Keyboard overlays help teach students Cherokee
Keyboard overlays help teach students the Cherokee language.
By CLIFTON ADCOCK World Staff Writer
Published: 2/27/2010 2:24 AM
Last Modified: 2/27/2010 4:46 AM
TAHLEQUAH - Hunkered over the white laptop computer on her desk, Rachel
Ballou began to type.
"Hi, Helena," Rachel, 9, wrote. "Last Friday, we started making quilts. My
quilt was green."
It was an e-mail to her teacher, the typical class assignment one would
expect to see for most third-graders, recounting what she had done while the
teacher was away for a few days.
But with each keystroke, a once-dying language grew a little bit stronger.
The e-mail was composed entirely in Cherokee syllabary.
Rachel and others at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School are the new
keepers of their culture's fire, carrying into the information age the
Cherokee language and its syllabary, created by Sequoyah nearly two
Although the font was created through an agreement between the tribe and
Apple Inc. a few years ago, the students have a new tool to help type the
language: a keyboard overlay that replaces the letters of the English
alphabet with those of the 85-character syllabary.
Students had been using a variety of keystrokes on a standard keyboard to
type in Cherokee, but now they can lay a thin black silicone pad over the
standard keyboard to find the corresponding characters.
"We had to use a little paper, and it was much harder," said Dalyn
Patterson, a third-grader at the school.
Rachel added: "It was hard. We couldn't really remember" the correct keys.
"Now, we can look at the keyboard instead of going all the way up there for
answers," she added, referring to the key-translation chart that hung at the
front of the classroom.
The new keypads also will be used by the Cherokee Nation Translation
Department, students in the Cherokee language program at Northeastern State
University, and students in other American-Indian programs using computers
embedded with the Cherokee characters.