Native American language and technology became one again recently when the Cherokee language became the first Native language to be fully integrated into Microsoft’s operating system.
“We really hold the Cherokee Nation on a pedestal for how to do things right when it comes to the use of language through technology,” said Don Lionetti, tribal government account manager for Microsoft, in a release.
The tribe said it was the largest translation project since the New Testament in the 1800s—180,000 Cherokee words were translated.
A number of translators volunteered for the translation project and were proud of the work they helped achieve.
“You don’t look at yourself really doing anything that huge until you see it come together,” Lois Leach, a 56-year-old Cherokee Nation roads department clerk said, in the release. “There were just a few of us, and now our work is all over the world.”
Leach put in more than 12 days’ worth of volunteer hours working on the project.
“The history made by these Cherokee speakers today will be discussed 200 years from now, just as Sequoyah’s syllabary or operating the first newspaper is now,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a release. “We appreciate Microsoft’s corporate citizenship, because we know this was a great expense to them both in terms of actual costs and manpower. Microsoft will not make millions off this project, but they will help keep our language alive. We’re grateful they saw value in our language preservation efforts and wanted to help us combine Cherokee and technology.”
It all started with Tracy Monteith, a Cherokee from North Carolina, who initiated the idea 20 years ago. Monteith worked for Microsoft and asked them to add Cherokee so pull down menus, settings and error messages could be seen in the language.
Microsoft supports 108 languages and plans on translating Microsoft Office into Cherokee next.