The Cherokee tribe counts about 290,000 members, yet only about 8,000 of those still speaks the nation's tongue. And most of those 8,000 are over the age of 50. Chief Chad Smith wants desperately to preserve the language, and as part of his efforts (which include creating a Cherokee language immersion school) he has convinced Apple to extend support for the language to the iPhone
. Joseph Erb, who works with the Cherokee Nation's language technology division, told the AP, "If it doesn't have Cherokee on it, they all speak English. They'll just give up their Cherokee ... because the cool technology is in English. So we had to figure out a way to make the cool technology in Cherokee." Chief Smith understands that getting younger tribe members to use the nearly 200-year-old language outside of a classroom setting is key to keeping it alive. Smith began petitioning Apple to support Cherokee in 2007, and the company finally obliged this fall by adding official support for the language to iOS 4.1
(support for the iPad
is coming soon).