May 15, 2010

Instant messaging in Cherokee

Saving the language of the Cherokee

By Rob ReynoldsEach kid in the 4th grade classroom I visited was assigned a laptop equipped with a Cherokee keyboard. Like children everywhere, they were busy instantly-messaging each other—in Cherokee.

"They can use iChat and speak in Cherokee or they can converse with one anther in the syllabary on line," says Cherokee Nation's language director, Samantha Benn-Duke. "So, we will be revitalising the language in that manner."

Technology can be an outstanding tool to preserve and expand endangered languages, says Swarthmore College linguist K David Harrison, who works with the Living Tongues Institute.

"What we're seeing happening all over the globe is that small languages are levering the newest technologies. You can now have a small or minority language represented in an iPhone app, on a social networking site, and by putting these small languages out through these new technological channels—this is an amazing way to revitalise languages."
Below:  "Cherokee members at a museum in Washington."

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