[Foundation-l] Language Review Committee

Robert Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Tue Apr 3 20:00:16 UTC 2007

Jeff V. Merkey wrote:
> This thread has gone on for some time with very little constructive 
> suggestions, and lots of accusations flying back and forth.  
> I am not certain I understand all the objections.
> The requirement that people starting new Wiki's actually BE NATIVE 
> that a MEDIAWIKI
> MESSAGES FILE be created is very reasonable and a great barrier to entry 
> to keep out those who are not competent with a
> target language.  It seems those complaining about it the most are folks 
> who may not be fluent enough to be able to complete
> a Messages File for MediaWiki.
> Just because people have a few college classes in "outer frabanian" or 
> some other obscure languages does not warrant the foundation
> going through the expense and time of setting up a wiki for a group of 
> folks who A) are not part of the culture the language
> is concerned with B) don't speak it or are immersed in it well enough to 
> understand the underlying cultural impacts.
> The whole idea is to promote other languages to a target audience of 
> speakers, not to create "busy projects" for folks with nothing
> better to do with their time who are marginally interested in a 
> particular language.
> Jeff
I disagree that native speakers of a language are necessarily a 
mandatory requirement here, but fluency in the language certainly ought 
to be a major component for those expressing a desire to support the 
language.  Some languages I would have note with very strong non-native 
support would include Latin and Esperanto.  I find the articles in the 
Latin Wikipedia (and Wikibooks!) to be facinating and wonderfully 
imaginative.  Not just made up stuff, but written with a unique flair 
and style that gives a sometimes refreshing take to what I read in 
English Wikipedia.  And many of these articles are of an incredibly high 
scholarship quality as well.  It takes a particularly skillful vandal to 
do vandalism in Latin.

If non-native support is to be given to a particular language, some very 
high standards ought to apply that perhaps would have to exceed a 
similar effort by native speakers.  I think that is reasonable.  Not to 
rehash the issue again, but the Klingon-language Wikipedia did suffer 
from a lack of fluent individuals who really understood the language 
beyond just a few choice curses and fan-speak at Trek conventions.  
Perhaps that language could be revisited again in the future, but the 
literacy of individuals speaking this particular language (and other 
constructed languages) would have to be noticeably higher.

I would like to see support for those languages that may have a huge 
potential for growth in the future, or for which a large number of 
native speakers want to get involved with even if they don't necessarily 
have technical skills like manipulating a configuration file.  This is 
asking quite a bit for people who can't read English (or a major 
European language) to even understand what it is they are supposed to do 
or where to get that help.

One project I like to pick on quite a bit when new projects are talked 
about is the IsiZulu language Wikibooks.  It currently has only one 
page, written in English.  IsiZulu Wikipedia has only 190 pages 
written.  Yet it is an "official" language of South Africa and 
recognized for official proceedings like judicial hearings in some 
provinces, and has over 10 million native speakers.  Potentially the 
growth of the IsiZulu Wikibooks could be huge even if at the moment it 
is a project that needs to be ignored.  In this case, if somebody was 
able to actually take a college course or two on the language, it would 
be helpful to developing this project even if it were just a raw 
academic exercise, as native support at some time in the future could 
build upon the efforts of these non-native contributors.

I would have to agree that native speakers ought to be given some 
consideration, particularly at the early stages of a project.  And 
respect for the culture of those native speakers should also be given a 
very high priority.  But as mandatory requirements for creation and 
participation I have to respectfully disagree.

-- Robert Horning

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