I have a similar question, although not as complicated. I've come across some documents written in other lanquages, mostly French, I was wondering should I use the French or foreign characters or use the normal alphabet for better searchability?
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What a wonderful and thoughtful post Julia, thank you for this. Your ideas are very much in line with some of the discussion we've had here with our curatorial and reference librarian colleagues around improving access to materials in languages/characters other than English/latin alphabet.
In brief, we'd like for volunteers to transcribe documents as they appear, because it might be helpful for people who are doing research into spelling, linguists or in this case phonetics. My fellow Community Manager, Lauren, and I have both looked at the letter and we concur with your observation that it's not a straight forward task in this case. As with much palaeography or scholarly editing there are always layers of interpretation.
For now, I'd suggest that you and anyone else encountering phonetic spelling or materials in languages other than English, transcribe things as closely to the original as possible and then offer a translation at the bottom of the page if you can. As you observe, this will make materials accessible for screen readers.
If something has gone through review and is effectively locked on crowd.loc.gov, posting a link to the original page and offering a translation here would be a helpful alternative. Then alert us so we can see about how to bring the translations back into the catalog.
We have not yet agreed on a pathway for bringing translations back into the catalog, and of course translations are even more open to interpretation than transcription, so there's some more to think through there.
I hope that this is a helpful answer for now.
Thanks again for your thoughtful questions and ideas.