Set up your alphabet with a batch spreadsheet



FirstVoices hosts custom, interactive alphabets with many useful and interesting features. Custom alphabets on FirstVoices provide features such as:

  • Custom alphabetization and search in your Dictionary for words and phrases

  • “Listen to each letter” page for learners to hear the sounds of your language

  • Alphabet-related games, such as Parachute and Wordle

Creating your custom alphabet is an important step in setting up a new FirstVoices site, which will ensure that your site dictionary functions properly and is easy for visitors to use.

c̕išaaʔatḥ alphabet with audio clip and example word

In order to set up your alphabet, you will need to create a batch spreadsheet (.csv file) which contains the basic necessary information about your alphabet. This article will help walk you through creating it. The Language Administrator will submit the alphabet information to the FirstVoices team, who are responsible for uploading it to the site.

It is important to set up your custom alphabet at the beginning of your project, before publicly launching your site, so that visitors do not encounter any errors or issues with functionality.


Prepare your language alphabet

Gather information

  1. Identify and finalize the list of characters/letters in your writing system.

    • Existing language teaching resources or dictionaries are a great starting place for this. Many already contain existing lists of letters, or you can identify letters based on existing spellings.

    • If you have already begun uploading words and content to your site, you can examine the letters you are already using.

    • If there is not a standard writing system for your language, or if there are several possible options for how to write, it is a good idea to engage in consultation within your community around the appropriate writing system for your language site.

  2. Decide on the correct order for your alphabet.

    • Example: In English, a=1, b=2, c=3...

  3. Identify different ways to type the characters/letters in your writing system. For example, lowercase and uppercase versions, or accented versions.

    • Some languages' writing systems use only lowercase letters, or only uppercase letters. If your language’s writing system uses both lowercase AND uppercase letters, you will need to identify the correct symbols for both lower and upper case.
      Example: <k> = <K>, <kw> = <Kw>

    • Many writing systems use accents. In some languages, the accented letter is treated as a separate letter. In others, the accented letter is treated as just another version of the original letter. If your language’s writing system uses accented letters, you will need to provide the correct symbols either as separate letters or as alternate versions.
      Example: <e> = <é>, <a> = <ā> (but not <ą>)

  4. (Optional) Identify how people may commonly type your language’s characters if they are unfamiliar with your writing system.

    • Examples:

      • The character < ł > might be equivalent to < lh > using Latin characters.

      • Instead of < >, learners may only type < k >.

If you would like assistance in planning for or engaging in community consultation, please email the LTP team ( or James (

Organize your findings

At the end of this process, you should have a list of the characters in your alphabet and some information about each one. For example:


Other versions

Learners might write


Other versions

Learners might write





A à À


Ą ą̀ Ą̀





You can also choose to add extra information at this step. For example, you might wish to list an example word for each letter, or write in some additional notes. You will not submit these as part of the batch spreadsheet, but they may be helpful to your team for following steps.


Record sample pronunciations for your alphabet (recommended)

FirstVoices language sites allow you to include an audio or video file along with each letter, which can help learners become familiar with the pronunciation. It can be a good learning opportunity to create these recordings while you are setting up the alphabet for the first time.

  1. Decide what information should be included in the recording.

    • Some communities include only the sound associated with the character (example).

    • Other communities 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, for each character.

  3. Follow these instructions for managing data for your project and naming/storing your audio files.

    • Important: When you are finished, you will need one audio file for each letter.


Create the batch spreadsheet

The language team must collect their alphabet information into a spreadsheet (.csv) in the correct format for it to be uploaded to FirstVoices.

Download submission template

View and download our template spreadsheet for alphabet submission here:

Add basic information to your alphabet spreadsheet

  1. Open the alphabet submission template.

  2. Choose the columns you wish to include. CHAR and ORDER are required – the others are optional. If a column is not applicable to your alphabet, you can leave it blank, 'hide' it, or delete it.

  3. Enter the information you gathered about your alphabet into the spreadsheet columns. Definitions of each column are in the table below.


What goes here?




What goes here?




The character in your writing system.

If there are multiple versions of this character (e.g. upper and lower case), use the more “basic” one that is used most often.




Any alternate variations of the character in your writing system, separated by spaces.

If there are no alternate versions of the character (e.g. you only use lower case, no accents, etc), leave this blank.




The equivalent character in English, approximate characters that are commonly used by learners, or alternate spellings.




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




Save and submit the spreadsheet to FirstVoices staff

  1. Save your spreadsheet in CSV UTF-8 (Comma delimited) (.csv) file format. The file name for the spreadsheet should follow our batch upload rules.

    • Double check the spreadsheet by closing it and opening it again. Do your special characters all look correct?

  2. Send your spreadsheet to FirstVoices as an email attachment to <>.

  3. FirstVoices staff will review your batch, perform the upload, and set up alphabet functionality on your site. Please allow 1-2 weeks for this to be completed.


Add additional information to the online alphabet (such as recordings)

Once your alphabet has been uploaded to FirstVoices, Language Administrators will have access to continue adding more information such as example words, images, or the example pronunciation files you have recorded.


Example alphabet spreadsheets

Check out these helpful sample spreadsheets, demonstrating how to enter a writing system that uses uppercase characters, lowercase characters, or both.

Both upper and lower case

Upper case only

Lower case only

Both upper and lower case

Upper case only

Lower case only