Okla. After translating English words into Cherokee for many
projects in the past few years, the Cherokee Nation language technology
group decided to use those translations by creating Google Maps using
the Cherokee syllabary.
"Other projects that we've done we've had to
do a lot of countries and we figured that one of the reasons we
wanted to do this is because we were doing so many different localizations
for different projects and we were ending up with a large database
of country names," said Joseph Erb, language technologist.
"We wanted to figure out a way to actually put this out there
where people could see it and look at things and we wouldn't
just have the data on a couple of computers somewhere. We could
actually put it out and the community could go to it and find out
different names for things or see a map in the language."
Creating a map on Google Maps allowed the language technology
group to add places and points of interests and even upload videos
providing information on that location in Cherokee. Cherokee is
one of the many languages that Google supports.
"It actually utilizes the technology that Google does with
their mapping but it also allows us to actually put in our language
so that we can add a new site to a certain place and put a little
bit of background into it," Erb said. "So this has been
really beneficial so we can do it for our kids so they can see local
places and have it be described in Cherokee."
Currently the program is in the testing stages and is being
used by the students and teachers at the CN Immersion School to
see if they're able to navigate it.
"As of now we're just trying to put in all the information
we have geographically so that we'll have a spot that will
help the immersion kids and staff have access to the material that
we already have translated. This was a really easy site for us to
utilize for that type of information," Erb said.
So far the language technology group has created Google Maps
in Cherokee of local places around Tahlequah and of different states.
Plans are underway to expand the maps to include different countries,
which will involve the translation of nearly 500 words.
"Well we started putting in communities and we're
not completely done. We also put all the states in and we're
going to build this little map where you can put different countries
and major spots around the world so that you can just navigate the
whole map," Erb said.
The Google Maps in Cherokee are available for anybody to go
online and use, he added. Anyone that has a Microsoft Windows Vista,
personal computer, an Apple Mac computer, iPhone or iPad since 2003
has the capability to see the Cherokee syllabary displayed on their
screens due to Unicode.
Unicode allows people around the world to use computers in any
language in all major operating systems, search engines, applications
and the Web.
"It's really great because our language is now starting
to work in almost all the technologies that are starting to be developed
and the major computer companies, they use Unicode," Erb said.
Once the program is available to everyone it will continue to
evolve and be ongoing as the language technology group adds more
information to it.
"So I think that it's important that we actually start
building our own maps in the language with people talking about
it in the language because it actually starts to get a more Cherokee-centric
viewpoint of the world in a very visual sense and a map is just
that," Erb said.