The Cherokee language is front and center in the news this season.
A documentary film, First Language: The Race to Save Cherokee, will be released in November. It is a production of the North Carolina Language and Life Project, part of the Sociolinguistics program at North Carolina State University.
Indian Country Today Media Network reported on October 2nd,
Students hoping to major in Cherokee Language Education at Northeastern State University will receive much-needed support thanks to a new grant relationship between the Cherokee Nation and NSU. Starting in January, a partnership between the university and Cherokee Nation designed to create a pipeline of teachers for the tribe’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School will become more student focused and create a direct pathway to employment in many of the tribe’s language programs.
Establishing a corps of well-trained teachers specializing in second-language education is one of the recognized best practices for preserving and revitalizing an endangered language.
Technology and Innovations
The magazine Native Peoples featured three articles on Cherokee in their September-October 2014 edition, emphasizing the language’s persistent adoption of innovations and technology — such as an alphabet – to keep the language documented, accessible and alive.
This timeline tracks Cherokee language innovations over the past two centuries. Did you know that the Cherokee Phoenix, first published in 1828, was America’s first Native American newspaper, first bilingual newspaper, and is still being published?
This article looks at how Cherokee is flourishing in the digital frontier – as Microsoft, Apple and Google have all integrated the Cherokee syllabary into their word processing and text software.
In particular, the article reveals how the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has invested enormous resources into its Language Program:
[Eleven] full-time staff members, nine of them fluent in Cherokee, are committed to the program. There are also six contract translators and 12 community language instructors, says Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation.
The program operates the Office of Translation, the Community Language Program, the Language Technology program and provides staff support for a Cherokee-degree program at Northeastern State University. The nation’s total annual investment in the language program exceeds $1 million.
The most recent project of the Language Program was to work with the Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative to convert the 86 symbols of the syllabary into the raised dots of the Braille language for the blind and visually impaired.
With all this focus on adopting technology, how has the language itself adapted? Native Peoples offers a look at a group that actively develops neologisms in Cherokee.
To grow and change and have both modern relevance and deep roots in tradition – Cherokee stands as a role model for language revitalization.