TAHLEQUAH - 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 in the world,or at least the world 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.