LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

While many North Carolina students have heard languages from some parts of the world spoken in the context of their daily lives – Spanish, French, or Chinese, for example – they may not have heard American Indian languages and, as a result, do not know what they sound like. The recordings created by Kevin Norris give students the remarkable opportunity to learn how to say the names of the Cherokee clans and to learn the words for various colors and foods, as well as a few helpful phrases, in Cherokee.

The recordings

Note: The Cherokee language samples included here are not intended for general language instruction use but are placed here to give students a general idea of the shape and sound of the Cherokee language. Every effort has been made to reproduce the Cherokee syllabary accurately. The included language samples below were provided by Kevin Norris and were reviewed and amended by Ms. Myrtle Driver.

Cherokee colors

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Listen to Cherokee words and phrases for colors. Recording by Kevin Norris, Cherokee Central Schools, for the North Carolina Humanities Council. About the recording
Download recording (Right-click or option-click)

Cherokee foods

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Listen to Cherokee words and phrases for foods. Recording by Kevin Norris, Cherokee Central Schools, for the North Carolina Humanities Council. About the recording
Download recording (Right-click or option-click)

Read along

Cherokee colors and foods
In this document, the Cherokee words and phrases are spelled phonetically. The syllabary requires a Cherokee font and is not included in this edition.
Open as PDF (1 MB)

Using the recordings in the classroom

Here are some ideas for incorporating these recordings into the classroom:

Listening Stations
As part of an in-class, library or computer lab research session, set up a listening area where students can listen to these recordings. You may wish to combine this activity with recordings of storytellers such as these videos.
Learning Languages Around the World
In a world history classroom, students could learn a few basic phrases in the languages of the parts of the world that they are studying. Including American Indian languages could make such a study more comprehensive and give students the chance to hear how the first residents of what is now North Carolina communicated. You might include these recordings with recordings of the words for colors or foods in other languages and invite students to describe how different language groups sound to them or to share which language they would most like to learn to speak and why.
Saving Languages Unit
When you talk with students about American Indian boarding schools and the efforts on the part of government policymakers to force American Indians to assimilate, it is worth noting that many native children were forbidden to speak their native language. Over the years, a number of American Indian languages have become endangered with fewer and fewer people growing up fluent in the language. Today, however, there are a number of efforts to encourage the renewed use of native languages and modern technologies which are proving tremendously helpful to this effort. While talking with students about the ways in which American Indians today keep their cultural traditions alive, you could play these recordings to allow students to hear what the Cherokee language sounds like.

For further research and discussion, students could also explore these stories from NPR (available in audio format):

Extension ideas:

Cherokee Language Work on the Qualla Boundary

Information provided by Myrtle Driver of the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program.

Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian (ECBI) Cherokee Immersion Program
This program provides for three classrooms of infant and toddlers who hear only Cherokee from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ms. Driver’s grandson, Taliquo, attends this program, and she and Taliquo speak only Cherokee with each other “unless,” as she says, “there is a word or sentence that he doesn’t quite understand and then I tell him in English and repeat it in Cherokee.” Full time staff are fluent Cherokee speakers. Interns come in after school to assist. Interns include elementary education students with a minor in Cherokee Studies at Western Carolina University as well as high school students interested in careers as Cherokee language teachers. Parents of the children in the Cherokee Immersion Program are required to attend Cherokee language classes. This program is under the direction of the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program (KPEP), which is managed by Renissa Walker, Ms. Driver’s daughter. KPEP is building a library of Cherokee language lessons on both CD and hard copy that have been developed by Ms. Driver, with the assistance of some of the students from classes that she has taught for the past three years.
EBCI Summer Cherokee Language Camp
This ten-week camp is for children ages 9-16 who learn Cherokee through various activities. Instructions are in Cherokee and English. There is also a focus on Cherokee culture and traditions. Ms. Driver coordinates this program and is the Lead Teacher. Participants meet monthly during the Cherokee Speakers Gatherings (see below) to learn more Cherokee. Ms. Driver is conducting a project with participants to write a story in Cherokee about the 2008 summer camp experience.
Cherokee Speakers Gathering
This is a monthly gathering of fluent Cherokee speakers who discuss Cherokee words while sharing a meal. Students in Cherokee language classes are encouraged to attend.
Cherokee Language Consortium
Fluent Cherokee speakers from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees of Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and Eastern Cherokees meet quarterly either in Tahlequah, OK or in Cherokee, NC to develop Cherokee words for modern English words such as rubber gloves, antibiotics, vitamins, dialysis, aquifers, erosion, environment, television, first aid, paper clip, stapler, clipboard, light bulb, dry erase board, microscope, computer.
Kituwah Cherokee Language Academy
The school, which will be an accredited school, will open in July 2009. The children currently in the EBCI Cherokee Immersion Program will move there, and the children who are of age will begin kindergarten there. All students will be immersed in the Cherokee language. Ms. Driver will be a volunteer at the Language Academy.
Cherokee Central Schools Cherokee Language Program
K-12 students are mandated to take Cherokee language lessons. The elementary school has a kindergarten immersion room.