Native Village
Youth and Education news
September 2010 Volume 1

Unicode simplifies using Cherokee language on computers
Condensed by Native Village

Oklahoma:  There has never been a uniform system for typing and reading Cherokee on a computer. But a new Unicode system has changed all that.

In the past, new language fonts appeared as “gibberish” because computers lacked a uniform system to read and write those fonts.  About 15 years ago, a European group called the Unicode Consortium decided on computer standards and a numbering system for languages. Today, new language fonts receive numbering systems using those standards.

“Unicode is the international standard for all computer technology now – cell phones, computers, video games…anything that’s digital uses Unicode to display languages,” said Roy Boney, a Cherokee curriculum specialist.  “Your computer is not reading a language. It’s actually reading a set of numbers.”

To type in Cherokee, one needs a Cherokee keyboard or overlay. A visit to will download a free Unicode Cherokee font.  Apple computers and Windows Vista pre-install a Cherokee keyboard and the Cherokee Unicode font.

Joseph Erb, a Cherokee cultural specialist, encourages people to use the Unicode Cherokee font so the writings will be properly displayed in the future. Even with shifts in technology, the Unicode font would remain intact.

He believes these new technologies can revive Cherokee as the main language used by the Cherokee people. Erb and his co-workers have even “pestered”  Facebook to incorporate the Cherokee Unicode font for its users. The Unicode Cherokee font can also be used with Wikipedia.

“So the opportunity for using the language is now increasing, if you use this system. If you learn a few (Cherokee) phrases, you can e-mail them now. Five years ago you could e-mail a word or two, but if you sent a sentence, it got screwed up,” Erb said. “Be involved online. Be involved on Facebook. Be involved with spreading the language with these new technologies because the next generation is going to use it.”

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