Animal Colors in Cherokee

A question I often encountered in college from my peers whose parents spoke minimal English was, “How do I explain to my parents that chemistry is what I am studying?” Or physics? Geology? What about neuroscience?

For chemistry, say, “Mom, Dad, I am studying how things stay together or fall apart.” For physics, say, “I am studying that which we cannot see; sometimes that is looking to the sky; sometimes it is looking to the sea… it’s just a lot of looking and thinking, Mom.”

How does one come up with a word for, say, “computer” in a language in which the word did not originate and without corrupting the original word or meaning? Do I join the words “metal” and “brain” to make “computer”? For the noun “email,” is it “air+letter”?

What is integral to any language revitalization discussion is the topic of language creation. To prevent a language from being a study-only, unspoken language—e.g. Attic Greek—it must remain relevant via the creation of new words. And, with the future in mind, it must be taught to young children. It is no surprise, then, that many language revitalization initiatives begin with children’s books.

Earlier this month, EarlyLight Books, publisher of science books for children (and adults), in collaboration with the Western Carolina University Cherokee Language Program, released its Cherokee language version of Beth Fielding’s book Animal Colors. The Cherokee language version is translated and edited by WCU Cherokee Language Program staff Hartwell Francis and Tom Belt, and it will serve as curriculum material for children in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian’s language immersion program.

Animal Colors is a visually captivating book about animals from around the world and includes factual information about each animal’s habitat, diet, and behavior.

Books of this nature come about through a long and painstaking process because words sometimes don’t exist for the subject matter being covered. Though it is a small book of just 24 pages, it is a triumphant step for the teaching of Cherokee (and a little bit of science) to young generations.

How does one say “I am a zoologist” in Cherokee?

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4 Responses to Animal Colors in Cherokee

  1. I would like to see this.
    I have placed alot of comments on this fine site but never get a respond??

    • Sheng Lor says:

      Hi Ms Florence Catholique! I am overjoyed to know that you read this blog. You are absolutely right– we have not been responding to reader comments. I am very sorry and will try my best to respond from hereon.

      Thank you for your recent comment. I too would love a copy of the book, but it just came out and, for the time being, Amazon is still taking pre-orders only. If I see anything new, I will update this response. I also invite anyone who owns a copy of this book to please share where they found it!



  2. Kate Watson says:

    Good morning, Sheng.

    I’m with EarlyLight, the company that worked with the Cherokee language program at WCU to develop the book. We were deeply honored to participate in the project and would be thrilled to send you sample copies — should we use the mailing address listed on the site?

    Both editions (Cherokee-English bilingual and a Cherokee only) are available through Amazon. I’m not sure why the Cherokee only Amazon page says it’s not available yet, but we’ve requested they correct this.

    • Sheng Lor says:

      Good morning Kate,

      I would be so delighted to receive sample copies of the book! Yes, please use the mailing address listed on the site. Sorry for the week’s delay in getting your comment. But this is very ecstatic news!

      Many thanks,


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