Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lost in Translation; Cherokee Calendar Bonus Ends Monday

Last Friday, I had the good fortune to spend a few hours with Keetoowah News editor, photographer, and language instructor Sammy Still and his wife Dama. I had last seen Sammy in 2002 during a trip to Tahlequah.

We spoke briefly on teaching the language. He mentioned that one of the problems is that for the past three decades, the field has been dominated by talented linguists, who have dissected, analyzed and re-assembled parts of the Cherokee language. This is great for another linguist, giving them the schematic diagrams for the language. This is sometimes called “classical method,” and is the way languages have been taught in schools for centuries.

But, he said, Cherokee is more complex than that. Exact word to word translations are difficult, and often imprecise. The English word automobile, “self-moving”, is translated into Cherokee with several other words depending on locality. These mean “big eyes,” “it stares back”, and “rubber touches road”. The first two translations refer to the headlights, the last to the wheels. The English concept of “self-moving” or “self-propelled” isn’t there. The meanings are also lost going from Cherokee to English.

Still said that Cherokee needs to be learned in context of the culture and community. This is known as “natural method,” because it’s the way we learn our first language as babies.

I don’t mean to belittle in any way those teachers who use the classical method. When I was planning Speak Cherokee, I thought that the new technology offered a great chance to use the natural method. Push a button, hear a word, repeat until your pronunciation sounds close. It’s why the curriculum is moving to more use of video as well as audio. It’s also why Test 2 and above require you to record your tests answers, so I can correct your pronunciation.

Since I’ll bee out of the office for a few days, I’m extending the Cherokee Calendar bonus deadline to Monday, November 2. Select any of our three paid subscriptions to the course this Sunday or Monday, and you’ll receive as a bonus the 2010 Cherokee Calendar. The Calendar is no longer available as a separate product, but only as a bonus for passing Test 3. So now through Monday, you can get one just for enrolling at

Talk to you next week!
Nvwadohiyada, Healing and peace to you.
Brian Wilkes

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