Cherokee Nation has announced the first AmerIndian language to be featured on Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. The hope is the ubiquity of mobile computing will shore up daily native language use, which has fallen to only 8,000 speakers out of a population of 290,000.The culturally rich
Cherokee, the only southern Iroquoian language to survive into the present, does not use the standard Latin alphabet (the one you're reading) but instead uses a syllabary developed by a polymath tribal Chief named Sequoyah, two centuries ago. The tribe worked with Apple to allow Cherokee users to utilize that unique representation while using their products.
According to the official release by the Cherokee Nation:
"The new access to the language will allow Cherokee speakers to communicate via e-mail, text messages and across all platforms of the iPhone and iPod Touch. It allows developers to easily create new Cherokee applications as the language is now part of the operating system, opening a new market for application developers."
The syllabary requires iOS 4.1. The software can be downloaded from iTunes and the instructions from the Cherokee Nation website.
In 2003, Apple added the Plantagenet Cherokee font to MacOS operating system. The tribe and the company are currently working on extending Cherokee to the popular iPad tablet in the near future.
The idea for the mobile app came, in part, as an outgrowth of experience at the Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi Cherokee language immersion school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which uses computers equipped with the Cherokee syllabary to teach first through fifth graders (and win language fairs).
Joseph Erb, of the Cherokee Nation's language technology division, told the Associated Press:
"(T)he cool technology is in English. So we had to figure out a way to make the cool technology in Cherokee."
The only problem, of course, is the primary motivation for using the language, keeping teachers out of your business, is moot at a school devoted to teaching in Cherokee. But then, I guess there's always sixth grade, isn't there?