It’s been quite a long time (four and a half years in fact) since I looked at the state of the African language Wiktionaries. For those new to Wiktionary, the idea is that it will describe all words of all languages using definitions and descriptions in the particular language edition. An ambitious task!
So, how are the projects progressing?
African Language Wiktionaries
|Egyptian Arabic (incubator)||–||–||–||195||–|
In short, although it’s been so long since the last update, there’s not much to show. The only project to more than double its articles in four and a half years is Tsonga, off a minute base. Malagasy has always had a huge amount of bot activity, and is still growing from a large base, and Afrikaans shows some signs of life. But overall, the state of the African language Wiktionaries can be described as dormant.
Perhaps the African language Wikipedias will fare better?
African Language Wikipedias > 1000 articles
The Zulu Wikipedia is the latest addition to the 1000 club, having reached this milestone just before Wikimania last year, and progress has been steady since then.
At first glance, Hausa looks like it’s in great shape, with an 88% increase in the number of articles. But this is misleading, as many of these are one line articles on football players, the entirety of which translates as, for example, “Kenny Allen (footballer) is an English football player.” No disrespect to Kenny Allen, but I’m not sure he and the 100s of other footballers listed there are critical components of Hausa knowledge. There’s a move to delete these articles (you can see the impressive list here while it’s up), but even if they survive, it’s not a sign of a healthy project.
Leaving aside Hausa, it’s once again Afrikaans, growing at an impressive 53% over the period, that provides an example for the rest. At current rates, it’s on track to pass Malagasy and reclaim its position on top in about a year or so.
Besides Afrikaans, only Shona, Swahili, Somali and Zulu show a growth rate above 10%, while quite a few sit idle.
Moving on to the South African language editions specifically:
South African Language Wikipedias
Afrikaans remains the only project that could be described as a usable Wikipedia – the other languages are still very much in the formative stages. Zulu is also showing signs of life. Besides these two, only Xhosa and Swati see growth rates above 5%. It’s sad to see the stalling of Northern Sotho, while Ndebele shows no signs of getting out of the incubator anytime soon.
2019 has been proclaimed the Year of Indigenous Languages by the UN, but so far there’s not much sign of a change in the status of the African language projects. Later today sees the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources, in collaboration with the Academy of African Languages and Science from the University of South Africa, present an interactive day workshop on contributing to Wikipedia in South African languages. It’s great to see this initiative, which arose with no help that I’m aware of from Wikimedia South Africa. I’m always hopeful with events like these. Generally very few people to stay around to edit Wikipedia, but as projects like Northern Sotho and Swahili show, one person can make a huge difference in the early stages, and it justs needs a committed editor to stick around. It’s a lonely job editing in the early stages, wondering if it’s worthwhile, no community, no idea if their work is being read. Hopefully someone will take on the challenge!
If you are looking to contribute, but don’t know where to start, please reach out to Wikimedia South Africa and we’d be happy to assist.
- Zulu Wikipedia reaches 1000 articles
- June 2018 African language Wikipedia update, 50 000 articles for Afrikaans
- September 2017 African language Wikipedia update
- November 2016 African language Wikipedia update
- March 2016 African language Wikipedia update
- June 2015 African language Wikipedia update
- October 2014 African language Wikipedia and Wiktionary update
- June 2014 African Wikipedia and Wiktionary update
- May 2013 African language Wikipedia update
- November African language Wikipedia update: Afrikaans passes Swahili
- April 2012 African language Wikipedia update
- Northern Sotho Wikipedia now an official project, Afrikaans reaches 20 000 articles
- African language Wiktionary update
- African language Wikipedia update
- Wolof Wikipedia reaches 1000 articles
- Swahili Wikipedia now the largest African-language Wikipedia
- The state of Wikimedia projects in South African and Africa – Dec 2008
- The South African Wikimedia communities
- Venda Wikipedia Progress
- First Wikipedia Academy in Africa
- Wikipedia Week
- Afrikaans Wikipedia hits 5000 articles
Image from Wikimedia Commons