Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Struggle of an African-language Wikipedia

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the getting-eyes-on-the-pages dept.

234

A reader writes to mention an International Herald Tribune article discussing the troubles an African-language Wikipedia faces in getting underway. While there is a lot of interest, the primary obstacle is that of exposure: the majority of people on the continent of Africa do not have internet access. From the article: "What use is an encyclopedia when literacy rates among a language's speakers approach zero? (This is not a problem for Swahili.) And who should control the content in a local language if not enough native speakers are inclined, or able, to contribute? If it had been native speakers only who contributed to the Swahili version, that Wikipedia might not exist at all."

cancel ×

234 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

No, the article is not true! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990231)

The IHT is full of Wikipedia-sabotaging liars and editors who coudlnt write for their lifes. I know this because Wikipedia told me so.

Re:No, the article is not true! (0, Troll)

GerardM (535367) | about 8 years ago | (#15990397)

You apparantly did not read it carefully because had you done so you would have known it was originally published in the New York times.
Thanks,
GerardM

African bushman entry (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990232)

Click clack click click click clack

Re:African bushman entry (-1, Offtopic)

gary chund (697151) | about 8 years ago | (#15990509)

Yeah, hilarious...

fuck those niggers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990511)

Who gives a fuck about those stupid nigger fuck-heads anyway?

Re:African bushman entry (1, Offtopic)

228e2 (934443) | about 8 years ago | (#15990514)

dont incourage this kind of ignorance. this is disrecpectful and childish. mod this flamebait, not funny.

Re:African bushman entry (1)

Devil_Hack (995513) | about 8 years ago | (#15990681)

Did you guys read his comment? Why is it modded "Funny"? It's not even meant to be so...

Re:African bushman entry (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | about 8 years ago | (#15990701)

Cut him some slack; his father was killed by non-pulmonic consonants.

Re:African bushman entry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990897)

It's too bad some the mods modded down the GP and that you were offened because you are unfamiliar with African culture. The way the GP expressed how he heard their language is exactly how their languange sounds to Western ears. See this movie:
The Gods Must Be Crazy [imdb.com]
It's very funny, pokes fun at Western consumerism, and has some wonderful African songs - I had a fantacy of moving there myself!

Re:African bushman entry (-1, Flamebait)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | about 8 years ago | (#15990962)

Besides, the "African Wikipedia" is actually the exact same thing as the "current" one, except that ALL TEXT IS UPPPER CASE AND ALL USERNAMES BEGIN WITH "BARRISTER_".

Well, translation. (4, Interesting)

dave1g (680091) | about 8 years ago | (#15990250)

Why not pick out some important articles, or high quality articles from the other languages, taking into account relevency to africans, just trnaslate them over as seed material.

Re:Well, translation. (3, Funny)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | about 8 years ago | (#15990265)

Well, they should have no problems with Nigerian...

Huh? QWZX (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990286)

...taking into account relevency to africans...

Relevancy to Africans? Is this some kind of subtle racism? What would you suggest, the history of fried chicken? The best way to grow collard greens? Maybe the article on 'bling'? The violence of black culture? Just what are you saying?

Africans, not stereotypes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990501)

The grandparent said Africans, as in those who are probably still in Africa. Only you had to go and add Black American stereotypes (not African Americans, but your traditional National Lampoon Black Man (tm)).

Flamebait was a good mod for you, previous Anonymous Coward.

Not going to be PC (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990321)

Okay, first, I speak, read and write 6 languages (English, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Spanish) so please don't accuse me of language bigotry.

But if their literacy rate is approaching zero, why not teach the kids english alongside their language? English is the lingua franca of the world and they will have a lot more content at their hands than if they simply learned their language.*

I'm not saying that they shouldn't learn their language, it is important that they do to keep their culture alive. However, there is not one African language, but many - a ton of local language, moreso than Europe. A common English language will also help them communicate with each other better and will be a win/win for all concerned.

Re:Not going to be PC (1)

westlake (615356) | about 8 years ago | (#15990476)

why not teach the kids english alongside their language? English is the lingua franca of the world

Engish or Special English is at least a more plausible solution to this sort of problem than Esperanto [laptop.org]

Re:Not going to be PC (4, Interesting)

sita (71217) | about 8 years ago | (#15990521)

But if their literacy rate is approaching zero, why not teach the kids english alongside their language? English is the lingua franca of the world and they will have a lot more content at their hands than if they simply learned their language.*

I'm not saying that they shouldn't learn their language, it is important that they do to keep their culture alive. However, there is not one African language, but many - a ton of local language, moreso than Europe. A common English language will also help them communicate with each other better and will be a win/win for all concerned.


It is not controversial at all.

There are quite a few languages in Africa, that, for all practical purposes, do not exist in a written form. As peculiar as this may seem there is little interest to change that. In countries where there are perhaps ten major ethnic groups with distinct languages, there is a point in that the written language is that of the former colonial power (normally French or English). Elevating one of the domestic languages to official status could be recipe for disaster (unless this one language is dominant enough).

Lingala (4, Informative)

jefu (53450) | about 8 years ago | (#15990587)

In the Congo, there are a number of tribal languages (a couple of hundred, if I remember correctly) and several major trade languages that are common across large regions (I was in the Peace Corps there a ways back and my electricity bill came in seven languages). But Mobuto (President at the time) spoke Lingala and was pushing it hard as the primary official language. The people in the eastern part of the country (where Kiswahili was the lingua franca) resented it more than a bit, and especially resented the administrators who would come to the area and who spoke no Kiswahili at all. Of course, this is linked in with tribalism as well as resentment of Mobutu (who was not a nice person). As a result, the common language that really unified the country was French (which most educated people spoke quite well).

Re:Not going to be PC (1)

prichardson (603676) | about 8 years ago | (#15990522)

French would be a better language to teach. It's easier to learn, and it's a language already in use by most of the ivory coast.

Re:Not going to be PC (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15990749)

It is not easier to learn, there are many more rules and intricacies, and many more exceptions to those rules, and it is much harder to understand when poorly written or spoken.

Re:Not going to be PC (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990850)

it is much harder to understand when poorly written or spoken.

Case in point: Quebec. Awfully snobby for a people who effectively speak a hillbilly dalect of their language.

Re:Not going to be PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990870)

I concur. Now Spanish *is* an easy language to learn. Spanish is probably the best designed of the major languages (IMHO). I would guess that it would take probably half the time to learn Spanish than it would to learn English.

Re:Not going to be PC (0, Offtopic)

TheoMurpse (729043) | about 8 years ago | (#15990622)

I speak, read and write 6 languages (English, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Spanish) so please don't accuse me of language bigotry.
What about Korean, you imperialist bastard!

Re:Not going to be PC (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990652)

Just English isn't the answer as there's a lot of countries where English isn't a second langauage at all. In many parts of Africa, you're more likely to see French as an alternative. So, in a way, you could suggest 3 versions: English, French, Spanish, and if you don't know one of those three, too bad.

Re:Not going to be PC (3, Insightful)

supabeast! (84658) | about 8 years ago | (#15990676)

"But if their literacy rate is approaching zero, why not teach the kids english alongside their language?"

Because the instructors would have to know English. Africa is full of little farming villages where few people, if any, speak either of the big international languages (English and French). So in many cases, there simply isn't anyone to teach those languages.

Re:Not going to be PC (4, Insightful)

BakaHoushi (786009) | about 8 years ago | (#15990694)

Not to derail, but your post reminds me of a little line from the Hitchhiker's Guide, about how the Bable fish and its destruction of all barriers of communication managed to cause more wars in the galaxy than anything else.

It makes me think if some countries are violent now when they CAN'T understand each other, just imagine the bloodshed when they DO.

What's the use? (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 8 years ago | (#15990878)

I lived in Africa for over 30 years (was born there). I can speak two African languages (seriously rustry now though). The first thing I think is very stupid is that the internet & computers have little relevance to most Africans. Even in South Africa, probably the most literate and equipped country in Africa, most African people don't have internet, computers, phones etc. A significant % have no power and no bank accounts etc and live a subsistence life. The vast majority are extremely poor and if they had a few hundred bucks to throw around, they would not be spending it on computers, but far more basic stuff.

The second major point I'd like to raise is the absurdity of geekdom and the crazy notion that a geek solution is what is needed. No need for clean water, roads and basic education. Nope: give them computers & wikipedia. If you really want to help an African, go to him and ask him what he needs first.

Re:Not going to be PC (1)

dulridge (454779) | about 8 years ago | (#15991000)

If my experience from twenty years ago is still valid, many Africans, at least in the bit that used to be British ruled, are only literate in English. All teaching in Zambia past about Grade 4 was in English, or to be more accurate, the Zambian dialect of English.

I shared a house with a guy who spoke more than a dozen languages. However, I saw him when his parents wrote to him. His father wrote to him in Tumbuka - he'd write out a translation in English, compose a reply in English, write it out, then translate it into Tumbuka and write that out.

His mother wrote to him in Chichewa and he'd go through the same painful process.

This seemed to be fairly common with the folks I worked with (teachers all in a high school) - but would be hard to check as every single one of them has died of AIDS. If they had had electricity, let alone Internet access, they would mostly have looked in English first anyway.

This may not be rpepresentative of the areas that could use Swahili though.

Who cares about nigger languages (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990558)

I hate niggers

Re:Well, translation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990704)

If not many people are interested, then not many people will mourn its absence, no?

Africa is not a country.... (0, Flamebait)

eggoeater (704775) | about 8 years ago | (#15990260)

Why just one wiki for Africa?
Many people in the US think Africa is a country...it's a continent!
MANY languages.
MANY cultures.
MANY countries.

Imagine if Wikipedia said "OK, Asia only gets one Wikipedia; Europe only gets one Wikipedia."
Yeah, right...like that would fly.

This is where Africa usually gets the shaft: it's treated as a whole; any effort usually benefits the populous/popular countries.
(eg. world response to massive genocide.)

Re:Africa is not a country.... (3, Insightful)

vidarlo (134906) | about 8 years ago | (#15990304)

Imagine if Wikipedia said "OK, Asia only gets one Wikipedia; Europe only gets one Wikipedia." Yeah, right...like that would fly.

UK and US shares one wiki, the english. It is shared with all english speaking countries, and all english speakers across the world. Country-based wikis is not needed IMHO, but naturally you'll need one for every language.

The blurb even discusses a specific language, so thus your comment is not rooted in the article: It is neverthless an important notice, because we tend to forget.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (2, Informative)

jamiethehutt (572315) | about 8 years ago | (#15990727)

UK and US shares one wiki, the english.

Us Scots have our own wiki at http://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikipedia.org] , and we're part of the UK.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15990760)

That is in a different language, sort of.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (1, Informative)

joto (134244) | about 8 years ago | (#15990347)

Why just one wiki for Africa? [snip (rant about Africa being diversified)]

The author (Noam Cohen) of the original article know that. The wikipedians know that. You know that. I know that. Probably even most likely the majority of /.'s readers know that. The only people so far to conclusively prove that he/she has no clue at all, is the original submitter (Sharon Weinberger), and the slashdot editor Zonk. If you feel like blaming someone, blame them, not Noam Cohen or the wikipedians involved.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | about 8 years ago | (#15990404)

Not even the original submitter or Zonk are even saying that... it says "an African-language Wikipedia" which implies there's more than one.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (1)

HeroreV (869368) | about 8 years ago | (#15990767)

You aren't seriously trying to claim that "an" is plural, are you? Wow, I've never seen that before.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | about 8 years ago | (#15990787)

No, I'm claiming that "an" implies that there are others. If there was only one it would be "the".

Re:Africa is not a country.... (2, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | about 8 years ago | (#15990386)

Why just one wiki for Africa?

Stupid idea. But no one is saying that. Try RTFA. (Yes, the Slashdot summary says "the troubles an African-language Wikipedia faces" ... but that does not imply there is ONLY one African wikipedia, and TFA mentions that 38 already exist.)

Re:Africa is not a country.... (3, Interesting)

slamb (119285) | about 8 years ago | (#15990398)

Why just one wiki for Africa? ... This is where Africa usually gets the shaft: it's treated as a whole; any effort usually benefits the populous/popular countries

There isn't. Just skimming the list, I see Afrikaans [wikipedia.org] , Swahili [wikipedia.org] , Kongo [wikipedia.org] , Somali [wikipedia.org] , and Luganda [wikipedia.org] .

In the case of Swahili, I think they're a lot closer to the true reason when mentioning Internet access. It's not that no one has Internet access at all - you'd be surprised who has an email address and what places have an Internet café. But it costs maybe 1,000 Tanzanian schillings (~ $.75) per hour. Tanzania's GDP per capita is $700, so an hour of Internet access costs the "mean person" 40% of his money for that day. I think that GDP figure's deceptive because many of the tribespeople don't even use money during an average day, so let's quadruple it. An hour of Internet access takes 10% of your money for the day. You're still not going to be sitting down at the computer pumping out wiki article after wiki article. The people who can afford to are all fluent in English. It's an official language of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Many of the schools teach in it, and people are eager to practice using it.

On the other hand, after OLPC gets into East Africa (not soon, I fear), there will be many, many people with plenty of computer time. They'll be able to download articles, modify them offline, and upload new revisions later. If they find a Swahili wikipedia valuable, it will take off.

Re:Africa is not a country.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990601)

Translation: "I am a screeching PC idiot who can't even be bothered to read the article before going off on a rant".

Wikipedia is not national (1)

Amgine0 (751874) | about 8 years ago | (#15990660)

Wikimedia Foundation projects are broken out by languages, not countries. French wikipedia http://fr.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org] is edited from every continent, because the language is spoken in so many different places. Norwegian is less-widely spoken, and has two different wikipedias due to two different spelling systems (Nynorsk http://nn.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org] and Bokmål http://no.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org] ).


So Wikipedia is available in more than 220 languages already (complete list of current languages/projects http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Special:SiteMatrix [wikimedia.org] . More than two dozen of those languages are spoken in Africa, and more languages are actively under development. It's not that Africa is treated as a monolithic whole; it's that some languages have more people online and interested in developing a 'pedia for themsleves than others.

Stephen Colbert could've helped (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990267)

I mean, he knows a lot about Africa, like that fact the elephant population has tripled in the last six months. But Wikipedia banned him. Sounds like biting the hand that feeds Africa.

Control the content? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990279)

What's this about controlling the content of different groups? I thought the point of a Wikipedia was that people were free to contribute, not be locked out because of race or color.

Great! Now we can look to the Wikipedia as a tool for promoting discrimination.

Re:Control the content? (1)

Forge (2456) | about 8 years ago | (#15990664)

RTFA again. Please

So, why only native speakers? (3, Insightful)

vidarlo (134906) | about 8 years ago | (#15990282)

What use is an encyclopedia when literacy rates among a language's speakers approach zero? (This is not a problem for Swahili.) And who should control the content in a local language if not enough native speakers are inclined, or able, to contribute? If it had been native speakers only who contributed to the Swahili version, that Wikipedia might not exist at all.
I'm not a native english speaker. Yet I contribute to the english wikipedia, because I feel I master the language. If people feel they master swahili, why should they not be free to contribute? It can be used as a starting point, as literacy rates increase. If people is to learn to read, they need something to read. Free content/knowledge is important, since it can reduce costs in schools and such. So in my eyes, the most important thing is to make a wikipedia with some basic content, and a lot of stubs, and let people contribute to these as they become literate. It *can* be a valueable tool, and we should do what we can do! Let us improve the free media availvable, and work for translation of it. If we could get a government institution to recognize wikipedia in their local language, we could bring it a long way forward in that language, and naturally ensure that the history of the country gets written down - in a open content.

Re:So, why only native speakers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990349)

Either you're a victim of Skitt's law [wikipedia.org] , or you don't "master" the English language.

Re:So, why only native speakers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990672)

I feel I master the language.

Really? How many times? Do you master it a lot? Perhaps you should learn how to declare you have mastered a language before you try to.

If people is to learn to read

If "people is to learn" to read they aren't going to have much success learning plural and singular verb forms from someone who masters English.

You might want to master the comma as well.

Re:So, why only native speakers? (2, Funny)

SpectreHiro (961765) | about 8 years ago | (#15990700)

I was going to pick on you, but the sad fact is that your written english skills are superior to those of an average american.

Re:So, why only native speakers? (2, Insightful)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15990770)

That's simply not true.

Re:So, why only native speakers? (1)

Slurgi (892128) | about 8 years ago | (#15990765)

Yet I contribute to the english wikipedia, because I feel I master the language.
While I agree with your post as a whole, it's interesting that it is filled with incorrectly used commas and incorrect verb tense. Perhaps you should be more hesitant to edit the English Wikipedia.

Mission Impossible Part 94 (-1, Troll)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 8 years ago | (#15990291)

Producing encyclopedias in every language is futile and a waste of resources. They should produce an online encyclopedia in English that is worth spit, but unfortunately we're stuck with Wikipedia, the million monkey solution to scholarship.

You know what Wikipedia really is about? It's an encyclopedia of popular consensus [windycitymike.com] , not scholarship. I'm only grateful that it wasn't around in the 1930s, because we'd have had huge popular consensuses on eugenics as the way forward for humanity and the utility (or not) of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and other untermenschen, articles on how much of a crackpot Alfred Wegener was for claiming that the continents moved, and the health giving benefits of smoking.

Re:Mission Impossible Part 94 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990423)

It's an encyclopedia of popular consensus, not scholarship.

Not only that, but when a certifiable nut case throws some money at them, they immediately bend over backwards to please him, even if it means throwing away relevant facts that displease said nut case (such as the fact that Jeff Merkey "deliberately describes his own, separate reality") and banning anyone who would dare to insert these facts into his page.

Re:Mission Impossible Part 94 (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 8 years ago | (#15990492)

That's the thing about popular consensus - it can be bought for real money.

Who? (1)

in2mind (988476) | about 8 years ago | (#15990305)

.. who should control the content in a local language if not enough native speakers are inclined, or able, to contribute?

Translators.

Re:Who? (2, Interesting)

RealGrouchy (943109) | about 8 years ago | (#15990363)

This looks like a job for the Gates Foundation, or maybe Google. Create some automated translation software, so that ready-made articles (admittedly these will tend to not be about local african topics) can be automatically translated into local indigenous languages [yahoo.com] . Then, humans will only have to clean up the errors that are inherent in any automated translation system.

Some languages (Latin, German?) would be better to translate from than others which have many ambiguous interpretations (English, Engrish).

It is important to preserve small languages, as language is the medium which directs perspective. If we all spoke the same language, the diversity of perspectives would be much smaller. There's a recent book called "Spoken Here", which talks about efforts to preserve dying languages. In it, he brings up the point of perspective. In some languages, words are classified in relationships that we can't even imagine in the Western world. The significance of these relationships dies out when the languages do.

- RG>

ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 8 years ago | (#15990375)

Then, humans will only have to clean up the errors that are inherent in any automated translation system.

Show us that this is easier than writing the article from scratch. Have you even tried reading the output of Babel Fish on a typical Japanese page?

Re:ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15990844)

Rather than it shows in us and this being writing the article from scratch, easy. You try the fact that the output of Babelfish is read in the typical Japanese page and are high.

That is your post, auto translated from English->Japanese->English.

MOD PARENT UP... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 8 years ago | (#15990861)

...for the first topical use of AYBABTU ever in a Slashdot post.

Try English (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990306)

Might have better luck then using that, instead of some outdated worthless language used by a bunch of jungle bunnies that dont even need to know how to read.

obvious answers to some issues raised in article (1, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | about 8 years ago | (#15990310)

Language has largely lliterate people? Make a multimedia encyclopedia, including articles on how to read and write!

And that bit about academics who look down on contributions from amateurs just frosts me, their sole purpose and job is to teach: providing leadership, correction, quality improvement, and encouragement to amateur contributors to a resevoir of knowledge should be looked on as a wonderful opportunity, not a distraction or annoyance.

Re:obvious answers to some issues raised in articl (1)

westlake (615356) | about 8 years ago | (#15990568)

Language has largely lliterate people? Make a multimedia encyclopedia, including articles on how to read and write!

Multimedia is a language in itself.
Complex and challenging both to teach and to lean. Those who can use it effectively are rare. Sesame Street [wikipedia.org]

Re:obvious answers to some issues raised in articl (3, Insightful)

jeffsenter (95083) | about 8 years ago | (#15990677)

Language has largely lliterate people? Make a multimedia encyclopedia, including articles on how to read and write!

[sarcasm] Because although they are illiterate they have plenty of access to the internet, multimedia computers, and good computer training. [/sarcasm]

A better idea would be to take some of those $100 laptops and put a really good locally tailored learn-to-read program on them and give them to very poor rural villages. This is assuming the $100 laptop has good enough sound to handle the task.

A non-issue (4, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | about 8 years ago | (#15990314)

I hate to sound like a troll, but who cares? No, seriously, if there's a language which too few of its speakers can possibly care about Wikipedia (since too few of them can access it) then who cares?

Too few people. The number of articles on a language 'partition' of Wikipedia reveals how many people really care about it, and when you have 1,000 articles for a language, it means that very few people can possibly care about it, and so we shouldn't care about that whole issue.

And if such a language partition of the Wikipedia gets written mostly by non-native speakers, it shows that there are even fewer native speakers who can possibly care.

I claim that this whole thing is a non-issue

Truth isn't sign of a troll. (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | about 8 years ago | (#15990361)

The people trying to create this thing are separated from the very people they claim they are doing it for. Until critical mass is reached its pointless to worry about an African wiki coming into being. When it is necessary it will happen. Just because a bunch of people who "know better" than the natives doesn't make it right.

A wiki is a great idea but it also eats a lot of leisure time. Many in those nations don't have the luxury of that time let alone the means to even access it.

I know its not what they want // the wiki guys // but damn if doesn't sound like a bunch of elites trying to bring religon to the savages all over again.

Feed them, clothe them, and give them the means to do so themselves. The rest will tend to itself. We've come a long way in 200 years but we were trying as a whole, Africa has been fractured for so long it will take them hopefully less than half the time to do the same, they just have to see it as a goal. First needed is freeing the people from the dictatorships that keep their societies backwards.

Re:Truth isn't sign of a troll. (1)

Cylix (55374) | about 8 years ago | (#15990458)

Precisely my thoughts...

Attack the core of the issue instead of burning time for something that won't be entirely helpful to the people.

If you had planned on donating time to translating/writing content for the african language section then perhaps it would be better spent finding a way to help the people instead.

Maybe you want to do both? That is a very noble cause, but it is just that... noble. (Note, noble doesn't feed people, noble doesn't earn a pay check and noble isn't paying my rent. I hate this noble person already!)

I do hope people won't think me to be a troll because I don't feel it's a worthy cause to translate a wiki when there are greater needs. I'm quite sure I will get flamed for this and I'm still not going to post anonymous. (BTW, don't bother, I rarely check follow-ups)

Re:Truth isn't sign of a troll. (0, Troll)

4D6963 (933028) | about 8 years ago | (#15990473)

Feed them, clothe them, and give them the means to do so themselves.

No! NO!! Don't you have any sense of priorities? What they need the most is a $100 laptop and WiFi hotspots so they can edit Wikipedia in their language! Not food or water, electricity or peace! Knowledge, dude! ;-)

Re:Truth isn't sign of a troll. (2, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | about 8 years ago | (#15990597)

I know you were joking, but there are high hopes that the $100 laptop poject will lead to an overall increase in the standard of living in these countries by creating the possibility of a high-tech middle class. This doesn't happen over night, but access to tools as an essential first step. Peace comes with prosperity. Food comes increased national wealth. All of these things require a strong economy and today that means high-tech.

The only thing high-tech workforces won't be able to fix alone is the problem of civil rights, but access to technology will HELP even there, as ideas about civil rights are stagnant in most of the African continent right now.

Re:A non-issue (1)

zlogic (892404) | about 8 years ago | (#15990406)

My native language is not English and yet I mainly use English Wikipedia because it has more materials, better quality articles and is updated more frequently.

Re:A non-issue (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 8 years ago | (#15990444)

My native language is not English and yet I mainly use English Wikipedia because it has more materials, better quality articles and is updated more frequently.

Same for me (I'm french). Reminds me that we should point out that a huge number of people (the majority maybe? I have no idea) in Africa speaks either english or french, along with their local language. So a Wikipedia in Swaheli or Wolof is fairly less necessary than some people may think.

Re:A non-issue (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | about 8 years ago | (#15990516)

First off, Africa is a very diverse place. As the article notes, there are some languages with a very low number of literate speakers, but others have a lot of literate speakers. Some places, like Chad, are very underdeveloped. Others, like South Africa, are highly industrialized. In some cases, developing countries can leapfrog over technologies that are irrelevant to them. For instance, in many places in Africa, landlines are almost nonexistant, and instead everybody uses cell phones. It may be the same way with encyclopedias. These languages may never get a dead-tree encyclopedia. Their first encyclopedia will be Wikipedia. It would be interesting to see whether they also bypass print textbooks for their schools, and use electronic books instead. If OLPC comes in at $100, and several kids can share one laptop, the effective cost of a laptop could be, day, $30. If you could then use that laptop to access hundreds of free electronic books, it could be very cost-effective. It's not such a fantasy to imagine that many free books out there. There are already hundreds of free, high-quality, college-level textbooks in English (see my sig). There are already some free high school texts in English aimed at South African schools (e.g., http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FHSST_Physics [wikibooks.org] ). It makes sense to imagine Wikipedia as part of the final picture.

Re:A non-issue (1)

telbij (465356) | about 8 years ago | (#15990612)

If people really do care about this, they should look at the root causes and address them in order of importance. Internet access is meaningless without good education. Education is impossible without politcal stability. Political stability is impossible without basic needs such as food, water and shelter. Africa varies widely in what is needed locally, but I guarantee that if the base needs of the citizenry are met then Internet access will take care of itself.

Mod parent up (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 8 years ago | (#15990815)

Very well said! I'd give you an Insightful point if I could ;-)

Re:A non-issue (2, Insightful)

bomanbot (980297) | about 8 years ago | (#15990654)

I second the parent poster, it seems to be a non-issue. Maybe people in Africa just do not use Wikipedia that frequently, or use the English version or are just not inclined to contribute.

And if you look here: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias/ [wikimedia.org] , the numbers of wikipedia articles is absolutely not proportional to the number of users of a specific language, meaning that Wikipedia is used differently over the world.

For example, the Polish version has about double the amount of articles as the Spanish version, although Spanish is arguably used and spoken by far more people all over the world. Same thing with Esperanto and Arabic.

Re:A non-issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990807)

The strangely low article count in the Spanish language wikipedia appears to be due to a fork, made possible by the copyleft license wikipedia uses. The fork was created years ago by the Spanish language contributor community when adding advertising to wikipedia was discussed. Advertising has since been utterly rejected by the wikipedia contributing community. Mr. Jimmy Wales created Wikia, which accepts both advertising and content that Wikipedia does not, turning fame to (additional) fortune, in a way that does not hurt Wikipedia, so it becomes a win-win for everyone.

Re:A non-issue (2, Informative)

MaelstromX (739241) | about 8 years ago | (#15990886)

For example, the Polish version has about double the amount of articles as the Spanish version, although Spanish is arguably used and spoken by far more people all over the world. Same thing with Esperanto and Arabic.


Spanish is a unique case, as a significant portion of the Spanish Wikipedia userbase split off to form the Enciclopedia Libre [enciclopedia.us.es] some time ago. You can read more about that here [wikipedia.org] .

Wait.. (2, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | about 8 years ago | (#15990328)

How do you create an online encyclopedia in a language in which few native speakers have access to the Internet?
Thats an easy question to answer. You wait. Rome wasn't built in a day. Until there's a critical mass of people capable of creating the resource then it's not going to happen. I'm sure that's an answer someone in Martin Benjamin's position won't like, but it's the only one that makes sense.

Re:Wait.. (1)

owlnation (858981) | about 8 years ago | (#15990608)

or, take a shortcut...

Write a cult african sci-fi TV show / movie franchise / trilogy or whatever. You'll have thousands of (contradictory) wiki pages by lunchtime.

Though, admittedly some waiting is still necessary as the pages on the detailed history of Namibia will be written some, if not many, many, years later...

In Africa (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990337)

In Africa, most people speak English, French, and Dutch, FYI. That's what years of colonization gets you.

Re:In Africa (2, Informative)

GerardM (535367) | about 8 years ago | (#15990424)

Afrikaans is not Dutch. It is a language spoken in Africa since the 1700's. It evolved into a distinct language. NB you forgot Arab, Portuguese and Spanish..
Thanks, GerardM

Misplaced interest (4, Insightful)

vga_init (589198) | about 8 years ago | (#15990342)

The article describes a twofold problem: no readers, too few writers. On Wikipedia, the readers are the writers, so in this case these two problems are actually one problem. It's also a problem which Wikipedia has already been designed to solve--when readers want content, they push it onto the wiki. If the content isn't there, obviously the demand is not great enough to make it happen. Isn't that the way of wikipedia?

WIKI is for "what I know is." If it were "what we want you to know is", we'd be calling it WWWYTKIpedia. I think we should simply lay this topic to rest and move on to something reasonable, such as "if wikipedia isn't the right tool to help educate African people, what other tools are possible?"

Re:Misplaced interest (1)

GerardM (535367) | about 8 years ago | (#15990445)

There is enough content that has no home in any wikipedia about Africa. There are plenty readers and there could be plenty writers. What is needed is the basic stuff that we take for granted. Localisation of MediaWiki, promoting an easier user interface; the WYSIWYG developed by Wikia (among others) I expect will prove an important step forward. Wiki is Hawaian for quick.. Thanks, GerardM

One thing at a time... (0, Troll)

owlnation (858981) | about 8 years ago | (#15990351)

Perhaps Wikipedia could learn from the lessons of Napoleon and Hitler - um, assuming of course that the wikipedia entries on these guys are in any way accurate.

It is never wise to fight a battle on more than one front. Focus! Do one thing well and then expand once you've got it right. The English version of Wikipedia has a long way (years of work) to go before it approaches being a valuable reliable source of data.

By the time that the quality and reliability issues are fixed, Most Africans will have broadband and be able to create any pages they like.

Oh No, call Jimmy Carter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990353)

Yes, of all the things wrong with Africa, we should definitely put this on the top of the list. I'm shocked that anyone would waste time and resources on hunger, AIDS, anarchy, when most Africans DON'T HAVE INTERNET ACCESS. I mean it's barbaric to think some starving AIDS victim can't Google or read Slashdot.

Re:Oh No, call Jimmy Carter (2, Interesting)

GerardM (535367) | about 8 years ago | (#15990471)

Indeed most Africans do not have Internet at home. There are Internet cafe's doing brisk business. It is possible to bring Wikipedia content to mobile telephones.. They do have mobile telephones in Africa.. Thanks, GerardM

Another impossible task... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990385)

Reviving broadcast television after the advent
of Internet video!

http://home.comcast.net/~plutarch/videos.html [comcast.net]

Most contributions (0, Flamebait)

Newton IV (666922) | about 8 years ago | (#15990403)

Most contributions to the African Wikipedia is probably made by the liberals and left-wingers in San Francisco. If not, it could be a good project for them- since there's nobody else to read these articles, they could create another nice and politically correct community for themselves on the web.

Swahili (4, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | about 8 years ago | (#15990405)

Swahili is a trade language. It has relatively few native speakers, but it is the secondary language for many in east Africa. So it is not really surprising that the native speakers alone wouldn't contribute a lot.

0% Literacy Rate? (3, Insightful)

thewiltog (906494) | about 8 years ago | (#15990456)

What use is an encyclopedia when literacy rates among a language's speakers approach zero?
I'm a fan of Wikipedia (see my sig) but in this case raising the literacy rate using old-fashioned methods (ie books) surely has to have priority over getting some (token) entries into Wikipedia. It's not that the two are mutually exclusive, but until there's a certain level of literacy within the native language group, Wikipedia articles (presumably written by non-native speakers) are going to look at bit like encyclopedic colonialism.

U-Bun-TU is Swahili for "Teh Sux" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990459)

.

.

.

. U-Bun-TU is Swahili for "Teh Sux" - is TRUE.

.

.

.

Why other languages are important? (4, Interesting)

Dark_MadMax666 (907288) | about 8 years ago | (#15990460)

It is a waste of time to make entries in each and every language. I found that despite even on the etnries concerning russia and russian culture I use english wiki (despite russian being my primary language and such) -simply because english articles are better in quality. I feel pity for all that time people spend translating articles instead of adding new ones.

  - I know many people fluently speak more than one language since childhood and as a consequence can effortlessly master many more without much effort (if by the age of 6 you spoke more than one language your brain is "wired" well for learnign additional ones). Even those who stuck with only one language can learn one (and they should make it English).

Save klingonese wikipedia (2, Interesting)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 8 years ago | (#15990552)

I can attest to this. I've spent last 10 years of my life creating the Klingonese version of wikipedia, but there's just no support for it.

Klingons won't even come to Earth and talk with us about it, so most of the content in there is created by Star Trek fans.
The problem is even worse when no cross-planet ISP exist that can transmit the content to Klingon so Klingons can browse it.

What use is an encyclopedia when no one can read it or access it?

Oh wait. Why is this a problem again?

Re:Save klingonese wikipedia (2, Informative)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15990799)

Wow, I didn't think there was a klingon wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

So... (2, Insightful)

EinZweiDrei (955497) | about 8 years ago | (#15990557)

So, call me crazy here, but in the face of literacy rates and scant internet access, why put forth the time and effort to create a lame-duck African-language Wikipedia? There are plenty of Wikimedia efforts that could use those intellectual man-hours, if the world isn't ready for an African Wikipedia at the very moment.

What insight (4, Insightful)

drix (4602) | about 8 years ago | (#15990577)

Wow. And in other news, sales of Ferraris have dropped to a precipitous low on Tanzania, a Starbucks franchise is having real trouble getting off the ground in the Congo, and the Sierra Leone division of Sharper Image reported a record quarterly loss.

Wikipedia exists due to a vast army of bored office drones, programmers and college students. Surfing (and contributing to) it is like the most bourgeois thing. I don't find it all that surprising that a continent with ten million orphans, a complete lack of basic health care and sanitation, and insanely corrupt political regimes, can't find the time to log on and post a couple articles.

Languages (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 8 years ago | (#15990771)

Aren't there plenty of other languages there? Arabic? All the colonial languages? Afrikaans?

Cripes, to watch those Michael Palin travel shows, you'd think English and French were the official languages. :)

What we really need is a Coptic Wikipedia. Just because.

Build it and they will come (4, Interesting)

D H NG (779318) | about 8 years ago | (#15990786)

I'm a bureaucrat at the Vietnamese-language Wikipedia. Back in late 2003 there were few contributors (actualy just me and one other person). We slowly built the contents and the formatting. Slowly, more people came. We reached a critical point in late 2005 when we reached 1000 users. By the end of the year, we had more than 10000 contributors. We reached 10000 articles recently. One thing we've learned is in order to attract native speakers, focus on the help pages. Spell out the policies, describe how to create new pages, and make newcomers feel welcomed. If you use the English version of the project pages, then only those who can speak English as well as that language can contribute. The discussion pages also need to be in that language, else it will exclude a majority of native speakers.

Igpay Atinlay (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15990814)

I roposepay a Igpay Atinlay Ikipediaway. Llaay uoyay ouldway eednay siay a otbay hattay opiescay hetay Nglisheay Ikipediaway, utbay hangescay hetay etterslay otay ebay igpay atlinlay.

Wiite Peepul (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15990947)

Jeezuz. Man leeve dem afficans alone enuff already. Wat is it wid wiite peeplu dat thinc watt dey got eberbody els wat 2? O dat bi gibbn afficanz watt wiite peepl got dey heppin aficanz b mo wiite n mo betr. Butt aficanz doont kaar bout kno whackopediah so wy wiit peepl kaar iz bynd mee. Ihya meen affika is a ho diffnt plasc an tiim an aint nuffin liik wiit wurld n duohnd wana b. Soh fuk off b4 wyt peepl gib uhs ah suppa wallmahrt. Den wee b fukd juz liik wiite peepl. EN OH !
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>