Apple and the Cherokee Indian tribe work together to bring the centuries-old language to the iPhone, iPod and iPad.
While the age of smoke signals as a means of rapid communication has
clearly passed, a partnership between slick computer maker Apple and
members of the Cherokee Indian tribe in the United States suggest the
language of the country's native inhabitants won't be lost to history.
The tribe is currently working with the company to develop Cherokee
language software for Apple's iPhone, iPod and iPad tablet devices.
"There are countries vying to get on these devices for languages, so we
are pretty excited we were included," Joseph Erb, who works in the
Cherokee Nation's language technology division, told the Associated Press.
Erb explained to the news agency that the language, supported by Mac
computers since 2002, needs to expand into the common cultural
technologies that drive today's society and particularly younger
generations. These generations are to be the guardians of the language,
at its peril, Erb said. "If you don't figure out a way to keep
technology exciting and innovative for the language, kids have a choice
when they get on a cell phone," Erb told the AP. "If it doesn't have
Cherokee on it, they all speak English," he said. "They'll 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."
Cherokee Chief Chad Smith also told the AP the aim was to encourage
young people to pick up their native language, using text messages to
communicate to school students in Cherokee and prompt its use after
school is over. "You always hear the clich??Â«, 'History repeats itself.'
This is one of those historic moments that people just don't comprehend
what is happening," Chief Smith said. "What this does is give us some
hope that the language will be revitalized."
Cherokee is an Iroquoian language that uses a unique, 85-character
syllabary writing system, invented by Cherokee silversmith Sequoyah to
write the Cherokee language in the late 1810s and early 1820s. In
addition to Apple, Wikipedia offers a page in the Cherokee language,
and a project to bring the New Testament of the Bible online in
Cherokee is undergoing.
While you may not come across the Cherokee language so often, Apple can
also help you translate other languages around the world using the
iPhone's camera. A new application called Word Lens, offered in a free
demo version via Apple's App Store, translates the printed word from
English to Spanish (or Spanish to English) and is being marketed as
ideal for business and casual travelers.
Word Lens uses the built-in phone camera to identify text, such as a
sign or a menu, in one language and have the words shown translated
into another language. The words are displayed in the original context,
on the original background, without connection to the Internet. Each
language pack (e.g. either English-to-Spanish, or Spanish-to-English)
costs $4.99. In addition, users can purchase the application for 50
percent off until Dec. 31, 2010.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.