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Cherokee Nation looks to iPhone app to help save its language

Cherokee Cherokee Nation tribal officials are hoping that an iPhone app can help save their tribe's disappearing language.

The Associated Press reports that the tribe has worked with Apple to develop Cherokee language software for the iPhone and iPod; an iPad app is in the works as well. The tribe already has a language immersion school, but officials hope the apps will encourage children to use the language more.

Tribal officials first contacted Apple about getting Cherokee on the iPhone three years ago, and after many discussions the company released the app this fall. Computers at the immersion school already allow students to type using Cherokee characters, first developed by a blacksmith named Sequoyah who converted Cherokee into its own unique written form in 1821, according to the AP.

But the language has been largely lost among the younger generation -- only about 8,000 Cherokee speakers remain out of the tribe's 290,000 members, and most of them are 50 or older, Cherokee Chief Chad Smith told the AP.

Tribal officials said that Cherokee is the only American Indian language supported by Apple devices to date; an Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, the AP reported.


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Photo: Kara Hawzipta works at her computer in a classroom at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School in Tahlequah, Okla. Credit: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

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