The Cherokee Nation and Microsoft today celebrated the addition of the Cherokee language into Windows 8. It is the first Native American language fully integrated into Microsoft’s core operating system.
The translation of 180,000 words into Cherokee is the largest translation project by the tribe since the New Testament in the 1800s.
Microsoft executives from Redmond, Wash., visited Tahlequah to award 14 Cherokee translators for their work on the multiyear project, that some originally thought impossible.
“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. “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.”
More than 20 years ago, Tracy Monteith, a Cherokee from North Carolina who worked for Microsoft, asked his employers to add Cherokee. He wanted the settings, pull down menus and error messages to be in the syllabary.
It wasn’t until Cherokee Nation language technologists met Monteith and others at Microsoft that the project slowly got off the ground.
Earlier this year a team of translators was assembled, ranging from tribal employees, speakers in the community and even Cherokee college students. Lois Leach, a 56-year-old Cherokee Nation roads department clerk, would go home after work with a list of words to translate into Cherokee. She logged more than 12 days’ worth of volunteer hours to finish the project.
“You don’t look at yourself really doing anything that huge until you see it come together,” Leach said. “There were just a few of us, and now our work is all over the world.”
Microsoft has 108 translated languages total. The company’s next project is to translate Microsoft Office into Cherokee.
“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.
Along with Windows 8 in Cherokee, the tribe has also set precedence with other major technology companies. In recent years, Cherokee has been translated for Gmail in Google, Google Search and settings for the iPhone and iPad.
Source: Grand Lake News