Fantastic way to learn useful phrases yourself: tape it up!

Art Easel

Ikea will ship you an easel with paper for about $25.

An easel is the best way I’ve found to make Mommy and Daddy phrases, $15 for the easel and $5 for paper at Ikea (probably ~$25 including shipping here. 

All you do is copy really useful phrases onto the paper, cut it out, and tape it somewhere you look — like over the kitchen sink, on the wall by the dinner table or in front of the toilet in the bathroom.

Here are some starter phrases:

Why are you crying? Heeyou heibiiwoohuut?

Are you tired? Kooheneeteih?

You’re probably tired. Nooxeihi’ neneeteihin.


Toddler words: What Does the Animal Say?

The names of animals are pretty commonly known in Arapaho; here’s a way to use those words in a familiar game for little kids.  You can encourage your little learner with some of the words at the top.  If you’re learning a language other than Arapaho, there’s a good chance you can find translations for these words here: Looking for your own words helps you remember them anyway.  Have fun!

Encouraging words for any game

Nee’eesoo’!  That’s it!
Hii3oobein.   You’re right!
Ce’inihii.  Say it again.
Hii3eti’! Good job!

Do you want to play What Does the Animal Say? Keibeetiinikotii heeyou hinihii3oo’ cese’eihii?

Let’s play What Does the Animal Say. Heetniinikotiino’ heeyou hinihii3oo cese’eihii.

Wookec — cow
Wookec heeyou hinihii3oo? What does the cow say?
Moooooo nee’eesinihiit wookec. The cow says mooooo.

Heth — dog
He3 heeyou hinihii3oo? What does the dog say?
Woox woox nee’eesinihiit he3. The dog says woof woof!

Woxhoox — horse
Woxhoox heeyou hinihii3oo? What does the horse say?
Niihihhihhii nee’eesinihiit woxhoox. The horse says niihihhihhii.

Hote’ — sheep
Hote’ heeyou hinihii3oo? What does the sheep say?
Bee’ee’ee nee’eesinihiit hote’. The sheep says baaaaaaa.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? How to make a book when there are none

Haven’t gotten to those printouts yet, but found something more fun to do! 

I haven’t found any children’s books in Arapaho (though I think the Southern Arapaho in Oklahoma have made some).  If you know of any children’s books in Arapaho, please let us know how to get one by emailing us through the Request Phrases page.  We brought the children’s classic Brown Bear to Dr. Andy Cowell for our play date because no elders are near us, and he did a rough off-the-top-of-his-head translation (posted in its raw condition on the Listen and Watch page).  I want to bring you with me on the process of making a kid’s book available in Arapaho. 

1.I pick a very simple board book that repeats the same words over and over. Natural objects are easier to say in Arapaho than man-made ones, so go with animals over trains or toys.

2. I make a recording on my phone of a fluent speaker reading it in Arapaho very slowly.  They need time to look through it and think about the translations first, no rushing.  Translating is thoughtful work and can feel pressuring, so respect that and give them them space.

3. I type up the words in English (start a transcription file).  Then I listen to the Arapaho, stop after every word, and write it down in a way that I can remember how it sounds.  It doesn’t matter if I spell it wrong here; I can fix that later.  What matters is that when I read it, it sounds as close as I can get to how the elder said it. 

4. If the words are simple enough — animal names, numbers, colors or descriptive words like big and little — I can look them up in the dictionary, and copy/paste those into my transcription.

5. I print out the transcription and write the Arapaho words into the book with a sharpie.  Stickers get peeled off by little fingers, so I write right on the page.  I save the transcription so I can share it, and so if my book gets ripped, I can write Arapaho in a new one without going through all of this again.

6. Once it is written, I practice listening to the sound file while reading the book myself.  I listen to page 1, pause the recording, repeat page 1, and listen to page 2.


So let’s start!  Here’s the English version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?  I see a red bird looking at me.

Red Bird, Red Bird, what do you see?  I see a yellow duck looking at me.

Yellow Duck, Yellow Duck, what do you see?  I see a blue horse looking at me.

Blue Horse, Blue Horse, what do you see?  I see a green frog looking at me.

Green Frog, Green Frog, what do you see?  I see a purple cat looking at me.

Purple Cat, Purple Cat, what do you see?  I see a white dog looking at me.

White Dog, White Dog, what do you see?  I see a black sheep looking at me.

Black Sheep, Black Sheep, what do you see?  I see a goldfish looking at me.

Goldfish, Goldfish, what do you see?  I see a teacher looking at me.

Teacher, Teacher, what do you see?  I see children looking at me.

Children, Children, what do you see?

We see a brown bear, a red bird, a yellow duck, a blue horse, a green frog, a purple cat, a white dog, a black sheep, a goldfish, and a teacher looking at us.

That’s what we see!

Today: printing, cutting out and taping up old teaching materials

Old printable PDFs of animals, foods and lots of stuff are available free at CSILW here:, with this introduction: “These materials are for educational, non-profit purposes only! The website manager has consulted with the head of the Northern Arapaho Education Department, Alfred Redman, as well as others on the Wind River Reservation, and it is the feeling of educators that this material should be made available for the use of everyone.”

If Hazel the 5-month-old keeps sleeping, today’s activity is to print out 3, and cut 1 into interesting shapes and tape it on the wall. The spelling was not standardized when these were written so there are small (somewhat confusing) contradictions in them. Don’t get hung up on tiny differences. These aren’t really errors — this is the birth process of an unwritten language becoming available in print. The same thing happened to English when monks transcribed the Bible in Europe — it was just a long long time ago!

[What really happened: baby woke up, toddler came home, nothing got printed much less cut or taped up. But the plastic toddler potty got labelled “biihiino’oowu'” and a new phrase entered my productive vocabulary: woow bee3iihi’, all done! ]