020). The Navajo code talkers that helped the U.S. win WWII. Mashable. Retrieved 2 May 2020, from https://mashable.com/2017/11/28/navajo-code-talkers/

Am I able to learn the language of the Navajo Code Talkers?

Yes. The Navajo Dictionary – Powered by Nihizaad.com has published the 63 Navajo alphabet codes in it’s directory. You might say, “I’ve seen the list before,” but have you heard each of the words in Navajo? Have you heard them used in a sentence in Navajo? All Navajo code entries include audio.

How successful was the Navajo Code system?

The Navajo code is the only spoken military code never to have been deciphered by the Japanese during the war. The Navajo Code Talkers first used the system at the Battle of Iwo Jima where 800 errorless messages were completed from February 19 – March 26, 1945. 

During WWII, the Japanese were breaking every code the U.S. military came up with. The Marine Corps implemented indigenous languages into communications training which created the Code Talkers. The training consisted of at least 10 Native languages from over a dozen Native tribes across the U.S.

How do I use the Navajo codes?

Access the dictionary, in its entirety, by subscribing monthly or annually HERE. For this article, the following example is FREE.

Let’s encode the word “South”

  • Write S-O-U-T-H vertically on your paper
  • Open the dictionary category list “USMC Navajo Codes.”
  • Identify each letter of the word S-O-U-T-H. The alphabet list allows you to assign multiple coded words to letters. In this case, “S” can be assigned “sheep” or “snake” and “O” can be assigned “oil,” “onion”, or “owl” and so-on.
  • Write the English word you chose after each letter.
  • Open each English word listing and select the Navajo word synonym.
  • Write the Navajo word associated to the English word on your paper.
  • Recite the audio clip for each Navajo word.
  • After you have recited the five Navajo words seamlessly, you have learned the language of the Navajo Code Talkers.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps