Audio Storybooks

These are stories of traditional activities, played on computer with colour images and the complete native language text in the author's voice. The main body of each story is in native language only. Click on any native language text to hear it spoken. English translations are at the end of each story and are also accessible at any point by clicking the page number.

Catharine Germaine's Northern Tutchone, Mayo dialect version of At Home

In the first ten years of audio story book production, 1996-2006, more than 100 books have been made. The original books were distributed on 3.25" floppy disks, and were designed for computers with 4 Mb of RAM. They played only on Macintosh. Advances in technology allowed many improvements. Books could be played on Macs or Windows, be distributed on CD, have better graphics, and feature music-CD quality sound. Currently, all new books are available on the web and play in any relatively modern browser. Over time, the older titles will also be moved to web format. Some of these will contain the original sound files which are of lower quality but still invaluable.

Sound is a useful tool for teaching and learning any language. But sound is even more useful for native language teaching where the emphasis, especially in earlier grades, is on oral rather than written language. And in some communities there are few oportunities for school children to be exposed to spoken native language. The Yukon Native Language Centre recognizes the importance of reflecting local ways of speaking in its materials. The Audio Story Books along with the Language Lessons and other materials help promote and preserve local speech.

Making an Audio Story Book

The YNLC's procedure for making an audio story book appears to be unique. Other groups begin with print media, often in English, and from that develop a native language multimedia version. But with languages without long established literary traditions, such as Yukon native languages, this always appears to introduce transcription and other errors. Also, if beginning with English, the translation often contains awkward constructions or culturally inappropriate concepts.

A YNLC story book begins with a set of black and white picture pages. The author composes a story in her own language to match the pictures, and on each page she writes the text corresponding to the picture. When the native language text is complete, the author provides an English translation. Next, the author's voice is recorded, sentence by sentence, onto the computer. The voice recordings and the native language text are then combined with colour pictures into the first draft of the audio story book. At this stage the linguists can verify that the native language text is spelled correctly by playing the voice recordings, and they can confirm that the English translation is accurate. Then the book is posted to the web.

If a print version is desired, it is made after the audio version is finished.

The centre regularly receives requests for information on the hardware and software used to make the audio publications. These technologies change all the time. Currently (2006), the web based versions are almost entirely in html. Just the sound files use Flash. This maximizes speed, ease of use, and ease of making corrections.

Using an Audio Storybook

All books have a title page, a series of story pages in native language, a series of translation pages, and the author's biography. Pages are turned either by clicking on the right arrow or by using the navigation bar at left. Every sentence in native language can be clicked to hear it spoken by the author. A student may listen to the same sentence as many times as he or she wishes. On each story page the page number may be clicked to go to the associated translation page to see the English version of the sentences. The web versions of the storybooks respond very quickly to the user's inputs. There is almost no waiting for files to download. Moving from page to page and playing sound often seems to be instantaneous.