NSU students create Cherokee Language Happy Hour

Former Reporter
02/14/2012 07:40 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Karen and Bruce Gaddis, left, use Cherokee and English menus at the Boomerang Café in Tahlequah, Okla., to order food. On Jan. 28, Northeastern State University students created a Cherokee Language Happy Hour at the café by translating the English menu to Cherokee. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Dr. Leslie Hannah, Northeastern State University Cherokee programs director, helps a waitress pronounce Cherokee words on a Boomerang Café menu on Jan. 28 in Tahlequah, Okla. NSU students created a Cherokee Language Happy Hour at the café by translating the English menu to Cherokee. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Striving to learn outside of the classroom, Northeastern State University Cherokee language students created a Cherokee Language Happy Hour on Jan. 28 by translating Boomerang Café’s menu from English to Cherokee and interacting with the public.

“From our perspective at the university, especially my students in the programs that we run at Northeastern, they practice Cherokee all day long in classrooms. They practice Cherokee in the hallways there, but they really don’t bring it outside into the community where they can mix with the fluent speakers, where they can mix with the people that use it everyday out on the streets of Tahlequah, out in the roads of the communities,” said Dr. Leslie Hannah, NSU Cherokee programs director. “They’ve got classroom Cherokee, so this is our effort to bring that Cherokee out of the classroom into the community and let them get some community Cherokee because it is a community language.”

At the Boomerang Café, NSU students changed the menus from English to Cherokee so waitresses and customers spoke Cherokee when dealing with food orders.

“Right now we’re really trying to create venues for the language use. So today was a great step in order to get a lot of the parents from the immersion school, as well as children and students from the university to use the language they’ve been learning,” NSU student Hayley Miller said.

Miller, a Choctaw citizen in NSU’s Advanced Cherokee class, went to the Boomerang Café with her husband and three kids, who attend the Cherokee Language Immersion School in Tahlequah.

“I’m Choctaw and my husband is Cherokee, and so we’re trying to utilize the environment to teach the kids about their culture,” she said.

It took the NSU students approximately three weeks to change the menus to Cherokee, featuring both the Cherokee syllabary and phonetics.

“I came here to see if I could learn a little bit more about the language,” CN citizen George Paden said. “I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can for two or three years now.”

Paden, from Kansas, Okla., said he encourages his family to learn the Cherokee language and that he has two nieces attending the immersion school. He added that his two brothers are also trying to learn Cherokee.

During the happy hour, food items were placed on one side of the menu while a cheat sheet with tips on how to say certain words was placed on the other side.

“I was learning a few things and we did have a cheat sheet and it was really helpful, but some of the pronunciations are really really hard. But I was talking to some ladies and they were really helpful and they were helping me get the pronunciation down so people could actually understand what I was saying in Cherokee,” Boomerang Café waitress and CN citizen Rhiannon Guinn said.

Hannah said he hopes to create a series of happy hours or language zones that will be set up throughout Tahlequah and the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. A second language zone was scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the Catfish Kitchen, located at 1095 E. Fourth St. in Tahlequah.

“All mixing and mingling, so we have different language of level proficiency, all in the same place at the same time practicing their skills, helping each other out, owning their language craft, and hopefully we can make this a regular thing and bring all these different people together,” Hannah said.

Click here to view Boomerang’s menu in Cherokee.


918-453-5000, ext. 6139


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