Google Adds Cherokee to Its Search Languages

By Tracey E. Schelmetic March 25, 2011

You may know that you can get your Google interface in any number of languages, but you may not know exactly how extensive the breadth of the languages available. Google Search is now available in 146 interface languages, and the list is growing all the time.

Today, the company announced the addition of its newest language: Cherokee. Said Google on its blog today, “With the help of Cherokee Nation staff and community members, we’ve added Cherokee (???) as an interface language on Google, making a small contribution toward preserving one of the world’s endangered languages.”

Users can choose Cherokee as their default from the Language Tools page (available from the right of the search box), and the entire Google interface will transform into Cherokee. Google has also included an on-screen Cherokee keyboard on the search page through the Google Virtual Keyboard API. This makes it easier for people to search Web content in Cherokee without a physical Cherokee keyboard. To access the keyboard, users simply click the icon at the right side of the search box.

Cherokee, says Google, is an Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people. The Cherokee syllabary writing system was developed by Cherokee silversmith Sequoyah in the early 19th Century. He realized the power of writing systems, and wanted his people to benefit from that power. Some of the 85 characters he developed for his syllabary were modified from his original handwritten script for a printing press in the 1820s, resulting in characters that resemble Latin and Greek letters. Despite the resemblance, they are pronounced differently. The modified script was quickly adapted for printing Cherokee newspapers, books and pamphlets. The adoption and use of the script enabled the Cherokee people to maintain their language and culture. Today, Cherokee is spoken mostly in the states of Oklahoma and North Carolina. The Cherokee Nation is the sovereign operating government of the Cherokee people. It is a federally recognized tribe of more than 300,000 Cherokee citizens, with its capital located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.“We’re honored to have the opportunity to continue this tradition, and we’d like to thank the Cherokee Nation for working with us to translate the interface for Google search into Cherokee,” wrote Google.

“I believe that efforts like those of Google are essential to keeping our language alive,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith in response to the launch. “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.”

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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