overlays help teach students the Cherokee language.
Hunkered over the white laptop computer on her desk, Rachel
Ballou began to type.
Helena," Rachel, 9, wrote. "Last Friday, we started making
quilts. My quilt was green."
was an e-mail to her teacher, the typical class assignment one would
expect to see for most third-graders, recounting what she had done
while the teacher was away for a few days.
with each keystroke, a once-dying language grew a little bit stronger.
e-mail was composed entirely in Cherokee syllabary.
and others at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School are the new keepers
of their culture's fire, carrying into the information age the Cherokee
language and its syllabary, created by Sequoyah nearly two centuries
the font was created through an agreement between the tribe and
Apple Inc. a few years ago, the students have a new tool to help
type the language: a keyboard overlay that replaces the letters
of the English alphabet with those of the 85-character syllabary.
had been using a variety of keystrokes on a standard keyboard to
type in Cherokee, but now they can lay a thin black silicone pad
over the standard keyboard to find the corresponding characters.
had to use a little paper, and it was much harder," said Dalyn
Patterson, a third-grader at the school.
added: "It was hard. We couldn't really remember" the
we can look at the keyboard instead of going all the way up there
for answers," she added, referring to the key-translation chart
that hung at the front of the classroom.
new keypads also will be used by the Cherokee Nation Translation
Department, students in the Cherokee language program at Northeastern
State University, and students in other American-Indian programs
using computers embedded with the Cherokee characters.
third-graders' teacher, Helena McCoy, said almost all writing assignments
in the class are done on computer. The keypad speeds up the process
and helps the students retain the information.
Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said the keypad is an important
tool in preserving the Cherokee language.
try every trick we can to revitalize the language," he said.
"It's an uphill battle, but we see glimmers of hope on occasion
and this is one of those glimmers of hope."
said she hopes the keypad helps students remember the language and
characters to pass on to others.
hope they all learn and retain what they're learning," she
said. "They can get an education, come back and be teachers.
They're teaching already; they go home and teach their mom and dad."
said her experience in the class and learning the language has helped
her to teach her mother Cherokee words that she had forgotten and
to speak Cherokee with her grandmother, who is fluent.
fun to learn new things," she said. "I love coming here
to summer school because I want to learn more things. I really enjoy
speaking in Cherokee."