Interesting thoughts.  I have a few brief comments, and will engage further
(on Meta, perhaps) later:

0. "because we can" is indeed a very poor reason to do anything.  We are
also probably the only global network that can ensure complete coverage of
all Pokémon characters in 100 languages.  That's far from proof that we
should allocate active investment (as distinct from volunteer choices) to

1. I contend our mission does not extend to language preservation via
write-only encyclopedias.  Language preservation is a fine a noble mission,
and one I personally sympathize with a great deal.  It is however not our
mission.  Our mission is to create and share free knowledge.

2. This does include free knowledge _about_ every last language of the
world, so by all means: let us preserve all languages' written output on
Wikisource, and let us document all languages' lexicons on Wiktionary (not
their own Wiktionary, but active Wiktionaries with existing editing
communities), but we should not unconditionally spend resources to ensure
the availability of free knowledge _in_ every last language.  I submit that
our vision is satisfied by offering free knowledge in the languages people
use to consume knowledge (a far _far_ smaller subset of even the 280-odd
language editions we already have).

3. An example: some time ago, our colleagues in Chile wanted to spend (not
a lot of) movement funds on printing the "Welcome to Wikipedia" booklet in
Rapa Nui.  Rapa Nui is (perhaps) spoken by fewer than 3000 people, no doubt
mostly without facility with or regular access to the Internet.
  There is not, and there never will be, a Wikipedia that is a useful
reference source in Rapa Nui.  And that's okay, because there is also not,
and never will be, a person on this planet who _needs_ free knowledge in
Rapa Nui, that is, who cannot consume knowledge in another language
(indeed, I dare wager fully 100% of Rapa Nui speakers not only _can_
consume knowledge in Spanish, but would _prefer_ to do so.  In practical
terms, I mean, e.g. if they needed medical information and had a page of
Rapa Nui and a page of Spanish providing that information before them).

4. What does interest me, as a grantmaker, is where to draw the line
between the Rapa Nui end of the spectrum and languages that, with some
active promotion, could well become useful and much-needed reference
sources in some cultures.  In other words, *what are the prerequisites for
a viable Wikipedia in a given language?*  At least good odds for one.
Instinctively, I think those prerequisites would be some combination of:
- number of literate speakers with Internet access (audience)
- number of literate speakers with Internet access, education, and spare
time (prospective editors)
- availability of secondary sources in that language
- availability of news sources in that language
- reasonable way to type the language into a computer

Of these, only the last one is something we can do something about (and
indeed have been doing).

I would welcome some thinking from all interested, including the Language
Committee, on what might a reasonable set of criteria be for a language we
would consider it reasonable to promote a _Wikipedia_ in.


On Sun, Apr 20, 2014 at 1:28 AM, Hubert Laska <> wrote:

> Hi Milos, at the same time when you are concerned about the collection /
> preservation of thousands of languages, I will briefly introduce a project
> that currently takes place in Austria together with the Austrian Academy of
> Sciences. This project has the same goal direction, which you mention, even
> if we might go another way. Our way is at first the acquisition of
> languages, micro languages, language varieties and dialects.
> The basis of this work it will be, by a software (which has yet to be made
> ) to capture the regional characteristics of the language. written as a
> word, as a phrase, and then of course the regional peculiarities in
> pronunciation, using and producing audio files. Subsequently, there will be
> regional wikis to bring on a simple level, people to represent their
> knowledge. This is important especially in the german Wikipedia, because
> now it is almost impossible to enter de:WP as a freshman. The claims are
> completely covered, we lose an enormous number of authors and win hardly
> newones.
> In the meantime, it is already partially so that even the articles are no
> longer readable because they just follow an off-hook academic claim, not
> the demands of most of our readers.
> You are speaking about languages, Milos , of which you accept that it is
> as a official standard language with an appropriate written version. Here
> you will (and we will) encounter the first boundaries.
> The most important part for me of your writing is that you're worried
> about the fact that we constantly lose authors. So you're absolutely right.
> In our projects we often ignore the fact that knowledge is not necessarily
> a knowledge of the educated class alone, we find "knowledge" even in places
> where you least expect it. Currently it is so that access to Wikipedia,
> especially in the developed versions with> 100,000 articles, already
> excludes many people to participate. The challenge is simply too difficult.
> Language does not stand alonefor itself, language is strongly tied to the
> culture. And this culture is often - I am referring to the German-language
> Wikipedia - already in a kind of elitist form of us even reproduced and
> filtered.
> But why should a language and word-collecting software make it possible to
> attract new authors and to enable new areas of knowledge acquisition? By
> being brave and just go new ways!Wikipedia is 13 years old and has not
> changed in its basic concept. But this basic concept is, in my view, in
> many ways no more purposeful in order to meet the requirements for
> different classes of readers and writers.
> Though I know that language does not stands on its own, so I also know
> that culture is not just a part of everyday life of humans, the life is the
> culture itself. But this isoften perceived by the elitists not as culture
> but as folklore. Just as we perceive dialects as a language of the
> subordinate social classes and as such also denote such languages as
> "dialects"so that the apparent superiority of a so-called high-level
> language can be brought to the fore.
> When we talk about knowledge, then we always talk about written knowledge
> in a standardized form.
> However, we lose a large part of the knowledge by the fact that our
> culture is changing , our tools, our traditional professions. But that also
> disappears the diversity of our culture.
> If you look at the tools of a cobbler, then you will find there a piece of
> steel which is called in german Kneip. It is for the shoemaker, the most
> important of all tools in addition to the hammer. Today we no longer
> findshoemakers. Until a few years ago there were shoemakers in every
> street, in every small town. Probably in serbia or Belgrade, you will find
> more than we have here in Vienna, Austria and Germany together. And because
> this piece of steel , Kneip, wich is so extremely efficient and above all
> extremely cheap, it was formerly in every private toolbox. Together with a
> grindstone .
> Today it is called the Stanley knife, but it can not compete at least with
> the quality of Kneip. But we still have the word Kneip. And as long this
> word exists and people know what it means, as long this tool exists. If
> only in our consciousness. But when the word disappears , then the tool is
> finally gone. And thus also a part of our culture.
> This is just a small example of how important it is to preserve the
> language in its diverse form.
> The same applies to languages. Each language is significant because it is
> originated in and out of a very special cultural situation. If this culture
> could retain without influence from outside, eventually it will become a
> own language,because it is different from the more changing "main" language.
> If you understand Yiddish - which is understood as a separate language -
> then you know about how people may have spoken German several hundred years
> ago. Although, of course, Yiddish has also evolved. And even the main
> spoken language in Vienna, wich is in parts influenced by Yiddish (an even
> other languages like Rotwelsh, Czech..). As Max Weinreich handed down (from
> a yiddish participant of his lectures):
> A language is a dialect with an army and navy <
> wiki/A_language_is_a_dialect_with_an_army_and_navy>
> If someone - as in my case - can speak Carinthian (which is divided in
> three or four different main variaties) and furthermore three or four other
> austrian regional languages, then these willnot be understood as languages,
> but as subordinate dialects to standard german. A north German who claims
> to be able to speak german, (what a mistake!) will not understand me when I
> take no account of his shortcomings of his own german language. But he will
> call my language as inferiorto his own abilities.
> Going into languages ist something extremly difficult, if you don´t know,
> how you will implement your ideas.
> It is intended to be too short, just promote new language versions, but to
> take no account of the cultural characteristics.
> You must reach the people where they have their greatest abilities there.
> in their own spoken language. Where all people can show in the same way
> their own skills. In their own linguistic expressionthere is no
> competition, no one is better than the other. Everyone is just as he is.
> Because it is the expression of his own world. For that is the very special
> about it.
> It can then develop a part of the speakers to what we call autors. In her
> very special kind, which can not be measured by number of articles but in
> the specificity of the expression of their culture.
> This means at the same time that we all need to be aware that there are
> probably many languages, but no above and below languages. This is in my
> opinion one of the biggest problems we have, because we, as participants in
> a so-called highly civilized world are far away to see other cultures as
> equal inside our thinking.
> But with Wikipedia and Wikipedians, we have maybe a chance to understand
> this. Who else could do that in this world?
> heinz /Hubertl
> Am 20.04.2014 05:46, schrieb Milos Rancic:
>> There are ~6000 languages in the world and around 3000 of them have
>> more than 10,000 speakers.
>> That approximation has some issues, but they are compensated by the
>> ambiguity of the opposition. Ethnologue is not the best place to find
>> precise data about the languages and it could count as languages just
>> close varieties of one language, but it also doesn't count some other
>> languages. Not all of the languages with 10,000 or more speakers have
>> positive attitude toward their languages, but there are languages with
>> smaller number of speakers with very positive attitude toward their
>> own language.
>> So, that number is what we could count as the realistic "final" number
>> of the language editions of Wikimedia projects. At the moment, we have
>> less than 300 language editions.
>> * * *
>> There is the question: Why should we do that? The answer is clear to
>> me: Because we can.
>> Yes, there are maybe more specific organizations which could do that,
>> but it's not about expertise, but about ability. Fortunately, we don't
>> need to search for historical examples for comparisons; the Internet
>> is good enough.
>> I still remember infographic of the time while all of us thought that
>> Flickr is the place for images. It turned out that the biggest
>> repository of images is actually Facebook, which had hundred times
>> more of them than the Twitpic at the second place, which, in turn, had
>> hundred times more of images than Flickr.
>> In other words, the purpose of something and general perception of its
>> purpose is not enough for doing good job. As well as comparisons
>> between mismanaged internet projects and mismanaged traditional
>> scientific and educational organizations are numerous.
>> At this point of time Wikimedia all necessary capacities -- and even a
>> will to take that job. So, we should start doing that, finally :)
>> * * *
>> There is also the question: How can we do that? In short, because of
>> Wikipedia.
>> I announced Microgrants project of Wikimedia Serbia yesterday. To be
>> honest, we have very low expectations. When I said to Filip that I
>> want to have 10 active community members after the project, he said
>> that I am overambitious. Yes, I am.
>> But ten hours later I've got the first response and I was very
>> positively surprised by a lot of things. The most relevant for this
>> story is that a person from a city in Serbia proper is very
>> enthusiastic about Wikipedia and contributing to it (and organizing
>> contributors in the area). I didn't hear that for years! (Maybe I was
>> just too pessimistic because of my obsession with statistics.)
>> Keeping in mind her position (she said that she was always complaining
>> about lack of material on Serbian Wikipedia, although at this point of
>> time it's the encyclopedia in Serbian with the most relevant content)
>> and her enthusiasm, I am completely sure that many speakers of many
>> small languages are dreaming from time to time to have Wikipedia in
>> their native language.
>> Like in the case of a Serbian from the fifth or sixth largest city in
>> Serbia, I am sure that they just don't know how to do that. So, it's
>> up to us to reach them.
>> English Wikipedia has some influences on contemporary English language
>> ("citation needed", let's say). It has more influences on languages
>> with smaller number of speakers, like Serbian is (Cyrillic/Latin
>> cultural war in Serbia was over at the moment when Serbian Wikipedia
>> implemented transliteration engine; it's no issue now, while it was
>> the issue up to mid 2000s).
>> But it's about well developed languages in the cultural sense. What
>> about not that developed ones? While I don't have an example of the
>> effects (anyone, please?), counting the amount of the written
>> materials in some languages, Wikipedia will (or already has) become
>> the biggest book, sometimes the biggest library in that language; in
>> some cases Wikipedia will create the majority of texts written in
>> particular language!
>> While we think about Wikipedia as valuable resource for learning about
>> wide range of the topics, significance of Wikipedia for those peoples
>> would be much higher. If we do the job, there will be many monuments
>> to Wikipedia all over the world, because Wikipedia would preserve many
>> cultures, not just the languages.
>> * * *
>> There is the question "How?", at the end. There are numerous of
>> possible ways and there are also some tries to do that, but we have to
>> create the plan how to do that systematically, well, according to our
>> principles and goals and according to the reality.
>> What we know from our previous experiences:
>> * The number of editors has declined and, at the moment, without a
>> miracle (or hard work, but I assume the most of our movement is used
>> to miracles, not to hard work), the trend will continue. Contrary to
>> that, number of readers has increased. Unfortunately, in this case a
>> miracle is not necessary for that trend to end.
>> * If we count languages with relevant statistics for editors per
>> million, the top of them belong either to the highly motivated
>> communities (Hebrew), either to the rich countries with harsh climate,
>> which makes writing on Wikipedia as a good fun (Estonian, Icelandic,
>> Norwegian, Finish), either to the community which belongs to the both
>> categories (Scots Gaelic). And it's around 100 users per million.
>> If a community has 100,000 of speakers, it would mean that the
>> community would have 10 editors with 5 or more edits per month. In the
>> cases of the languages with 10,000 of speakers, it would mean 1 editor
>> with 5 or more edits per month. That won't work.
>> I'd say that Scots Gaelic could be a good test (Wikimedia UK help
>> needed!). It's a language with ~70k of speakers and if it's possible
>> to achieve 100 active editors per month, we could say that it could
>> somehow work in other cases, as well.
>> * Besides preserving languages and cultural heritage, we want to have
>> useful information on those Wikipedias. That's a tough job for many
>> communities because of various issues: from the lack of reasonable
>> internet access to the inherent cultural biases.
>> But we have some tools -- Wikidata as the most important one -- to
>> create a lot of useful content.
>> But the entrance level is very high. Editors have to know to use
>> computers well, as well as to think quite formally. That's serious
>> obstacle in areas without well developed educational systems.
>> * Good news is that we have chapters in three countries with a lot of
>> languages: India, Indonesia and Australia (though, it's about very
>> small languages in Australia; though, Australia is much richer). So,
>> we have organizational potential.
>> * There are, of course, a lot of other issues. Many of them, actually.
>> But if we wouldn't start, we wouldn't do anything.
>> * * *
>> As you could see, I wrote this not as a kind of plan, but as the set
>> of open questions. I'd like your input (first here, then on Meta):
>> What do you think? How can we start working on it? What do you think
>> it would be the most efficient way? Ways? Any other idea?
>> I'd call you to give wings to your imagination. To be able to solve
>> that, we need bold ideas. At the other side, I'd appreciate people
>> with more organizational skills to give their input, as well.
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    Asaf Bartov
    Wikimedia Foundation <>

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