Hei,

As a supporter of language diversity, I’m a bit sad of this thread because
some people find we should not engage in language revitalisation because:
1/ it’s not explicitely in our scope (and I don’t fully aggree: "sum of
all knowledge" also includes minority cultures expressed in their
languages, as shown by Hubert Laska with the "Kneip"),
2/ it’s too difficult/expansive "to save most languages".

Although there are obviously great difficulties, I find it shouldn’t stop
us to support or partnership with local languages institutions,
particularly if there are interested people or volunteers: we are not
obliged to select the 3000 more spoken languages and set up parterships to
"save" these 3000 languages, but we can support institutions or volunteers
_interested_ in saving some small language on a case-by-case basis (Rapa
Nui, Chickasaw, Skolt Sami, Kibushi, whatever) if minimum requirements are
met (writing system and ISO 639 code for a website, financial ressources
for a project), i.e. crowdsourcing the language preservation between
Wikimedia, volunteers, speakers, and institutions.

When multilinguism in the cyberspace is discussed by linguists, Wikipedia
is almost every time shown as *the* better successful example. As
discussed in this thread, perhaps some projects (Wikisource, Wiktionary,
Wikidata) are easier to set up in these languages and this could be a
first step, but these will only preserve these as non-living objects of
interest, at the contrary of a Wikibook/Wikipedia/Wikinews/Wikiversity
where speakers could practice the language, invent neologisms and
terminology, create corpora for linguists, and show the language to other
interested people in the world (I’m sure there are).

As an example in France, Wikimédia France has quite good relationships
with the DGLFLF (Delegation for the French language and languages of
France), and this institution census 75 languages in France, whose 2/3 are
overseas [1]. The DGLFLF contributed ressources on some small languages
and multilinguism on Wikibooks [2] and Commons [3].

[1] (fr) http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/dglf/lgfrance/lgfrance_presentation.htm [2] (fr) https://fr.wikibooks.org/wiki/États_généraux_du_multilinguisme_dans_les_outre-mer [3] (fr)(mul) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:États_généraux_du_multilinguisme_dans_les_outre-mer

~ Seb35

20.04.2014 05:46:47 (CEST), Milos Rancic kirjoitti:
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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