Cherokee language learners have a lot of resources at their fingertips.
From community classes and speaking groups to computer apps, Cherokee Nation and other organizations are making the language available to tribal members and hobbyists alike.
The tribe will soon be starting in-person community language classes within the 14-county reservation. While dates have not yet been decided, it is likely that lessons will start by mid-May.
Roy Boney Jr., Cherokee language program manager, said that before the pandemic, the Nation would regularly hold these classes, and that they were popular. At one point, Cherokee Nation would hold 10-15 classes at once. He is currently looking for instructors. Courses usually go for 10 weeks or 20 hours at a time. Instructors must be certified through the Nation’s language department.
Currently, Ed Fields, Cherokee National Treasure, is teaching a Cherokee Language course online.
“He’s been teaching that for 20 years. The cool thing about that is, it is a live course. You’ll see him live through the system that we have set up. If you can’t attend the live class, they are archived” , so you can watch them later,” said Boney.
Currently, Fields offers Cherokee Language 1, 2, and 3. Lessons get progressively difficult and run for three months at a time. If a student passes the quiz with a 70% or higher, he or she can receive a certificate.
“About 3,000 people take it per year, and they are from all over the US We’ve had people from Japan, Spain and Germany. There’s a lot of people that have taken this class because it’s free,” said Boney.
A second online course is self-guided and uses a series of videos. Cherokee Nation received a grant to make the online telecourse.
“You can watch them anytime you want,” said Boney.
At present, 48 episodes of content run 15 minutes apiece. The self-guided course offers Cherokee Language 1 and 2. In the fall, more videos will be released. To access the virtual courses, visit https://learn.cherokee.org/. Students do not have to be Cherokee to take the language courses.
Cherokee Nation is also producing content for language learners.
“They have media projects, like ‘Inage’i,’ which is an animated program in Cherokee language,” said Candessa Tehee, associate professor of Cherokee and Indigenous Studies and Cherokee Nation District 2 Tribal councilor.
To watch Inage’i, visit https://www.facebook.com/InageiTV.
The Mango Languages app is available for free to library patrons. Like Duolingo, it offers language instruction on a computer or a device, such as a smartphone. The app offers 72 languages, including Cherokee. Mango Languages offers two different lessons: “Greetings, Gratitude, and Goodbyes,” and “Getting to Know You.”
“They are very quick and easy lessons. They teach you both how to speak the language, and they show you a little bit how to read it. It shows you by repetition. You’ll listen to a Native speaker, say a phrase, And then you’ll repeat after them,” said Gerran Walker, TPL librarian.
At the end of each lesson, users can take a quiz on the material that was taught. Mango Languages also offers a series of flash cards for learners.
“You can keep refreshing your memory, especially if you go a couple of months and you want to revisit the lessons,” said Walker.
Alissa Baker, assistant professor of psychology, holds a Cherokee language study group on Wednesday evenings at 5:30 pm at Seminary Hall in Room 227. The weekly practice is for people of all ages and speaking abilities, and it is open to NSU students, faculty, staff, and community members. The language group also serves as a potluck. Attendees are encouraged to bring food, but it is not required. For questions, email Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who want to take Cherokee language courses for credit can register at Northeastern State University. Elementary students can attend Cherokee Immersion School, which offers immersive Cherokee language.