The title of this blog entry is the output from the first program I coded in Cherokee. I translate it as “Hello, World!”, which is a very common program for beginning coders to learn. The introductory programming exercise is very simple. It commands the computer to output the words “Hello, World!” to the screen. Below is the code for my version of this simple program in the Cherokee language. To my knowledge, this is the first computer program written in an Indigenous language.
This string of characters—brian@talugisgi-asgaya~/Documents/code$—is the prompt to the command line on my Linux operating system, or bash shell. The cat command in bash shell Linux scripting simply prints the contents of the program file to the screen. Apart from the first line (#!/bin/bash) and a bit of punctuation, the entire script is in Cherokee syllabary. The script is also named in Cherokee syllabary (ᎣᏏᏲ or “hello,” pronounced Oh-see-yo). The first command of this program clears the screen. ᏧᎸᏌᏓ (pronounced Ju-luh-saw-daw) is the Cherokee word for “clear” and in the next line, ᎤᏃᏴᎬᏂᏓᏳᏨᏓ(pronounced Oo-noh-yuh-guh-nee-daw-yoo-juh-daw) is the Cherokee word for “echo,” which is the command in Linux bash shell to output something to the screen.
Linux, or more particularly the bash shell that I’m using, doesn’t know how to translate these commands to and from Cherokee, however, bash shell (and any current operating system) does know how to output Cherokee syllabary, thanks to its inclusion in Unicode in the late nineties. What I did for this program to work in Cherokee syllabary was simple: I taught my system how to translate the two commands for “clear” and “echo.” I basically instructed my computer that ᏧᎸᏌᏓ= clear and ᎤᏃᏴᎬ ᏂᏓᏳᏨᏓ= echo so that when these commands are typed in syllabary, the bash shell environments know what to do with them. I didn’t have to explain that ᎣᏏᏲ means “hello” or that ᎡᎶᎯ means “world,” because the computer doesn’t need to know what they mean to output them to the screen (again, Unicode).
If I were to start translating bash shell commands further, I could teach my computer that ᏪᏌ (pronounced Way-saw) = cat and so on. Eventually, I’d be able to translate all of the commands in bash shell so that it could function as a programming language in Cherokee syllabary and provide Cherokee children in the immersion schools in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma a tool to learn programming through our tribal language.