Ten years ago, the Cherokee Nation took an extensive survey about the language, and the results shocked even the most pessimistic officials.Only 10,000 fluent speakers remained alive, almost all of them past middle-age."People under 30, you could count on your fingers," says Wyman Kirk, who was one of the lead researchers."For all practical purposes, the language would be dead within 30 or 40 years."The tribe's solution focused on an immersion program — where pre-school and elementary students would hear and speak nothing but Cherokee all day.
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