Language Lessons


2020-03-26 Michael Conrad  3 minute read

It is not perfection in speaking the Cherokee language that is required. Even the most proficient of speakers have differences in the way they speak from each other. What is required is participation. Participation in speaking it. In reading it. In writing it. In teaching it. If you do not participate, or if you go out of your way to cause others harm who are working hard to keep the language alive, you are only doing the work of those who sent us to the boarding schools. You have become “them”. The foreigners. The conquerors. Those who would remove us. Those who failed. Be counted among those who keep “them” failing. Be not among those who would remove us from this Earth.


2020-03-26 Michael Conrad  3 minute read

Darrel Kipp, Encouragement, Guidance, Insights, and Lessons Learned for Native Language Activists Developing Their Own Tribal Language Programs.

  • Rule 1: Never Ask Permission, Never Beg to Save the Language. Never Beg.

  • Rule 2: Don’t Debate the Issues. Don’t let anyone debate you. Don’t let them start in on you. Don’t let them even start.

  • Rule 3: Be Very Action-Oriented; Just Act.

  • Rule 4: Show, Don’t Tell. Don’t talk about what you will do. Do it and show it.


2020-03-26 Michael Conrad  14 minute read


Vowel Sounds

Cherokee has six main vowels. They are “a”, “e”, “i”, “o”, “u”, and “v”.

They are generally pronounced as follows:

  • a: as (a) in father.

  • e: as (a) in cake. Some speakers shift this letter to sound more like the “e” in “echo”.

  • i: as (e) in Pete. Some speakers shift this letter to sound more like the “i” in “pit”.

  • o: as (o) in hello.

  • u: as (u) in tuba.

  • v: as (u) in rung and is always nasalized (sounded through the nose).


2020-03-26 Michael Conrad  3 minute read

The Syllabary

The Cherokee syllabary was invented by a single individual named Sequoyah (ᏍᏏᏉᏯ) to write the Cherokee language in 1819. He is credited as the only known person in history to create an alphabet from scratch without knowing how to read or write.

Around 1809, impressed by the “talking leaves” of European written languages, Sequoyah began work to create a writing system for the Cherokee language. After attempting to create a character for each word, Sequoyah realized this would be too difficult and eventually created characters to represent syllables… He worked on the syllabary for twelve years before completion… The rapid dissemination of the syllabary is notable, and by 1824, most Cherokees could read and write in the newly developed writing system.

In 1828, the ordering of the Syllabary and each letter’s shape were modified by Cherokee author and editor Elias Boudinot to adapt the Syllabary to the printing press… for the creation of the “Cherokee Phoenix (ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅᎯ)”, the first newspaper published in a Native American language… A digitized, searchable version of the paper is available through the University of Georgia Libraries and the Digital Library of Georgia.


2020-03-26 Michael Conrad  8 minute read

Remember that if you are having problems recognizing any of the Syllabary you should do the final Syllabary exercise as a refresher.

ᏘᎪᎵᏯ (Read them)

Review the following vocabulary then do the exercises. Take your time and work through the pronunciation guide for each word.