[Foundation-l] Fwd: NYTimes.com: African Languages Grow as a Wikipedia Pr...

Gerard Meijssen gerard.meijssen at gmail.com
Sun Aug 27 22:12:06 UTC 2006

daniwo59 at aol.com wrote:
> I have a lot of sympathy and fondness for African languages. However, I  
> think the attitude we are taking is paternalistic. The same problems exist for  
> languages in many other corners of the world. Identifying this issue as uniquely 
>  "African" is paternalistic and, quite frankly, a tad racist. Why do we not  
> make the same efforts for Khmer (the official language of Cambodia, 66  
> articles), Burmese (the official language of Myanmar, with 32 million speakers,  and 
> just 66 articles), or Assamese (an official language of India with 20  
> million speakers and only 6 articles)?
> So, for starters, I would like to suggest that we replace  the term "African 
> languages" with "languages in developing regions."  Speakers of Pashto, Tajik, 
> and Malayalam stand to benefit from a strong  Wikipedia just as much as the 
> speakers of Swahili.
> Danny
For your information, I am on record that I need MediaWiki developers 
who speak a mothertongue that is part of different language families. I 
need this because http://wiktionaryz.org , intends to have all words of 
all languages and support all languages with a localised User Interface. 
As you may remember, the original goal of WZ is to be able to include 
all the information that is contained in the existing Wiktionary 
projects but have all the data in one database.

As you may know, and Danny certainly does, I am actively looking for 
partners to make this happen. Africa is different in many ways from 
Asia. It has problems of its own and one of the problems from an 
Internet pov is the isolation of the individual countries. Traffic from 
many African countries to other African countries go via Europe or 
America. The ISP's have to pay for receiving content from abroad the 
result is an abysmal price structure and poor service.

I have contacts both in Asia and in Africa and I am looking for the 
localisation of MediaWiki. It helps WiktionaryZ as it helps all the 
MediaWiki projects. There is nothing paternalistic in it; I do it for my 
own reasons. I hope to create a win-win situation by making sure that 
the benefits are evenly divided. When at this moment more attention is 
given to the unique problems of the African wiki, it has more to do that 
at this moment the focus is on African languages rather than on Asian 
languages. The Asian languages as a whole do much better than the 
African languages anyway.

My ambition is to localise MediaWiki for ALL languages from Ghana, 
Nigeria, India, Australia.. I know it is likely I will only achieve this 
for the major languages as a start, but it is good to be clear about 
ambitions. My ambition is to have all the languages of Australia and all 
the other languages as well. We already have portals for the Australian 
languages, it is unlikely that they will do well, then again most of the 
people who spoke many of these languages are gone. Australia is not a 
developing region without Internet infrastructure. Australians just seem 
not to have an interest for their indigenous languages.

It is imho wrong to call it languages in developing regions, it is not 
that simple and the article cited is about Wikipedia in its African 

PS At WiktionaryZ we now support Serbian, Thai and Ido, all in all some 
40 languages and we have almost 500 people who signed on to the project. 
I do not know how many Expressions or DefinedMeanings we have. :)


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