TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The international technology leader Google has added the Cherokee written language, called Cherokee Syllabary, to its repertoire of searchable languages. Just like the many other languages Google supports, now anyone who can read and write Cherokee can look up virtually anything, at least in the universe of the World Wide Web. 
“I believe that efforts like those of Google are essential to keeping our language alive,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith. “We have been working hard to get our young people interested in learning our Native tongue but we cannot be successful unless they can read and write in the medium of their era – all the digital devices that are currently so popular.” 
Cherokee Nation translators worked side by side with Google employees to work through all the challenges of adding a new, and very different, language to their services. The syllabary, created by Sequoyah in the early 1800s has characters, some of which resemble Latin and Greek letters. The 85 character syllabary quickly made the majority of Cherokees literate and was adapted into the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix which was written in Cherokee and English. 
Over the past decade Cherokee Nation has been dedicated to keeping its language vital. It started with free language classes, a youth choir that sings in Cherokee, student language bowl competitions, a Cherokee degree program at Northeastern State University and a language immersion school that has grown every year, which is now up to fifth grade. 
“Translators from Cherokee Nation were eager to volunteer to help make this project a reality, including Cherokee speaking staff, community members and youth,” said Cherokee Nation Language Technologist Joseph Erb. “We now have the power and knowledge of the Internet accessible in our own language.” 
Google’s corporate mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Their work with the Cherokee Nation gives access to the most comprehensive search engine in our Native language. “With these tools we are building for Cherokee tomorrow,” added Erb. 
Click here for Google’s blog post Google Supports Cherokee to see how to use the Google Cherokee search engine. 
Google in Cherokee
“Translators from Cherokee Nation were eager to volunteer to help make this project a reality, including Cherokee speaking staff, community members and youth,”  “We now have the power and knowledge of the Internet accessible in our own language.”
Joseph Erb

Cherokee, Apple partner to put language on iPhones

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"If you don't figure out a way to keep technology exciting and innovative for the language, kids have a choice when they get on a cell phone," Erb said.
"If it doesn't have Cherokee on it, they all speak English," he said. "They'll just give up their Cherokee ... because the cool technology is in English. So we had to figure out a way to make the cool technology in Cherokee."


TAHLEQUAH, Okla.—Nine-year-old Lauren Hummingbird wants a cell phone for Christmas -- and not just any old phone, but an iPhone. Such a request normally would be met with skepticism by her father, Cherokee Nation employee Jamie Hummingbird.  
He could dismiss the obvious reasons a kid might want an iPhone, except for this -- he's a proud Cherokee and buying his daughter the phone just might help keep the tribe's language alive.
Nearly two centuries after a blacksmith named Sequoyah converted Cherokee into its own unique written form, the tribe has worked with Apple to develop Cherokee language software for the iPhone, iPod and -- soon -- the iPad. Computers used by students -- including Lauren -- at the tribe's language immersion school already allow them to type using Cherokee characters.
The goal, Cherokee Chief Chad Smith said, is to spread the use of the language among tech-savvy children in the digital age. Smith has been known to text students at the school using Cherokee, and teachers do the same, allowing students to continue using the language after school hours.
Lauren isn't the only Cherokee child pleading for an iPhone, "and that doesn't help my cause," Jamie Hummingbird joked, knowing he'll probably give in.
Tribal officials first contacted Apple about getting Cherokee on the iPhone three years ago. It seemed like a long shot, as the devices support only 50 of the thousands of languages worldwide, and none were American Indian tongues. But Apple's reputation for innovation gave the tribe hope.
After many discussions and a visit from Smith, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company surprised the tribe by coming through this fall.
"There are countries vying to get on these devices for languages, so we are pretty excited we were included," said Joseph Erb, who works in the Cherokee Nation's language technology division. 


The Cherokee Nation expects its involvement to have a lasting impact on the Cherokee Language.
“Everybody that uses a computer uses Unicode,” said Erb. “Cherokee is going to be on every major computer device. In every society throughout history, the ones that survive have the best technology, and the ones that have weaker technology usually get swept up and disappear. We don’t want to disappear. We want to make sure that Cherokee is a vibrant culture, a strong culture. We want to make sure that our language is strong and this gives us the ability to access our language and communicate as the rest of the world does. This gives us the ability to unite our people with social media and with e-mail so that our next generation of Cherokees can communicate together in the language. It will actually tie our people back together with the language.”


Cherokee Nation Joins International Language Consortium

Indian Country Today
ICMN Staff • December 23, 2011

The Cherokee Nation has joined the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit formed in 1987 to set international software standards, to help promote growth in use of the Cherokee language.
“Our program [the Cherokee Nation Language Technology Program] focuses on getting all kinds of technology to support the Cherokee language. So, we’ve done work with Apple to get Cherokee on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and we’ve worked with Facebook to get some of the localization of that into the syllabary. We’ve worked with Google doing the same thing,” said Roy Boney Jr., a language technologist with the Cherokee Nation.
“When Windows 8 comes out next year, it’ll have a keyboard and font standard on all Windows 8 machines as well,” said Boney’s co-worker and fellow language technologist, Joseph Erb. “We work with major companies to make sure that when a product comes out our language has access to it.”
Boney said having representation in the international community through Unicode is very important.
“With every computer system in the world…there’s a language standard that they all follow, and that’s set by the Unicode Consortium. What they do is they take every written character in every language that they support and they assign it a unique code number. So a computer knows if somebody’s using Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or whatever it is, and Cherokee has been assigned numbers in that system, too. Basically the Unicode group governs what technology supports which language,” said Boney in a release. “We’re the only tribal nation that’s represented in the group. It’s a pretty great distinction for the Cherokee Nation to be represented.”

(Get started with Gmail in Cherokee
Posted by Craig Cornelius (ᏇᎩ), Software Engineer
What happens when you put a Google engineer in a car with a member of the Cherokee Nation? Well, something we think is pretty amazing: Gmail in Cherokee, or ᏣᎳᎩ(pronounced "jaw la gee"), Gmail’s 57th language. ​​​

It was just coincidence that I, a Google engineer working on the internationalization of Google products, ended up carpooling back to San Francisco with Vance Blackfox, member of the Cherokee Nation (CN) from an event we’d both attended. But that coincidence kick-started a collaboration that would result in Google Web Search in Cherokee and, starting today, Gmail in Cherokee.

After a 2002 survey of the Oklahoma Cherokee population found that no one under 40 spoke conversational Cherokee, the Cherokee Nation saw an opportunity to use technology to encourage everyday use of the language among the younger generation. Vance connected me with the language technology department at the Cherokee Nation, and the Gmail team worked closely with their highly organized team of volunteers, which ranged from university students to Durbin Feeling--Cherokee living treasure and author of the Cherokee-English Dictionary. Together, we were able to find and implement the right words for hundreds of Gmail terms, from "inbox" (ᎧᏁᏌᎢᏱ) and “sign in” (ᏕᏣᏙᎥ ᎰᏪᎸᎦ) to “spam” (ᎤᏲᎢ).

Gmail in Cherokee and the Cherokee version of Google Web Search both include a virtual keyboard for typing the syllabary writing system invented by Sequoyah in the early 1800s. Now Cherokee students can easily contact their tribal elders, e.g., “Joseph wants to chat” (“ᏦᏏᏫ ᎤᏚᎵ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ”) and connect instantly. As Joseph Erb, Language Technologist at the Cherokee Nation put it, “Projects like these give more life to our language in our communities. It is not just about preserving our language and culture. It is about using our language each day and every day and continuing who we are as a people. And this give us that chance each time we check our email.”
“Projects like these give more life to our language in our communities. It is not just about preserving our language and culture. It is about using our language each day and every day and continuing who we are as a people. And this give us that chance each time we check our email.”
Joseph Erb

Windows 8 in Cherokee

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The preservation of local languages is a subject that comes up frequently on Daily Edventures, from our celebration of International Mother Language Day to our recent interview with author Nataly Kelly. Globalization, for all its economic advantages, hasn’t always been kind to local languages, many of which are under threat of extinction. So we’re particularly proud when the power of technology allows us to contribute to preserving important cultures and languages for future generations. Today, Microsoft is launching a Cherokee Language Interface Pack for Windows 8, allowing the more than 300,000 citizens of the Cherokee Nation to work and communicate in their own language. This is made possible through the Microsoft Local Language Program, a global initiative that provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions.
Before we started implementing technological solutions for the Cherokee language, our language was taught in schools primarily with pencil and paper. Since our language is now supported on major platforms like Windows, our students can utilize our language in the digital world. (Jeff Edwards)
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Many tribal languages are endangered.  Using tools such as computing allows people to use technology to perpetuate our native languages and cultures.  While technology is not the only solution, it is an extremely powerful and valuable tool to aid in language learning. (Jeff Edwards)
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
We started this work because we were making Cherokee language animations. At the time, using our language in some editing software proved to be quite a challenge because of the incompatibility of the fonts.  That led us to try to find a solution to effectively use our language without all the fuss. Now that the Cherokee language is becoming one of the standards in operating systems, we can use our writing system in nearly every application we choose. (Joseph Erb)
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Students these days need to have a high degree of digital literacy.  With the Internet at our fingertips 24/7, knowing how to discern what information is reliable is critical for education.  Engaging students with technology that they actively use, such as social networking and text messaging, allows educators to exist in the space in which the students live and play.  Helping them become critical thinkers and smart navigators of the web ensures the students will know how to use technology to its fullest potential. (Roy Boney)
What is your community doing well currently to support education?
The Cherokee Nation has through its entire history been heavily focused on education.  After the Trail of Tears removal and the Cherokees were forcibly moved to Indian Territory in the 1830s, we immediately rebuilt by starting schools.  The Cherokee Nation had some of the very first institutions of higher education west of the Mississippi River.  The emphasis on education remains today and the Cherokee Nation supports many schools in the state of Oklahoma, and also runs its own schooling system that includes Sequoyah High School and the Cherokee Language Immersion School. (Joseph Erb)
What conditions must change in your community to better support education?
There is a technology gap among some of the poorer communities in our area.  Since many jobs and other economic growth opportunities require access to Internet technologies, these gaps in technology access need to be closed.  Fortunately, there are people and organizations actively pursuing this goal including the Cherokee Nation Education Services Group. (Jeff Edwards)
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I think the collaborative, interactive nature of technology like wikis and blogs and other social media platforms is something that education really needs to embrace.  Being able to successfully create content and thrive in community settings, digital and otherwise, are important skills to possess in the modern era. (Roy Boney)
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Think outside of the box.  Embrace technology, and don’t be afraid to learn from your students.  Technology can be a great tool when used with an open mind. (Joseph Erb)
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The ability to communicate with all your friends and family with a hand-held device is very handy. This helps to build a community when sometimes geography or busy schedules interfere with traditional face-to-face time.  Integrating this type of technology in education is great.  On the same token, it can present a problem. Sometimes excessive usage of technology and not enough personal contact with others may lead to an inability to communicate effectively.  There needs to be a balance. (Roy Boney)