You are not logged in.
Cherokee language available on iPhone and iPod Touch
Cherokee Nation Cultural Specialist Jeff Edwards, left, shows CN Immersion School student Hondo Kirk how to use the Cherokee syllabary on an iPhone.
PHOTO BY JAMI CUSTER
By JAMI CUSTER
Fri, Sept 24, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation has worked the past three years with Apple Inc. on developing software that includes the Cherokee syllabary. The time and effort has paid off as the Cherokee syllabary is now available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Cherokee is one of nearly 40 languages and the first Native American language to be used on the devices.
CN Cultural Specialist Joseph Erb said he and Cultural Specialist Jeff Edwards, CN Curriculum Specialist Roy Boney and Apple have been working on ways for the Cherokee language to be applicable in the technology era. The three men have worked with Apple ever since Apple laptops were introduced to CN Immersion School students several years ago.
“…Apple computers support our language on their operating system on the computer side. Knowing that, the immersion kids, once they got to a certain age, really needed computers. So our first level of introduction to Apple was in the education sense,” Erb said.
He said not only has Apple been progressive with its technology and usability of a computer, but also in education.
“So it was a pretty good fit for us because they already have our language in it. Every Apple computer sold today has Cherokee language on it and it goes out throughout the system,” Erb said.
Once Apple released its software developer kit, Erb said he and Boney tried ideas to get kids to communicate with each other more effectively.
“Our first thought was ‘hey, let’s make an app where we could text message,” Erb said.
He said they knew Apple computers had Cherokee on them, but the iPhone didn’t support Cherokee. So they thought because it’s the same computer system just a smaller version on a phone, they could figure out a way to get Cherokee on an iPhone, Erb said.
He said during the past few years they have provided requested materials not really knowing whether Apple would pick up the Cherokee language. Erb said they were never sure if it would be released because Apple never would tell them what was happening.
“So we were actually kind of working blind and wondering if it was going to be released. Are we going to be affected? Are we going to get Cherokee on the phone because it’s such a small amount of languages that is on it?” he said.
Erb said this achievement is one of the most innovative things to happen since the printing press because it puts the Cherokee language in the pockets of so many children and they will not lose it.
“We have worked so hard on immersion, to teach Cherokee and have them be able to use the language outside the classroom. But if we are not able to get it into their technology, they’re going to convert back to English. So we have now got a very strong compelling thing that will actually allow the next generation of speakers access to using the written language once again in text messaging and e-mails,” Erb said.
Principal Chief Chad Smith said this technological development was critical to the survival and growth of the Cherokee language.
“He (Sequoyah) knew that the strength of non-Indians was their ability to communicate in a written language. Of course, he was right. What he may not have been aware of was the lasting impact of our written language. That it would carry with it much of our culture, our history and our belief system. I believe that our language is the essence of our people. To that end, we started a language revitalization initiative several years ago to get our young people interested in learning the language.”
The public can access the Cherokee language by updating to operating system 4.1 on their iPhone or iPod Touch, which is available as a free download on iTunes. Go to www.cherokee.org for instructions on setting up and using the Cherokee syllabary keyboard.