Friday, May 09, 2008

Closing the Xhosa Wikipedia?

A proposal to close the Xhosa Wikipedia has been made, and for some of us it raises some questions about how the Wikimedia Foundation deals with less-resourced languages, such as those in Africa. The bottom line here is really why there is little participation in African language editions of Wikipedia, and what the most appropriate course of action is - closing and eventually deleting, or finding ways to connect with communities that can work on them.

It is worth remembering that Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, expressed its vision in this way: "The fundamental idea of Wikipedia is to create and give away a freely licensed encyclopaedia in every language of the world." What does/should this vision mean in terms of how African language content and communities are developed?

The Xhosa language (called isiXhosa in the language itself) is spoken by about 7-8 million people and is one of South Africa's official languages. In theory, it would seem like one of the African languages most likely to succeed on Wikipedia, so the questions the proposal for closure raise are quite pointed. Personally I think that there is a marketing issue here - but clearly the reasons for lack of connection need to be examined thoroughly. It's not just as simple as "there is no interest."

Meetings in recent weeks

Over the last few weeks I've had some interesting meetings in which topics related to African languages have been raised, but that I haven't gotten around to reporting here, including several at the University of Pennsylvania, the new National Museum of Language, the Center for Applied Linguistics, ACTFL (the dedication of their new office), and with Mrs. Ntombenhle Nkosi, CEO of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). Will travel tonight to Bamako for meetings with ACALAN and other organizations there.


ngubeni ka nkophe said...

I am happy to read about wikipedia xhosa. I see it for the first time today. I strongly want isixhosa to be maintained. I will be sad if closure succeeds. Any discussion groups engaged in this issue?


ngubeni ka nkophe

Bryce Wesley Merkl said...

Too bad to hear about the Xhosa wikipedia closing. Hopefully they will decide not to close it.

Here's another site in Xhosa that will not be closing down any time soon:

isiXhosa wiki browser