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

Delirium delirium at hackish.org
Tue Aug 29 00:26:12 UTC 2006

Jimmy Wales wrote:
> 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. 
> Who is?  I have not seen this.
>> 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)?
> I think we absolutely ARE taking efforts in ALL parts of the world, 
> simultaneously.  I had a meeting in Delhi with someone who is interested 
> in pursuing a joint project to develop African languages.
> I have no idea who you have in mind who thinks anything racist or 
> paternalistic about African languages, but if they do, then they do not 
> represent the attitudes of the broad community or me.

I think the fear being expressed, or in any case the one I'll express, 
is that there are a bunch of Americans and Europeans saying that we 
ought to do such-and-such about African languages, or such-and-such to 
change African societies for the better---basically, paternalistic 
attitudes that the enlightened Westerners have arrived on their glorious 
steeds of Information to fix the problems of Africa.  See also, 
[[en:white man's burden]].

A non-paternalistic attitude would be to treat African languages like we 
treat all other languages.  Even though quite a few Westerners are 
interested in the subject of spreading information in China, for 
example, the Chinese-language projects have been run by Chinese speakers.


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