IOS 4.1, the latest software release for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, adds support for a new language: Cherokee. Now, all but the oldest iPhones are capable of using the Cherokee syllabary to send and receive text messages. In addition, now that Cherokee is supported, it will be easier for the Cherokee Nation to develop and release Cherokee-language apps.
iPhone users can access the Cherokee keyboard via the “international keyboard” option in the keyboard settings. Once the keyboard has been added to the device, it’s easy to toggle between Cherokee and English when using the phone.
Apple’s decision to include Cherokee is important because it makes it easier for the tribe to teach their children to use the language. As Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith explained to the Native American Times:
“People communicate differently today. Including our language on the iPhone and iPod makes it accessible to more people, especially our youth. This is critical to the survival and growth of our language.”
In an article for Tulsa World, Smith also compared the introduction of Cherokee on the iPhone to the development and introduction of the Cherokee syllabary:
“People might think it’s a novelty, but where you can see the importance is when you remember 1822, when the Cherokee written language was developed,” he said. “It was also seen as a novelty, but within 10 years 90 percent of Cherokees were literate.”
The Tulsa World article also noted that in the classroom, kids love using the iPhone to text in Cherokee. Teacher Joseph Erb told the newspaper that he believes the iPhone’s new capabilities will help encourage Cherokee kids to use the language outside of school more often:
“We have to figure out ways to get the children to stay in the language. Once you leave these doors, it’s all English.”