Set up, manage and change your alphabet




Introduction






FirstVoices hosts interactive alphabets with many useful and interesting features. Uploading an alphabet also ensures that search and alphabetization within your words and phrases will work. In order to make all of these features functional, the FirstVoices team needs some information about your writing system and recordings of the sounds that each character represents. It is important to do this at the beginning of your project, before uploading content, so that there are no issues with functionality later on.




Gathering information for your alphabet






  1. Identify and finalize the list of characters in your writing system. If there is not a standard writing system for your language, or if there are several possible writing systems that you could use, it is a good idea to engage in community consultation around the writing system for your language site.

  2. Identify all lower case and upper case variants of the characters in your writing system (if applicable)

  3. Identify any and all possible English alphabet equivalents to the characters in your writing system (if applicable). For example the character < ł > might be equivalent to < hl > using Latin characters.

  4. Decide on the correct order for your alphabet (For example, in English, a=1, b=2, c=3...)


If you would like assistance in planning for or engaging in consultation, please email Kyra at kyra@fpcc.ca




Recording sound files for your alphabet






  1. Decide what will be included with each sound file. Some communities include only the sound associated with the character (example), and others choose to include more information such as detail about the character itself, or example words using the sound (example). You are encouraged to make whatever decision is most suitable for your project and your community's teaching practices.

  2. Make a recording of a speaker producing the character sound and any other information that you decided to include.

  3. Follow these instructions for managing and editing your audio files.




Submitting your alphabet






  1. Download the alphabet submission template

  2. Enter the information you gathered in the spreadsheet columns. Column definitions:


    1. CHAR: The character in your writing system (If your writing system uses lower case, enter lower case. If your writing system does not use lower case, enter upper case)

    2. CHAR_UPPER_CASE: The character in your writing system in upper case (If your writing uses upper case, enter it here even if it is the same as the character in column A. If your writing system does not use upper case, leave this column blank)

    3. LATIN: The equivalent character in English, approximate characters that are commonly used by learners, or alternate spellings (this is necessary for successful use of the 'approximate search' feature)

    4. ORDER: The numerical order in which this character appears (for alphabetical sorting)

    5. AUDIO_FILENAME: The exact filename of the corresponding audio file, including the file extension (e.g. alphabet_a.wav)

    6. AUDIO_SOURCE: The name of the speaker on the recording

    7. AUDIO_RECORDER: The name of the person who made the recording





  3. Save your spreadsheet in CSV UTF-8 (Comma delimited) (.csv) file format following the same rules for file naming as used for media files (ONLY use lowercase letters, numbers, hyphens, or underscores, NO SPACES. The only special character should be the period before the file type)

  4. Send your spreadsheet and folder of media files to FirstVoices as an email attachment to batch@fpcc.ca It is ok to zip your media files for easier attachment.


Check out these helpful example spreadsheets, demonstrating how to enter orthographies with either/both upper and lower case characters:
Alphabet Submission Template

Example with Lower Case Only

Example with Upper Case Only

Example with Upper Case and Lower Case




Managing your alphabet





Language Administrators are responsible for the management of the letters of their alphabet. Each letter must have an attached sound file and sample word. When a new FirstVoices language site is first established, the Language Administrator submits their language alphabet to the FirstVoices team, who are responsible for uploading it to the site. Once an alphabet is uploaded to FirstVoices, it can be managed by the Language Administrator. To edit an Alphabet, follow the steps below.


  1. Click the pink “Edit Character” button at top right.



















  2. Edit the appropriate fields in the window illustrated below.
























Description of fields in the edit alphabet character window:

  • Character: In this case the character is the letter A

  • Upper Case: The SENĆOŦEN alphabet is written in upper case characters only, so A goes in the Character field. If they had lower case characters, then a would go in the Character field and A would go in the Upper Case field.

  • Sort Order: This is the first letter in the SENĆOŦEN alphabet, so the sort order is 1.

  • Featured Words: Select a word or words from the language site that commence with the letter.

  • Related Audio: Select the audio file related to the chosen featured word.

  • Replace Button: Use this button to replace a previously selected audio file.




Changing your alphabet






Changing the alphabet (orthography) of a language is a big technical decision, but also a strategic one. Make sure you consult with the FirstVoices team prior to committing to this move so that you can understand the implications this move has.

Option A: Spreadsheet with spelling patterns (Recommended)


  1. Language team members create a spreadsheet mapping the existing spelling patterns to the new alphabet spelling patterns.




  2. The FirstVoices development team will run a script to convert entries with the old spelling/alphabet to use the new spelling/alphabet. The development team will move previous spellings to an “alternative spelling” field, so that the Language Team can look at it when editing/checking entries.

  3. The FirstVoices development team will upload the new alphabet.

  4. Language team members will check entries for errors by going through the word and phrase list view on FirstVoices.



PROS

CONS

ROUGH TIME ESTIMATE

PROS

CONS

ROUGH TIME ESTIMATE

  • Less manual editing than Option B

  • The public won't lose access

  • "Old" spelling can remain published on the language site until the new spellings are checked and verified

  • The automation will likely result in some "spelling" errors and will need to be reviewed

  • Dev Team: 40 hours (Allow ~3 weeks)
    Language Team: 45 hours



Option B: Change Alphabet First 


  1. The FirstVoices development team will unpublish all entries (i.e. change to "Team Only").

  2. The FirstVoices development team will upload the new alphabet.

  3. Your language team will manually change each word over to the new alphabet and publish as each word is ready.



PROS

CONS

ROUGH TIME ESTIMATE

PROS

CONS

ROUGH TIME ESTIMATE

  • Language team can get started quickly

  • Editing the existing database means you can use existing audio files

  • You can fix any pre-existing errors along the way

  • The public will only be able to access the entries as they are published (i.e. lose access to the existing entries)

  • Lots of manual editing for the language team

  • Dev Team: 16 hours (Allow a week)

  • Language Team: 220 hours


Option C:  Spreadsheet with Entries 


  1. The FirstVoices development team will provide a spreadsheet template.






















  2. Language team members will map the existing entries to entries using the new alphabet (words, phrases, and audio titles).

  3. The FirstVoices development team will run a script to edit words, phrases, and audio titles.

  4. The FirstVoices development team will upload the new alphabet.

  5. Language team members will check entries for errors by going through the word and phrase list view on FirstVoices.

  6. Language team will manually update story and song entries to use the new alphabet.


PROS

CONS

ROUGH TIME ESTIMATE

PROS

CONS

ROUGH TIME ESTIMATE

  • Less manual editing than Option B

  • Less chance of errors than Option A

  • The public won't lose access

  • The automation will likely result in some errors and will need to be reviewed

  • More manual input (typing) than Option B

  • Errors would be visible in the database until fixed

Dev Team: 40 hours (Allow ~3 weeks)
Language Team: 150 hours





Spreadsheet suggested headings: WORD_LATIN, WORD_SYLLABIC, RELATED_PHRASE_LATIN, RELATED_PHRASE_SYLLABIC, AUDIO_TITLE_LATIN, AUDIO_TITLE_SYLLABIC