Google just announced that it has added Cherokee as Gmail’s 57th supported language. While Google has continuously expanded its language support for Gmail and its other services, this marks the first time that Google has added a Native American tribal language to its repertoire.
Google, of course, isn’t doing this because of the large number of Cherokee-speaking Gmail users who are demanding support for their language. Indeed, the company points toward a 2002 survey of the Oklahoma Cherokee population that found that “no one under 40 spoke conversational Cherokee.” Because of this survey, however, the Cherokee Nation decided to explore the use of technology to encourage a new generation to use the language.
The Cherokee Nation worked together with the Gmail team to make today’s announcement a possibility. Google writes that by working together with Durbin Feeling – the author of the Cherokee-English Dictionary – the teams “were able to find and implement the right words for hundreds of Gmail terms, from “inbox” (ᎧᏁᏌᎢᏱ) and “sign in” (ᏕᏣᏙᎥ ᎰᏪᎸᎦ) to “spam” (ᎤᏲᎢ).”
As part of this effort, Google also added Cherokee to its recently launched virtual keyboards for Gmail. This, says Google, will enable Cherokee students to “easily contact their tribal elders, e.g., “Joseph wants to chat” (“ᏦᏏᏫ ᎤᏚᎵ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ”) and connect instantly.”