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Cherokee Language Tutor


Tsalagi (Cherokee)

"Cherokee" is the English language term for the Native people who originally called themselves Ani Yunwiya, the Principal People. The word "Cherokee" is a variation of the word "Tsalagi", which is the term the Cherokee people commonly use to identify themselves today.

Cherokee is an Iroquoian language, but the relationship is a distant one and it doesn't bear a close resemblance to other Iroquois languages. It has several dialects, some of which are sadly extinct. The two main dialects today are the North Carolina dialect used on the Qualla boundary, and the Oklahoma dialect used in Oklahoma. The two are similar enough that if you understand one you can understand the other. These lessons currently are based on the Oklahoma dialect, but we plan to add the North Carolina dialect soon.

Sequoyah, the great Cherokee linguist, developed a system for writing the Cherokee language. This writing system is based on a syllabary. In a syllabary, symbols are used to represent complete syllables in a language. This is different from an alphabet used in English, for example, where the symbols stand for short sounds. The Cherokee syllabary is shown below.

Sequoyah's Syllabary

Pronunciation Guide

Sounds Represented By Vowels Sounds Represented By Consonants
'a' as in 'father', or short as in 'rival' 'g' nearly as in English, approaching to 'k'
'e' as in 'hate', or short as in 'met' 'd' nearly as in English, approaching to 't'
'i' as in 'pique, or short as in 'pit' 'h, k, l, m, n, q, s, t, w, y' as in English
'o' as in 'note', approaching 'aw' in 'law' Syllables beginning with 'g', except 'ga', are sometimes sounded 'k'
'u' as 'oo' 'fool', or short as 'u' in 'pull' 'go', 'du', 'dv', are sometimes sounded 'to', 'tu', 'tv',
'v' as 'u' in 'but', nasalized syllables written with 'tl', except 'tla', sometimes vary to 'dl'

Choose A Lesson

Lesson 1 - Small Talk Lesson 13 - Home
Lesson 2 - Animals Lesson 14 - Sound
Lesson 3 - Plants Lesson 15 - Going Places
Lesson 4 - Food Lesson 16 - Weather
Lesson 5 - Numbers Lesson 17 - Birds
Lesson 6 - Days of the Week Lesson 18 - Travel
Lesson 7 - Months Lesson 19 - Anatomy
Lesson 8 - Seasons Lesson 20 - School
Lesson 9 - People Lesson 21 - War
Lesson 10 - Family Lesson 22 - Peace
Lesson 11 - Phrases Lesson 23 - Jobs
Lesson 12 - Colors

See Our

Tsa La Gi

Cherokee Syllabary Lessons

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma offers an excellent free online Cherokee Language course:

Cherokee Nation
Online Language Class

We also suggest the following books and audio courses:

Books about Sequoyah:

Visit the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum
in Vonore, Tennessee


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Native History Page