Learn Cherokee: online language class + other resources

For nearly two decades I’ve wanted to study Cherokee, but resources for learning this dying language were far and few between. I bought a copy of the Lord’s Prayer in Cherokee and hung it on my wall, and I somehow managed to teach myself (as best I could) one verse of Amazing Grace, which has been on a bulletin board over my desk long enough for the paper to yellow over the years. Beyond that, I was stuck.

But now I’m finally doing it!

learn Cherokee

Earlier this year I discovered an online course offered by the Cherokee Nation. The course is FREE because the Cherokee people don’t want the language to die out. I’d have gladly paid to take the course, but free is even better.

Cherokee language online class review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from an interactive online course. {Confession: I made sure I looked cute the first day just in case it was a video thing.} The class is taught by Ed, a native speaker. Students sign in, and ask/answer questions via text box. Ed teaches by live-streaming video and uses a screen-share type of program; his side of the conversation is verbal and the student’s side is written. There are usually about 20 participants signed in each class. If I miss a class, I can watch it in the archives later; the only downside is I can’t ask questions or interact but it makes the class much more schedule-friendly.

Cherokee online language class

Ed is like a Cherokee Mister Rogers, and I mean that in the best way possible. He shares stories of his own family, signs of nature, the “old ways”, and more. He has a wonderful attitude and view of life. Through Ed’s stories, I’ve learned that he served in Vietnam; his cell phone ring tone is The Lone Ranger theme song; he is a Christian; he enjoys hot tea; he spent Memorial Day weekend watching The Hobbit while eating popcorn and drinking homemade soda pop; he has a dog named Ginger, and he loves his family dearly.

All the stories Ed shares from his growing-up years, things he learned from the Elders, etc., are wonderful for learning about the Cherokee culture. If you expect rigorous teaching, you will be frustrated. Somehow Ed manages to fit a lot of teaching into each class, but there are many bunny trails as he tells stories and answers student questions. To me this is one of the best things about the class.

Part of learning the Cherokee language is understanding how different it is from how the English language works, and this is part of what Ed explains as he tells stories. For instance, a student asked how to say, “I’m sorry” in Cherokee. Ed told us there is no word for that, no way to say it. He went on to explain why, and gave us other words they were taught from a young age: word that mean hang onto each other regardless; raise each other up, help each other always; don’t let go of each other. And really, if we lived that way, why would we ever need to apologize for anything?

This free online class consists of 20 sessions, one hour each, two classes per week. There are several class times to choose from. I’ve just completed Cherokee I Beginner, and hope to sign up for Cherokee II Intermediate in the fall. There is also a Cherokee III Advanced class. Although it’s free, students are required to sign up ahead of time, and cannot access classes or archives if they are not registered students.

Ed is a very encouraging teacher. Every class, he gives us a noquise (star) for doing a good job. {Seriously, I adore Ed.}

Cherokee class star

Bonus: by doing this, I’m also setting an example for my kids that we’re never done learning! This is a big part of the “7 keys” in the Thomas Jefferson [Leadership] Education model, but even for those who don’t follow that style of homeschooling or don’t homeschool at all, I believe it’s important for our children to realize learning is a good thing and continues our whole lives long.

Main points about this online Cherokee class:

  • must pre-register
  • requires internet connection
  • each class is one hour
  • semester includes 20 classes + post test
  • interactively taught by a native speaker
  • FREE works for any budget
  • cultural learning included in the language study
  • friendly, encouraging environment
  • appropriate for any upper grade students
  • archived lessons available for any missed classes

Overall, I highly recommend the class and believe it would be a great option for language study for homeschool students — or their parents!

More Cherokee language resources:

The online class discusses the Cherokee syllabary, but everything is taught phonetically. Now that I’ve completed the beginner class, I plan to use Let’s Learn Cherokee: Syllabary to learn the characters. I’ve not yet used the book, but based on reviews it was the best resource I found.

Because the best way to learn is by practicing with other speakers, there is a facebook group students can join for practice. Another option: teleconference with a native speaker who works for the Cherokee Nation to practice speaking.

Additional resources are available online, including all sorts of free downloads from Bible translation to anatomy words and more.


Looking for more resources and ideas on how to learn/teach foreign languages in your homeschool? Check out posts by other iHomeschool bloggers here:

Foreign Language link up