When 50% or our editors have English language skills it is certainly helpful
but it is not necessarily a good thing. It means that we are failing in our
efforts to get more editors who do not have English language skills. While
all the other languages get 57% of the edits we still have no studies on
these other languages. We still do not know what makes a difference for
these other languages. We still do not know the effect of the current lack
of support for most of our languages. For most of our languages we do not
even have the 500 most used messages localised !!
When you look at the self assessment that people give themselves at
, you will find that many people do not rate their
competency level in English as really good but these are the people who
localise MediaWiki and who determine the usability of the user interface in
their language. Given that as part of the internationalisation effort, the
English language messages are checked by the developers at
translatewiki.netand are often improved, you can appreciate that not
only are most
localisation incomplete but there is also a need for proof reading and
improving the existing localisations.
In his reply Michael mentioned a need for the translation in to other
languages and I certainly agree that there is a need for spreading the
information we have as widely as possible. As important is learning what the
important issues are in the projects in other languages. As there are no
studies about this, we only assume that "these things will sort themselves
out". Sometimes they do, but I am convinced that we would do much better for
our "other" languages when they are given equal attention.
When 57% of our edits are in other languages, it would follow that equal
attention would be much more then what it is today. Given the current
structure of the WMF organisation there will always be a bias for English
and much of the dissemination of information will remain mainly in English.
Support for the projects in other languages can be given more importance.
There are many things that can be done to achieve much more. Some technical
and some organisational. There are plenty low hanging fruits but they will
only be picked when language support is given a priority.
2009/4/30 Robert Rohde <rarohde(a)gmail.com>
On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 7:18 AM,
Most WMF-Wiki contributors have none or only fair
[] ;-)
I absolutely agree that WMF should continue its multilingual efforts
and I consider our ability to produce so many language variants as one
of our great strengths. That said, I suspect that greater than 50% of
the editing community actually has decent English skills.
I'd base this supposition on two observations. One, the English
language projects collectively have received 43% of all edits to all
WMF projects (most of this is the English Wikipedia, of course).
Secondly, even for people that primarily work in other languages, a
significant fraction are likely to know English as a supplemental
language. According to Wikipedia, roughly 1 in 10 people whose native
tongue is not English will also know how to speak English, and I would
argue that the demographics of the WMF crowd (e.g. skewed towards
educated, tech savvy, first world types) would drive that ratio even
higher than that.
So, putting those details together, I suspect that a majority of edits
are in fact made by someone who is either working in English or would
be capable of communicating in English if they needed to.be reached
that way. By extension, I would suggest that around 50% of the WMF
editing community is English capable.
Obviously these are crude numbers, but I think they serve as a
reminder of the huge role that English plays in the WMF projects (some
might even say a disproportionate role).
Of course, even if my rough argument is true, I would not want to
disenfranchise the many thousands of active contributors in the other
50% or disadvantage the many smaller projects, so such arguments
should not be a detriment to our translation efforts. If anything,
perhaps they should be a cause for concern and an impetus to further
develop other language communities so that they come to more
adequately reflect the distribution of languages in the world at
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