Grants:Programs/Wikimedia Community Fund/Documenting and increasing Jewish language representation on Wikimedia
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- Jacob: JKodner18 (https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:JKodner18)
Daniel: Bogreudell (https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bogreudell)
- Wikitongues, Inc.
G. Have you received grants from the Wikimedia Foundation before?
- Applied previously and did receive a grant
H. Have you received grants from any non-wiki organization before?
H.1 Which organization(s) did you receive grants from?
M. Do you have a fiscal sponsor?
M1. Fiscal organization name.
R. Where will this proposal be implemented?
- United States of America
S. Please indicate whether your work will be focused on one country (local), more than one or several countries in your region (regional) or has a cross-regional (global) scope:
S1. If you have answered regional or international, please write the country names and any other information that is useful for understanding your proposal.
T. If you would like, please share any websites or social media accounts that your group or organization has. (optional)
M. Do you have a fiscal sponsor?
M1. Fiscal organization name.
1. What is the overall vision of your organization and how does this proposal contribute to this? How does this proposal connect to past work and learning?
To improve the representation of Jewish Diaspora languages on Wikimedia, we will produce a total of 2 hours’ worth of video content in 6 critically endangered Jewish languages/dialects. These videos will be transcribed, translated, and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Using these authentic language samples, we will coordinate members of our team — for whom these languages are parts of their heritage — to edit and improve the Wikipedia pages for each language/dialect (= 8 in total) as well as their entries in Wikidata. The following proposal outlines the importance of this work and how we will implement it.
As a Wikimedia User Group, Wikitongues is dedicated to reversing the trend of language extinction and strengthening our and our affiliates’ commitment — notably with the Language Diversity Hub — to broadening the linguistic diversity on Wikimedia. Much of our documentation work has been accomplished through compiling video content for languages such as Jewish languages — languages which are spoken by members of the global Jewish Diaspora and are spoken and written distinctly from their non-Jewish neighbors. These languages include Yiddish and Ladino, which most of the Jewish population today are aware of. But they also include less common languages like Jewish Malayalam, Judeo-Italian, and the subject of this proposal - the many Jewish languages of Iran, which are critically endangered.
Our mission has been to build knowledge about these lesser-documented yet culturally significant languages, and our organization has laid the groundwork for doing so as a contributing member of the multi-organizational Jewish Language Consortium (henceforth JLC) . Thus far, within less than a year, Wikitongues has collected and filmed over 20 interviews, songs, plays, and other cultural artifacts with the JLC, almost half of which are being transcribed, translated, and disseminated through our and our partners’ YouTube channels. Owing to the work we have accomplished thus far, we plan to continue our multifaceted documentation approach of filming and collecting video content — and branch out to developing articles on Wikipedia — through this Wikimedia grant.
2. What is the change that you are trying to bring about and why is this important?
As a result of migrations, genocide, assimilation, and language policies over the last two centuries, most longstanding Diaspora Jewish languages are currently endangered. In the 2020s we have a unique, time-sensitive opportunity to research these languages. Some elderly speakers are still living, especially in the United States and Israel. It is imperative that we document and raise awareness about these languages in the next decade — for the sake of the elderly Jews who are their last speakers, for the sake of Jewish children who would benefit from knowing about their multifaceted heritage, and to build knowledge in general. This proposed Wikimedia project will work with a selection of endangered languages traditionally spoken within the Middle East but now primarily spoken in Diaspora in the United States and Israel. The rationale for this selection of languages, outlined in the following paragraph, is that these are the languages with which Wikitongues and the JLC have developed documentation materials and connections with native speakers that are substantial enough to curate additional content and contribute to Wikimedia.
Information about the languages we have worked with and plan to curate content for are outlined below. At the time of writing, there is no audio-visual content in Commons in any of these languages/dialects, and their corresponding Wikipedia pages are limited in scope. This is something we look forward to addressing under the current proposal.
- These are non-Persian, Iranian languages historically spoken by Jews in present-day political Iran. Most of these languages are nearly extinct, due to 20th-century educational policies and massive emigration to the United States and Israel. The Jewish languages include Esfāhāni, Yazdi, Kermāni, Shīrāzi, Hamedāni, Kāshāni, Nehavandi, Borujerdi — all of which we have collected video content for — and Khunsāri and Golpāygān.
Of these languages, we will choose 3 to focus on: Esfāhāni, Hamedāni, and Shīrāzi. Esfāhāni has no page on Wikipedia , Hamedāni  and Shīrāzi  have limited information about vocabulary and grammar. We view this as an opportunity for our team members and Wikimedians to contribute and increase the representation of Jewish languages in the Movement.
- JEWISH NEO-ARAMAIC
- An extension of the ancient Aramaic language, Jewish Neo-Aramaic is spoken in the Kurdish region and is typically divided into dialects such as Lishana Noshan (from the town of Tekab, Iran), Lishana Deni (from Zakho, Iraq), and Lishan Didan (Urmia, Iran). Most Neo-Aramaic-speaking Jews emigrated to Israel in the 1950s-1970s, and their language was superseded by Hebrew. Now, the language is nearly extinct, with an estimated 500 elderly speakers, mostly in Israel.
We will work with three of the aforementioned dialects. The Wikipedia pages for Lishana Noshan  and Lishana Deni  contain a little information about origin, influences, and references. The page for Lishan Didan  has the most information compared to the languages/dialects in this proposal, and it will serve as a model for other pages and a starting point from which we will expand.
3. Describe your main approaches or strategies to achieve these changes and why you think they will be effective.
- STRATEGY A
- Video content on Commons: Wikitongues and our partner organizations have collected and filmed over 20 interviews, songs, plays, and other cultural artifacts with our partner organizations. The reader is invited to consult the spreadsheet  outlining the videos we have collected in addition to their posting statuses.
We will create such video content and upload it to Wikimedia Commons. The benefits of oral histories are two-fold. First, they provide an avenue for native speakers of the languages to share their life experiences as well as aspects of their language and culture that have been historically marginalized and suppressed. These stories can be — and have already been — shared to spread awareness about these languages, and they serve as the means to which members of the speakers' ancestral group can learn their language and connect to their own heritage. Second, they provide authentic, spoken data that linguists can use to conduct research on these languages — research that will be made available to users through our second strategy.
- STRATEGY B
- Informational articles on Wikipedia: Our partner organization — the Jewish Language Project (organizer of the JLC) — has developed an extensive, online repository of informational articles on Jewish languages in collaboration with researchers, students, and volunteers. The reader is invited to consult the article  on Judeo-Italian, which is representative of the types of informational and research-based content that our partners develop.
Curating authentic, spoken content with native speakers (through Strategy A) is central to our organization’s mission of building knowledge within the communities and cultures we work with. Of equal importance is disseminating this knowledge and making it accessible to audiences worldwide — such as users and members of the Wikimedia Movement. This will be achieved through the curation of informational articles on Wikipedia, which will further bring about the change which we are working to achieve. Take for instance the Wikipedia article on Ladino, also known as Judeo-Spanish . With subsections ranging from ‘distribution’ and ‘history’ to ‘sample texts’ and ‘phonology’, this page contains sufficient information for users to gain a more extensive background of the language. Many of the Wikipedia pages on the other languages with which we work do not contain as much information. Owing to the knowledge our partners have amassed and can amass, there is great opportunity for Wikitongues and the JLC to achieve our overall vision.
4. What are the activities you will be developing and delivering as part of these approaches or strategies?
There are three activities of our project: Activity A1 and Activity A2 are meant to address Strategy A, and Activity B is meant to address Strategy B. These three activities will be done for all languages/dialects discussed in this proposal, and they will be done by individuals on our team (see question on team for summary) for whom these languages/dialects are part of their heritage.
- ACTIVITY A1
- Filming of video content: The first portion of our multifaceted documentation approach under this proposal is dedicated to collecting oral histories — which are interviews conducted with speakers in Persian, English, or another language, where they respond in the language being documented. These oral histories will be conducted virtually by members of our Outreach team with native speakers. In addition to our previously-mentioned video spreadsheet , the reader is invited to consult the following link and view an example of the types of oral histories we at Wikitongues curate . For the current proposal, we aim to film 20-minute oral histories for each of the 6 languages. This will result in two hours of content. Once filmed and processed, the videos will be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under their respective languages.
- ACTIVITY A2
- Transcription and translation of video content: After uploading each video, we will coordinate the members of our Content Creation team to transcribe and translate the full 20 minutes. The transcription and translation will then be presented using the CC editing function on Commons. Similar to the video in , we will transcribe what the native speakers in each video say in Latin letters — as seen in the top row of the captions — and translate into English as well — shown in the bottom row.
- ACTIVITY B
- Edit-a-thons: Following the completion of the activities for Strategy A (film, transcribe/translate) are complete, we will coordinate our content creation team to edit the Wikipedia articles corresponding to each language/dialect (Judeo-Kāshāni, Judeo-Esfāhāni, Lishan Didan, etc.) and language group (Judeo-Iranian and Jewish Neo-Aramaic) — resulting in 8 articles total. These will be done through hosting 4 Edit-a-thons. There are two main contributions we hope to make for each page. First, we hope to add information corresponding to fundamental topics to each language page — mainly those mentioned in the Judeo-Spanish article  such as ‘name’, ‘source language(s)’, ‘history’, ‘phonology’, ‘modern education and use’, and ‘samples’. Second, under ‘samples’, we will embed video samples from the oral histories to each relevant language’s page in order to showcase the linguistic diversity and similarities among the related languages — similar to what was done in the Wikipedia page for the English language . We will also upload samples of the oral histories to the page for each language.
As an interim summary of the process for one language group (e.g., Judeo-Iranian), suppose we film videos for the Esfāhāni, Hamedāni, and Shīrāzi languages ( = Activity A1). We would then work with our volunteers to transcribe and translate the videos on Commons (= Activity A2). Finally, during the Edit-a-thons we would host, our Content Creation team would edit the individual pages for the languages (Esfāhāni, Hamedāni, and Shīrāzi) and language group (Judeo-Iranian). Our Content Creation team will also embed samples of the oral histories for purposes of comparing/contrasting the languages as done in .
5. Do you want to apply for multi-year funding?
5.1 If yes, provide a brief overview of Year 2 and Year 3 of the proposed plan and how this relates to the current proposal and your strategic plan?
6. Please include a timeline (operational calendar) for your proposal.
- Below is the Google Drive link to this project's operational calendar: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cDwfucC8Eh2XTuOcTRvqvN32IgCsDGL7Hb8YZqtLEtM/edit?usp=sharing
7. Do you have the team that is needed to implement this proposal?
The members of our team are split among three sub-teams: Administration/Outreach, Advisory, and Content Creation.
- Jacob Kodner (Wikitongues; User @JKodner18; paid staff) — Coordinate the transcription/translation of videos and editing Wikipedia articles with Content Creation team; Manage funding and communications with WMF
- Haideh Herbert (Jewish Language Project) — Perform outreach and conduct interviews with speakers of Judeo-Iranian
- Ariel Nosrat (Lishana Institute) — Perform outreach and conduct interviews with speakers of Jewish Neo-Aramaic.
- Daniel Bögre Udell (Wikitongues; User @Bogreudell) — As the cofounder and director of Wikitongues with extensive connections within the Wikimedia Movement, Daniel will work with the administration/outreach team (specifically Jacob) to establish and further relationships with the speaker communities we plan to work with.
- Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor (Hebrew Union College Jewish Language Project, PhD) — As the founding director of the Jewish Language Project with extensive knowledge about Jewish languages and the documentation thereof, Dr. Benor will work with our page editor, Alan Niku, to provide necessary Jewish language literature, contacts, and additional guidance for the completion of the Wikipedia articles.
- Dr. Habib Borjian (Columbia University, PhD; paid staff) — With his expertise on language documentation, fieldwork, and transcription of Iranian languages, Dr. Borjian will work closely with the content creation team to transcribe/translate each video and cross-check article content.
- CONTENT CREATION
- (note that these individuals will be working to transcribe/translate their ancestral languages)
- Alan Niku (USC, MFA; paid staff) — Transcribe/translate videos, edit articles for Judeo-Iranian and Jewish Neo-Aramaic.
- Michael Zargari (UCSB, MA Candidate; paid staff) — Transcribe/translate videos, edit articles for Judeo-Iranian
- Noah Khaloo (UCI, BA; paid staff) —Transcribe/translate videos, edit articles for Judeo-Iranian and Jewish Neo-Aramaic
- Samuel Miller (University of Maryland, BA; paid staff) — Transcribe/translate videos, edit articles for Jewish Neo-Aramaic
8. Please state if your proposal aims to work to bridge any of the identified CONTENT knowledge gaps (Knowledge Inequity)? Select up to THREE that most apply to your work.
Language, Cultural background, ethnicity, religion, racial
8.1 In a few sentences, explain how your work is specifically addressing this content gap (or Knowledge inequity) to ensure a greater representation of knowledge.
All of the speakers and community members with whom we are working speak languages that have been marginalized and are on the edge of extinction. Due to the historical migrations, assimilation pressures, and language policies, these languages are endangered and have little to no representation on the Wikimedia Projects. With 6 oral histories and 8 Wikipedia articles edited, our project addresses this content gap through the direct curation of Wikimedia content for Wikimedia users and beyond.
9. Please state if your proposal includes any of these areas or THEMATIC focus. Select up to THREE that most apply to your work and explain the rationale for identifying these themes.
Culture, heritage or GLAM
10. Will your work focus on involving participants from any underrepresented communities? Please note, we had previously asked about inclusion and diversity in terms of CONTENTS, in this question we are asking about the diversity of PARTICIPANTS. Select up to THREE that most apply to your work.
Ethnic/racial/religious or cultural background, Linguistic / Language
11. What are your strategies for engaging participants, particularly those that currently are non-Wikimedia?
We seek to address a gap in contributions by directly compensating (a) the native speaker community contacts and consultants and (b) the video/article editors with whom we work. In terms of (a), funds go directly to the communities, who have been historically marginalized along with their languages. The purpose of these funds is to compensate these individuals for their time and encourage future collaborations and contributions to the various Wikimedia Projects discussed in this proposal. They will also be given the option of keeping the compensation (= honorarium) or donating it back to our work to support further documentation.
The same applies to (b), such that funding is meant to compensate the video transcribers/translators and article editors for their time. These contributors are members of the communities whose languages are being documented, so there are great opportunities for them to contribute further to Commons and Wikipedia (and other venues including the Wiktionary initiative mentioned below) following the completion of this project.
12. In what ways are you actively seeking to contribute towards creating a safer, supportive, more equitable environment for participants and promoting the UCOC and Friendly Space Policy, and/or equivalent local policies and processes?
To promote the UCOC and Friendly Space Policy — as well as equivalent local policies — we will run an online workshop at the beginning of the grant period with all project participants. During the workshop, we will provide an overview of these relevant policies, open the floor for questions, and provide documentation for them to sign mentioning they will adhere to these policies.
13. Do you have plans to work with Wikimedia communities, groups, or affiliates in your country, or in other countries, to implement this proposal?
13.1 If yes, please tell us about these connections online and offline and how you have let Wikimedia communities know about this proposal.
14. Will you be working with other external, non-Wikimedian partners to implement this proposal?
14.1 Please describe these partnerships and what motivates the potential partner to be part of the proposal and how they add value to your work.
15. How do you hope to sustain or expand the work carried out in this proposal after the grant?
Owing to the proposed compensation of contacts from the communities with which we collaborate — as well as the significant impacts of our completed and projected work — we expect there to be substantial interest in continuing this project. We have already established the groundwork for further contributions to Wikimedia Projects. At the time of the writing of this proposal, we are developing online, recorded dictionaries for Judeo-Iranian (specifically Judeo-Shirazi) and the aforementioned dialects for Jewish Neo-Aramaic — the latter of which has already amassed 700 entries across three dialects. The plan is to encourage the contacts from all language communities to digitize these entries and upload them to Wiktionary. Increasing the representation of Jewish languages on Wikimedia, this project will generate more interest in the work we and our partners conduct for these languages, so we will have amassed a larger movement of contributors from this project by the time this digitization project takes off.
16. What kind of risks do you anticipate and how would you mitigate these. This can include factors such as external/contextual issues that may affect implementation, as well as internal issues, such as governance/leadership changes.
- There are two anticipated risks: the limited number of speakers who can speak these languages, and their willingness to make all their contents available to the public.
The risk associated with having a lower number of available speakers is due to the critical endangerment of these languages. Our main mitigation factor is establishing and nurturing valuable relationships with these language communities. Our administration/outreach team includes speakers of these languages who have extensive contacts in their respective communities. Additionally, our partner organization, the Jewish Language Project, has already developed an extensive directory to which families of speakers of these languages can provide their contact information if they want to volunteer to be interviewed — contact information we have utilized and will continue to utilize for this project. Finally, to nurture these community-based relationships, we will make it a priority to actively share the links of all materials produced and disseminated across the Wikimedia Projects with members of these communities.
The second risk of making content available to the public — mostly and understandably due to personal preferences of privacy — can be mitigated by reassuring the speakers of the immense value of the materials collected and produced — both to the representation of Jewish content on Wikimedia and to the documentation and revitalization of these languages. The additional strategy for mitigating this risk is anonymizing various aspects of the oral histories (names, personal details) and/or publishing only audio (not video) snippets at the speaker’s request.
17. In what ways do you think your proposal most contributes to the Movement Strategy 2030 recommendations. Select a maximum of three options that most apply.
Identify Topics for Impact, Innovate in Free Knowledge
18. Please state if your organization or group has a Strategic Plan that can help us further understand your proposal. You can also upload it here.
Learning, Sharing, and EvaluationEdit
19. What do you hope to learn from your work in this fund proposal?
(1) About the speakers: Why did the speakers and their children shift from these languages to the more dominant languages (Persian, Hebrew), thereby leading to language endangerment?
(2) About the languages: How do these languages compare to their neighboring, non-Jewish languages (Persian, Christian Neo-Aramaic) with respect to their sounds and grammar, and how do they compare to other Jewish languages with respect to their use of Hebrew loanwords and other common features?
(3) About our work: How do we build a sustainable network of volunteers — in and out of the Jewish communities with whom we work — dedicated to the documentation of Jewish languages?
20. Based on these learning questions, what is the information or data you need to collect to answer these questions? Please register this information (as metric description) in the following space provided.
|Audiovisuals on Commons||A portion of our project’s deliverables which will help us answer questions (1)-(2). We will have recorded narrations of their life stories (for (1)) and authentic language data (for (2)).||6|
|Articles on Wikipedia||A portion of our deliverables which will help us answer question (2). We will be able to add samples of the languages to each page for comparing/contrasting their linguistic features.||8|
|Edit-a-thons||These events — for editing Wikipedia articles — will help us answer question (3). We will be able to track participation and interest in further contributing to our organization’s mission.||4|
|New volunteers reached||Native speakers (= 6) and new individuals (= projected 10) who find out about our project and sign up to contribute. This will help us answer question (3).||16|
|Social media engagement||The types of information re-shared and most engaged with the social media accounts associated with the JLC. This will help us answer question (3) with respect to what parts of the project the public is interested in.||N/A|
Here are some additional metrics that you can use if they are relevant to your work. Please note that this is just an optional list, mostly of quantitative metrics. They may complement the qualitative metrics you have defined in the previous boxes.
|Number of editors that continue to participate/retained after activities||N/A||N/A|
|Number of organizers that continue to participate/retained after activities||N/A||N/A|
|Number of strategic partnerships that contribute to longer term growth, diversity and sustainability||N/A||N/A|
|Feedback from participants on effective strategies for attracting and retaining contributors||N/A||N/A|
|Diversity of participants brought in by grantees||N/A||N/A|
|Number of people reached through social media publications||N/A||N/A|
|Number of activities developed||N/A||N/A|
|Number of volunteer hours||N/A||N/A|
21. Additional core quantitative metrics. These core metrics will not tell the whole story about your work, but they are important for measuring some Movement-wide changes. Please try to include these core metrics if they are relevant to your work. If they are not, please use the space provided to explain why they are not relevant or why you can not capture this data. Your explanation will help us review our core metrics and make sure we are using the best ones for the movement as a whole.
|Number of participants||Include native speakers interviewed (= 6), as well as experts and other members from the communities of the languages with which we work (= projected 15)||21|
|Number of editors||Include our current staff members, and new volunteer editors (= projected 2) who find out about our project and decide to contribute||8|
|Number of organizers||Include our advisors (= 3), administration/outreach team (= 3), and selection of new volunteers (= projected 3)||9|
|Wikimedia Commons||20-minute long oral histories that are transcribed/translated and uploaded to Commons (= 2 hours’ worth of content total)||6|
|Wikidata||Wikidata entries created or improved (for 8 languages/dialects/language groups)||8|
|Wikipedia||Wikipedia articles that are created or improved (for 8 languages/dialects/language groups)||8|
21.1 If for some reason your proposal will not measure these core metrics please provide an explanation.
22. What tools would you use to measure each metric selected?
To track the Additional Core Metrics (= participants, editors, organizers), we will rely on the Programs and Events Dashboard (https://outreachdashboard.wmflabs.org/explore). To keep track of contributions to Wikimedia Projects under our project (= Commons, Wikidata, Wikipedia), we will utilize Wikimedia Hashtags (https://hashtags.wmcloud.org/).
23. & 23.1 What is the amount you are requesting from WMF? Please provide this amount in your local currency. If you are thinking about a multi-year fund, please provide the amount for the first year.
- 56800 USD
23.2 What is this amount in US Currency (to the best of your knowledge)?
- 56800 USD
23.3 Please upload your budget for this proposal or indicate the link to it.
- Below is the Google Drive link to this project's budget:
23.4 Please include any additional observations or comments you would like to include about your budget.
Please use this optional space to upload any documents that you feel are important for further understanding your proposal.
- Other public document(s):
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