What many of us are sharing here are personal experiences, anecdotes from
one section of the community pyramid that Gerard mentioned. This can only
lead to inaccurate inferences about Indic languages. So, let's do some
Based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_in_India
, India's literacy
rate is 74.04% in 2011.
As I have no practical experience of education systems in other states, let
me take the example of Tamilnadu which has a literacy rate of 80.3%. The
19.7% illiteracy rate is a social issue and let's ignore it for this
analysis. This example can very well be related with other states and India
as a whole.
Tamilnadu had three educations systems mainly:
* *State board ( Majority of the students are enrolled in this and most
pursue education through Tamil as a medium of instruction*. *Even for
English medium students, learning Tamil as a language is mandatory for 10+2
years* ). Most of the government schools and government aided schools fall
under this category. You can refer
the number of schools in
Tamilnadu operating under government,
government aid and private sector. Except for few cities, government
schools are the majority.
* Matriculation, ICSE and other boards ( Medium of instruction is English
but most study Tamil as a language for 10+2 years). From this year, this
system is abolished and merged with state board's uniform syllabus.
* CBSE - Only a minority of schools are in this system. Medium of
instruction is English and a good number of people do study Tamil as a
language for 10 years.
So, all these people can read, write, understand and speak Tamil and are
functionally literate in their mother languages. Even if you assume that
some studied other languages instead of Tamil in matriculation or CBSE
syllabus, it is still a minority and can't exceed 10% by any means.
If you take the case of Srilanka, where Tamil is also an official language,
99% of the native Tamils complete their study in government schools with
Tamil as their medium of instruction. So, they are almost 100% literate in
their mother languages. *
I am sure that similar trends and statistics can be observed for other
Thanks for the
As you can see from the stats above, I do refute the central point
here as it is totally wrong. Being offended by it is my personal expression
and doesn't lack civility or make judgments about the one who posted the
inferences. If we do not raise our concern for valid issues, India will
continue to be seen as a country of snake charmers.
I am aware that mother language illiteracy is a raising problem in Indian
cities. But, as Bala said it is a social problem and out of Wikimedia's
mission. *Indic language projects are for the people and by the people who
primarily gain and share knowledge in those languages* and their percentage
is huge. Gaining readership / contribution from the minority English
comfortable audience should not be a priority and it will not be worth the
The problem mentioned by many Indic language Wikipedians is a bit
different. Since, many of the present day internet accessing Wikipedians do
have a city / middle class / English educated background, they are at loss
to write about different subjects in an encyclopedic quality. But, that
doesn't mean that they are proficient in English writing either as you can
witness from IEP. This is something to do with the quality and policy of
higher education in our country. But, this doesn't mean by anyway that
Indians are functionally illiterate in their own languages to the extend of
not knowing to read and write.
Here are some scenarios:
* People who know English and an Indic language well, know about Indic
language projects and still contribute in only one language. Nothing much
can be done to motivate them to switch the contributions. If they decide to
do it by themselves, it is huge WIN.
* People who know English and an Indic language well but do not know about
Indic language projects. It should be our highest priority to spread
awareness about Indic language projects to these people because they can
bring great experience from English Wikipedia. We do have the privilege of
having few contributors like them and their roles are phenomenal in shaping
* People who know only the Indic languages very well but do not know about
Wikipedia. It should also be our highest priority to spread awareness about
Wikipedia to these people. The moment they know that such a thing exists,
they will jump on it because people are so hungry for knowledge in their
own language. If you would like to know how we know this: We did a 3 day
long Tamil Internet workshop practically for thousands of people during a
language conference last year. People were so happy to know that they could
read, write, search in their own languages.
* People who know English only and contribute in En Wiki or MediaWiki. It
is good to be in touch with them to share best practices, technical
knowledge but do not expect content contributions from them. Even people
who learned Indic languages for 10+ years in schools are finding
WP:COMPETENCE to be of very high standard.
//*One of the reasons why these people are so relevant to me is that they
are part of the top of the pyramid that is our communities. They are the
people who work on our technology. We need people who are technically
capable and interested in working on MediaWiki. We need them as part of our
language communities because their effort has the ability to enable so many
more people. We need people to work on our fonts, our keyboard methods,
automatic transliteration ....//
*Most of the early contributors to Indic language projects have a
background in software / tech industry and are fairly competent to take
part in RFC, Bugzilla. So, you should have no problem reaching out to
respective communities in their village pumps to ask for their inputs.
Ultimately, it is only the community that is going to use it so better ask
it in advance. Also, please do not be of the opinion that a mere capability
to read and write by self learning is enough to decide on languages. Indic
language scripts and their grammar can be very complex and any tool
designed without understanding this will create problems. (Example: Unicode
problems in Malayalam, Tamil ) So, as Bala suggested you do need to
identify capable partners from language side. To start with the community
is a good start.
Regarding Grantha script, here is a long story short:
Many world languages had their own script first but many have converted to
Roman script now.
Many Indic languages had their own script. But now most of them have
adopted Devanagari script.
Tamil belongs to Dravidian family of languages which is very different from
Devanagari. So, the ancient Tamils used the Grantha script to write
Sanskrit. Grantha script has most of the sounds of Tamil but not all.
The recent Unicode proposal improvised the existing Grantha script to
include more characters that represent Tamil sound. The real intention as
expressed by the proposal was to use Grantha script to write both Grantha
and Tamil together which will in long term make sure that Tamil script is
lost and project Tamil as a subset of Grantha and in effect Indo European
language. Not only was this malicious but it was against the fundamental
grammar of both the languages. It is this proposal that has been held.
Tamils are not opposing Grantha being encoded in Unicode as it is with the
If you need more clarification on this, we can discuss outside the list.