Editor’s note: Today we’re announcing support for the Cherokee language in Windows 8 as part of the Microsoft Local Language Program. The availability is a testament to the Cherokee Nation and their continued commitment to strengthen their language and sustain their culture for future generations.
By Carla Hurd, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Local Language Program
When your speaker base is shrinking and your culture as you know it will be lost forever, what do you do? The Cherokee Nation is no stranger to the concept of language preservation. They have been a leader and exemplary example to all. This wasn’t always the case: a survey taken more than a decade ago found there were no Cherokees under the age of 40 considered conversational. Today, they have a speaker base of about 16,000. They knew that in order to sustain their language and culture for future generations, that’s exactly who they needed to start with – future generations.
When a language declines it usually starts with younger generations; they do not speak the language, then their children don’t speak the language, and so on. Before you know it, a small group of elders are the last speakers, and then the language goes extinct. This is not the case with Cherokee. The Cherokee Nation took action. As a result in 2001, they invested in Cherokee language immersion schools starting with preschool. This provided an environment for their children to be exposed to the language and culture while using it as part of their everyday activities, including technology. In the school, there is no English allowed; only Cherokee is spoken. Those children who first started in the immersion charter school are now in 7th grade, still continuing their Cherokee education and embracing their culture.
Today technology is deeply integrated into our everyday lives – if that technology is not provided in the user’s native tongue, then they will use whatever language is accessible to them. That is why Microsoft believed it was important to work with the Cherokee Nation Language Team on creating access to our products in their language.
The journey began over three years ago and as a result, we are pleased to provide a Language Interface Pack (LIP) for Windows in the Cherokee Language. This LIP translates and displays most of the commonly used user interface of Windows into Cherokee. Part of the process presented challenges as there were many terms which did not exist in the Cherokee language. When terminology did not exist, the translation team had to rely on elders or ancient texts for reference in order to assist in creating a new word as required for the translation. In addition, a new modern sans-serif user interface font Gadugi - the Cherokee word for “working together” - was developed to allow the localization and maintain the Windows 8 design style. This font supplements the more traditional Plantagenet Cherokee font that’s been part of Windows since Windows Vista.
The Windows 8 settings screen in Cherokee
More about the Microsoft Local Language Program
The Microsoft Local Language Program provides people access to technology in a familiar language while respecting linguistic and cultural distinctions. The program bridges the gap to technology through language and culture as well as empowers individuals in local communities to create economic opportunities, build IT skills, enhance education outcomes, and sustain their local language and culture for future generations.
For more information on the Microsoft Local Language Program please visit http://microsoft.com/LLP.