[Foundation-l] Strategic plan resolution

Robert Rohde rarohde at gmail.com
Thu Apr 30 07:00:13 UTC 2009

On Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 7:18 AM,  <syrcro at gmx.de> wrote:
> Most WMF-Wiki contributors have none or only fair English language skills.

[[citation needed]]  ;-)

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

-Robert Rohde

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