iCherokee: Using Technology to Preserve Culture

One new idea for every day in 2011. We're talking big, small, local, international, in action and on the drawing board. Here's today's -- what's yours?

Your iPhone now speaks Cherokee.

In December, the Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed a student/faculty group from Northeastern State University that stumbled upon a bothersome statistic: As older generations of the Cherokee tribes throughout the U.S. died, the number of fluent speakers was rapidly declining. The study estimated that around 10,000 people throughout the country could speak the language with ease.

So the group approached the Cherokee Nation with an idea: Teach graduates how to teach younger generations the Cherokee language so that it won't vanish with the older generations.

Class syllabi included conversation, culture, reading, and writing, but it also introduced a partnership with Apple, which now includes the Cherokee syllabary in iPhone software. (It's the first native language to join the more than 40 languages currently available on the phone.)

The technology enables users to text in Cherokee and led to the development in other language-learning applications including iCherokee, which uses digital flashcards to teach basic vocab and phrases that have been used by the tribe since the 19th century.

Read more about the Northeastern State University group here, and check out what other languages might be hiding in your iPhone through Settings/General/International/Keyboards.

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