The Associated Press reports that Apple is partnering with Cherokee tribe members to include their language as an option on iOS devices. The project is meant to appeal to the younger, digital community members who want iPhones and iPods – and whose parents want them to invest in their heritage.
The Cherokee language was given a written form two centuries ago, and students at the tribe’s language-immersion school already have access to Apple computers with the unique characters. And soon, they will be able to text and search the app store in the dialect as well.
“Tribal officials first contacted Apple about getting Cherokee on the iPhone three years ago,” the AP reports. But seeing as the smartphone has been limited to 50 international languages (none being Native American), the request seemed dubious. Still, Cherokee Chief Chad Smith’s determination and Apple’s ingenuity paid off, and the language addition is scheduled for this fall.
It’s important step for the Cherokee, not to mention dying languages in general. There are only 8,000 Cherokee speakers today, and the AP claims that most of them are over the age of 50. The prevalence of iOS devices makes it an easy platform for reaching out to the younger generation and inspiring them to engage in our digital age without forsaking such an important tradition.
“If it doesn’t have Cherokee on it, they all speak English,” Joseph Erb, who works with the Cherokee Nation’s language technology division told the AP. “They just give up their Cherokee…because the cool technology is in English. So we had to figure out a way to make the cool technology in Cherokee.”
An Apple spokeswoman, true to the company’s ways, did not answer questions about the project or comment on any future involvement with other Native American tribes. Cherokee tribe officials told the AP that theirs is, to date, the only American Indian tongue to be implemented into iOS products.