Wikimedia Conference 2012/Documentation/Day 3/MinorityLang

Native and endangered languages


Wayuu (Colombia-Venezuela)

  • Carlos Colina (WMVE) on Wayuu people: spread between Colombia and Venezuela, about # native speakers, of which about 20% are able to write and read the language.
  • Wayuu version of Wikipedia on Incubator // PLEASE HELP COMPLETING :)
  • Asaf Bartov (WMF): How many people would be able to use such version of Wikipedia? Do we need free knowledge in Wayuu?

Mapudungun (Argentina-Chile)

  • Osmar Valdebenito (WMCL) on Mapudungun people: independent up to the 19th Century, then forced to be "Chilean"; revival of Mapudungun language and development of scripts after the end of the Pinochet dictatorship.
  • Asaf Bartov (WMF): How many people would be able to use such version of Wikipedia? Do we need free knowledge in Mapudungun? Is that within our mission?
  • Osmar: There are many people who don't know or don't want to speak Spanish. We've been contacting lots of organizations

[Osmar is also mentioning the case of Rapa Nui and the Rapa Nui Language Institute, which is formed by native speakers, after Asaf's question on the availability of native speakers willing to develop or use contents]

  • Galio: talking about the support of Wikimedia Argentina to native language editions.
  • Jeffery Nichols (WMCA): we are talking about different levels/situations: whether there is an organized native community or institution or not, etc.
  • Asaf: We are not about language preservation, i.e. creating a Wikipedia in a dead language artificially is not free knowledge
  • Osmar: Our motto says "sum of all knowledge". Aren't even dead languages part of that knowledge?
  • Asaf: Latin Wikipedia are edited an readed by latin geeks. I know this because I am one of them. But we don't spend money on it. It's not our business preserve indigenous languages.
  • Santiago: *calls for reduce the volume
  • Galio: Just to make the point clear: you can't compare Latin with Guarani. Guarani has 6+ million native speakers, schools in Paraguay actually teach in guarani. [Asaf agrees they are different situations]
  • Jeffrey: What about other pro
  • Raul (WMEE): He talks about his interactions with editors from different Wikipedias: Estonian, Hungarian, Russian, etc. Common problems with small and possibly related languages that can be solved through cooperation.
  • Jeffery (WMCA): we should discuss whether it's worth focusing on language preservation rather than creating educational material
  • Santiago (WMES): I want to share my experience with other languages. For example, our mission its not to promote languages, it's share knowledge. I think sometimes maybe the communities of non spanish speakers (Catalonia for example) in Spain are strong, and combine politics with knowledge.
  • Osmar (WMCL): The decision to recognize (?) a language does not depend on WMF but on the LangCom // We don't want to create a little community of Spanish speakers learning Mapudungun just to create a few articles // He talks about the problem with different scripts re mapudungun: it's not only important just to develop the project itself, but also strenghthening the community to make it happen; chapters can

work with the community and with WMF.

  • Asaf: reemphasize that we are mixing together really different question: identity, ethnic, national and historical oppresion issues; they are certainly relevant for these minority languages, and the people who develop them will be motivated by a nationalist sentiment and that's ok. Take for example Kazakh. The question si what languages *deserve* a Wikipedia, but *deserving* a Wikipedia is easy; another question is What languages deserve material support, i.e. an active investment of additional resources (money and not only money), we should ask ourselves whether this is within our mission.
  • Jeromy (WMHK): Also although Cantonese is speaking day by day, but HK people (as well as ppl in Guangdong Province & Macau) get used to a Mandarin-Chinese based writiing system, so it is technically Cantonese Wikipedia rather no that valuable for knowledge sharing
  • Carlos (WMVE): we should make outreach because there is mostly *lack of knowledge* about i.e. the Incubator (he speaks about a university professor who didn't know she could develop Wikipedia in wayuu)
  • Ivan (WMMX): edition in native languages is a mix of opportunities for local chapters, as they are a mix of culture, education and interaction with a new way of learning and information sharing. WMMX is supporting Kaqchiquel Wikipedia, a language of southern Mexico and Guatemala, but the community of Kaqchiquel doesn't have a meeting point to encourage and reassert the value of their languages. They found on Wikipedia the opportunity to create a common project to support the development of contents in Kaqchiquel. Wikimedia Chapters as providing a platform. These people want to normalize an ISO code and work with Guatemalan universities. Wikimedia Mexico are now working with Totonaku Wikipedia with university students who want to develop contents in their own language. There's the special opportunity to reach people interested in both tech and culture.
  • Jeffery (WMCA): If no one knows that the Incubator is there, that's the tricky part. Finding a partner and say "Can you talk to your people..?".
  • Colina (WMVE): He speaks about Iberocoop mailing list on endangered languages and invites others to join.
  • Salvador (WMMX): Wikisource is not a solution. These languages deserve the same treatment than others with native or not native speakers. (#PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING, PLEASE CORRECT ME). There's a thin line when we are speaking if a certain language is "important enough", similar to discussing if an article or a knowledge has enciclopedic relevance or not. The languages, are knowledge by itself.
  • Osmar (WMCL): The Incubator can be a good place to start developing the structur for a new project but it is difficult to create a community there. Most Wikipedias were born because of the activity of different communities which where already present on the Internet. This is not the case for many languages, even if there are different organizations speaking that languages. The Incubator is not a good way to move these communities into the Internet.
  • Iván (WMMX): Indigenous languages need a common framework, like GLAM. It can be richful for projects and need an adapted model. He talks about a person interested in normalizing totonacan language but who doesn't have an Internet connection at home. We as chapters can/need to ask for help from another orgs on these topics.
  • Asaf (WMF): WARNING COMMENT: Political tensions. We as a movement should stay out from thos political tensions, i.e. secession is an explosive issue where we should not take sides.

Conclussions and proposals

  • Raul (WMEE): We've found many problems, we've just started to think about them and we need a space to continue this discussion.
  • Asaf (WMF): I'm willing to provide the link to the developing languages ml

[Many people say that native or endangered languages are not necessarily linked with developing nations. Asaf agrees. We'd better use a new name/mailing list]

  • Carlos Colina (WMVE): We need to focus on outreach (think ladino). Agrees with Iván and Osmar on the role of national chapters.
  • Salvador (WMMX): There are side problems, think for instance on people who don't have the necessary keyboards to type their language
  • Asaf (WMF): WMF has many developments on this topic through the localization team. If you talk to Amir, he'd be very happy to help. There are languages with mill speakers who have not the necessary means to contribute. Recently (only recently) WMF has decided that it is worth to speed its own resources on developing solutions for these issues instead of relying on Google, Microsoft, etc. But we're still not on the business of language preservation.

Final Ads


Two of collegue in WMHK submitted a proposal on the issue, inputs are welcomed to make it with more global aspect