Wiki Cape Town, Joe Slovo and a storyteller

There was a Cape Town Wikimedia meetup this week, and I got to meet a couple of new people. Victor, a Wikimedia storyteller from San Francisco, is in Cape Town, mainly to document the inspiring story of a school in Joe Slovo Park that have successfully lobbied FNB Connect for free access to Wikipedia pages. A few people from Wikimedia ZA will be going to the school this week to tell people more about the project, and teach people to edit.

I also finally got to meet Dumisane Ndubane, who’s the president of Wikimedia South Africa. We’ve interacted online for quite a long time, so it was great to meet in person. Dumisane lives in Jhb and is passing through Cape Town after coming back from the Chapter’s Conference in Milan.

Oarabile Mudongo was also there, one of the few active Tswana editors. He’s hoping to get a Botswana Chapter started. Here’s a great video of Oarabile speaking about the impact Wikipedia has had on his life.

The Wikimedia South Africa board seems to be doing some good work, and the Joburgpedia project, which aims to encourage heritage institutions (government and private) to contribute high-quality content sounds like it’s making good progress.

May 2013 African language Wikipedia update

There’s a current proposal to close the Xhosa Wikipedia for lack of activity, so I thought it’d be a good time to see the progress of the African and South African language Wikipedias.

Heading the list of African-language Wikipedias by article count, Malagasy is still racing ahead in creating new articles, mainly thanks to articles automatically created by bots. These articles aren’t always ones that you’d imagine would be high priority. There are currently over 200 galaxies with their own article, some with broken templates, for example the one on the NGC 953 elliptical galaxy in the constellation Triangulum. But no article on Nelson Mandela, or Omer Beriziky, the prime minister of Madagascar.

So it’s a somewhat artificial indicator, but there is still a reasonable level of activity, and it would be interesting to measure whether bot-activity helps encourage human activity.

Second is Yoruba, where the huge burst has slowed (again, many are bot-related, and the first random article I clicked on was minor space body 3011 Chongqing), but there’s still steady progress. Afrikaans in third continues well, and is probably in the best shape of any African-language Wikipedia. After being overtaken by Swahili, it has seen consistent activity, has a healthy community, and is growing far faster than Swahili.

Swahili and Amharic are still growing steadily, while Egyptian Arabic is growing quickly, and is on track to pass Amharic. Of the others with more than 1000 articles, only Kinyarwandahas has stalled, while Kabyle and Shona have seen good growth.

Language 1/1/2007 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 16/11/2012 9/5/2013
Malagasy   3806 36767 38753 45361
Yoruba 517 12174 29894 30158 30585
Afrikaans 6149 17002 22115 24821 26752
Swahili 2980 21244 23481 24519 25265
Amharic 742 6738 11572 11806 12360
Egyptian Arabic     8433 10379
Somali   1639 2354 2757
Lingala 292 1394 1816 1951 2025
Kinyarwanda     1501 1807 1817
Kabyle       1144 1503
Shona       1272 1421
Wolof   1116 1814 1129 1161

So overall, in Africa, some good progress.

Of the South African language Wikipedias, outside of Afrikaans, the state is as dismal as ever. Three have actually lost articles (usually due to removing spam), while a proposal has been made to close the Xhosa Wikipedia. Xhosa is the smallest-remaining African language Wikipedia still open. A number of smaller languages have already been closed. Growth in Zulu has slowed, Venda has shown flickers of activity, while Sotho has grown by 37 articles, although it’s still second-smallest, ahead of Xhosa.

Let’s not forget Ndebele, which as the least widely spoken official South African language, still has no representation.

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/10/2007 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 16/11/2012 9/5/2013
Afrikaans 8374 20042 22115 24821 26754
Northern Sotho 0 557 566 686 685
Zulu 107 256 483 568 579
Tswana 40 240 490 497 495
Swati 56 359 361 363 364
Tsonga 10 192 193 243 240
Venda 43 193 190 194 204
Sotho 43 132 145 151 188
Xhosa 66 125 136 141 148

Neville Alexander, a champion of multi-lingualism in South Africa, recently died, and there don’t seem to be prominent leaders taking up the mantle. While there are eleven official languages, English seems to be becoming ever-more dominant, there’s a dearth of local literature and language departments are shrinking in the country’s universities. A recent Wikipedia workshop at the University of Cape Town was co-ordinated by one of the Wikimedia South Africa board members, Douglas Scott, and in spite of being a standard lecture as part of the curriculum, not a single native-speaker turned up. The article-counts reflect this situation, so it seems unlikely there’ll be a change anytime soon.

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November African language Wikipedia update: Afrikaans passes Swahili

Time to take another look at the progress of African and African language Wikipedia projects.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/1/2007 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 16/11/2012
Malagasy   3806 36767 38753
Yoruba 517 12174 29894 30158
Afrikaans 6149 17002 22115 24821
Swahili 2980 21244 23481 24519
Amharic 742 6738 11572 11806
Egyptian Arabic     8433
Somali   1639 2354
Lingala 292 1394 1816 1951
Kinyarwanda     1501 1807
Shona       1272
Kabyle       1144
Wolof   1116 1814 1129

Progress has slowed in a number of the projects, and in the leading two languages, Malagasy and Yoruba, the slump has been quite dramatic after the increase seen in the previous period.

Remember as always I’m only looking at the number of articles, which is a flawed metric since it’s quite easy for bots or single users to quickly create large numbers of low quality articles. Still, it does measure some degree of the level of activity and interest in the project.

Afrikaans is distinguishing itself, and has picked up the pace and once again passed Swahili, which passed Afrikaans to become the largest African-language Wikipedia back in July 2009. Afrikaans also grew the quickest, which means that, on current trends, Afrikaans is heading towards once again becoming the largest African language Wikipedia, although it is still far behind Malagasy and Yoruba.

Two new arrivals in the 1000+ club are Shona, spoken primarily in Zimbabwe, and Kabyle, spoken primarily in Algeria, which have both passed Wolof, meaning there are now eleven African language Wikipedias with more than one thousand articles.

Shona has increased particularly quickly, having less than 100 articles two years ago.

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/10/2007 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 16/11/2012
Afrikaans 8374 20042 22115 24821
Northern Sotho 0 557 566 686
Zulu 107 256 483 568
Tswana 40 240 490 497
Swati 56 359 361 363
Tsonga 10 192 193 243
Venda 43 193 190 194
Sotho 43 132 145 151
Xhosa 66 125 136 141

Of the South African languages, besides Afrikaans, there has been reasonable progress in Northern Sotho, which spent a long time in the incubator before emerging to become the second largest, and Zulu. Sadly the growth in Tswana, boosted by the Google Setswana challenge from October 2011 to January 2012, has again stalled, while the other languages remain moribund.

It’s pleasing to see the signs of progress, and the gradual manifestation of a world in which every human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

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April 2012 African language Wikipedia update

It’s been about five months since I last looked in detail at the South African language Wikipedias, and there’s been significant progress in three of the languages.

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/10/2007 30/5/2010 19/11/2011 13/4/2012
Afrikaans 8374 15260 20042 22115
Northern Sotho** 0 540* 557 566
Tswana 40 103 240 490
Zulu 107 195 256 483
Swati 56 173 359 361
Tsonga 10 174 192 193
Venda 43 162 193 190
Sotho 43 69 132 145
Xhosa 66 115 125 136

Afrikaans remains by far the largest official South African language Wikipedia and continues to develop. It’s a healthy, thriving project with many good articles. Northern Sotho has been fairly stagnant since becoming an official project, but the good news comes in the next two on the list. Tswana has more than doubled in size to pass both Swati and Zulu, the primary reason being the Google Setswana challenge. Google offered prizes for participants, including a trip to attend the Wikimedia Foundation’s annual conference in Washington DC, USA, as well as netbooks, android phones and so on. It’s encouraging that although the contest is now over, there is still fairly heavy development going on, and hopefully this will be sustained.

Zulu has also seen good progress, adding 227 articles since the last update. There’s no Google to thank this time – the progress has mostly been due to a single highly active editor, a native English speaker and Zulu, French and Afrikaans translator, testament to the difference just one dedicated contributor can make.

The other languages have seen almost no progress. Particularly disappointing has been Xhosa. I know of at least three Xhosa Wikipedia workshops that have taken place, at the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and with the provincial government, and yet it still remains as the smallest of the official South African language Wikipedias.

Moving on to Africa in general, which I haven’t looked at in detail for about a year, there’s been much positive progress.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/1/2007 30/5/2010 11/2/2011 13/4/2012
Malagasy   2450 3806 36767
Yoruba 517 8858 12174 29894
Swahili 2980 17998 21244 23481
Afrikaans 6149 15259 17002 22115
Amharic 742 3810 6738 11572
Egyptian Arabic       8433
Somali     1639 2354
Lingala 292 1255 1394 1816
Kinyarwanda     1501 1807
Wolof   1068 1096 1116

Swahili, which has been the largest African language Wikipedia for so long, has been dramatically surpassed in size by both Malagasy and Yoruba.

The Malagasy Wikipedia, with its unique characteristics, is beloved by linguists and I believe many of the contributors are non-native speakers. Most of the contributors work in Malagasy or French, and I haven’t been able to understand the reasons for its particularly rapid rise.

Yoruba too has seen a dramatic increase. but surprisingly Swahili, which seemed to be in good shape a few months ago, has slowed noticeably, and even Afrikaans is starting to catch up in size.

I’d previously overlooked the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia, and have added it to the comparison. It was launched in 2008 (being announced at the Alexandra Wikimania conference), so taking into account its late start, as well as some initial opposition to its existence as a separate project to standard Arabic, it’s growing well, at the third fastest rate behind Malagasy and Yoruba.

Progress in the other languages is steady, and it’s great to see the development of these projects towards an actual usable resource.

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Northern Sotho Wikipedia now an official project, Afrikaans reaches 20 000 articles

Northern Sotho now has it’s own Wikipedia, becoming the 10th official South African language to do so.

The project has been sitting for many years in the Incubator, where projects that aren’t yet ready are hosted and developed. It was a bit of an anomaly, as even though it was more active than many other South African languages, an official project was never initiated, and the rules later changed, tightening up the qualification criteria. This may have been to its advantage, as with the modest goal of getting the project out of the incubator, there has been more activity, and it already has far more articles than any other official language besides English and Afrikaans.

Northern Sotho is South Africa’s fourth largest language by number of home language speakers, but trails only Afrikaans and of course English, far outperforming the much more widely spoken Zulu and Xhosa.

Congratulations to the small but dedicated team of editors who’ve helped bring the project to life.

The Afrikaans Wikipedia continues to power ahead, and recently reached a significant milestone with the creation of its 20 000th article. Here’s an updated table of the South African language Wikipedias by number of articles.

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/10/2007 30/5/2010 11/2/2011 19/11/2011
Afrikaans 8374 15260 17002 20042
Northern Sotho** 0 540* 597* 557
Swati 56 173 308 359
Zulu 107 195 209 256
Tswana 40 103 105 240
Venda 43 162 192 193
Tsonga 10 174 185 192
Sotho 43 69 117 132
Xhosa 66 115 116 125

*Northen Sotho was not yet an official project at this point, and was still in the Incubator.

Remember, number of articles is a rough metric – it’s quite easy to create large numbers of low quality articles, but it’s one of the easiest ways of measuring the progress of a project. An example of this is the progress of Tswana. Although there has been some activity, many of the new additions have been translated with Google Translate, and are full of formatting errors.

Ndebele is now the only official South African language without a Wikipedia, and being the least widely-spoken, this isn’t surprising. However, besides Afrikaans, and the minor activity in Swati and Tswana, the projects are quiet.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, is the most well-known of the Wikimedia Foundation projects, but there are others, including Wiktionary, the free dictionary that aims to define every word, in every language. Here’s how the local Wiktionaries are progressing:

South African Language Wiktionaries

Language 9/12/2007 30/5/2010 15/5/2011 19/11/2011
Afrikaans 9312 14669 14731 14969
Sotho 1381 1389 1398 1405
Zulu 102 131 510 574
Swati 31 371 377 377
Tsonga 166 359 363 363
Tswana 0 23 33 34
Xhosa 11 Closed Closed (38)* Closed (38)*

*The Xhosa Wiktionary was closed and moved to the Incubator, where it’s gained a few entries but is nowhere near making a return as an active project.

Afrikaans is closing in on its fifteen thousandth definition, and there’s been some activity in Zulu, but otherwise the local Wiktionaries are fairly inactive.

So although activity in the local language projects has been disappointing, the continued development of Afrikaans, and the reaching of the Northern Sotho milestone, are encouraging.

With bandwidth prices dropping steadily, and devices such as the Ubuntu-powered Webbook from Vodacom, internet penetration is slowly rising, and hopefully this can help spread awareness of the projects, and increase the number of contributors.

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African language Wikipedia update

There’s been some momentum recently in the local Wikimedia world.

The process for forming a local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation was jumpstarted at a workshop at Wits University in August last year, and is now nearing the final stages. The legal documentation is close to being complete, and will be submitted shortly to the Wikimedia Foundation for approval. Once they’ve given the go ahead, we’ll register a local non-profit organisation as the official presence of the local community.

This is happening at the same time as another bid to host Wikimania, the annual conference of all things wiki. I co-ordinated the Cape Town bid in 2008, and this time around Stellenbosch is bidding, with the event to be hosted at Stellenbosch University.

With all this activity, I was invited to talk on SAFM radio yesterday afternoon, in particular about the local chapter, and the local language Wikipedias. It was a short interview, so in spite of hoping to mention both the local bid, as well as the fact that there’s more than just Wikipedia, I was pleased to discuss the much-overlooked local language Wikipedias.

I don’t listen to radio, and I don’t know what sort of impact it, or this particular show on SAFM, has these days, so as soon as the interview ended, I loaded up article counts for all the local language Wikipedias, and now, about eight hours later, I’m looking to see if there’s been any noticeable activity.

Of all the official South Africa language Wikipedias, all but Afrikaans, and of course English, are extremely low traffic, where a single edit is a noteworthy event!

So, how much impact did the interview have, and, more importantly, how have they been doing since my last update?

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/10/2007 30/5/2010 11/2/2011
Afrikaans 8374 15260 17002
Swati 56 173 308
Zulu 107 195 209
Venda 43 162 192
Tsonga 10 174 185
Sotho 43 69 117
Xhosa 66 115 116
Tswana 40 103 105
Northern Sotho** 0 540 597
Ndebele 0 0 0

**The Northern Sotho Wikipedia, in spite of being the 3rd largest official South African language, is still in the incubator due to not meeting more recent criteria for a new project – in particular active community support.

In the last eight hours, not much has happened as far as editorial activity goes. A new Sotho user registered, and there was a substantive Venda edit, while a new Zulu article and user appeared. So perhaps speaking on an English-language radio station is not the best way to gain users!

A milestone occured in the Afrikaans Wikipedia though, with the 17000th article being created – by my reckoning it was an article on the Afrikaans metal band K.O.B.U.S! (who make Die Antwoord look like Boney M).

Since my last count, the Swazi Wikipedia has seen quite a jump – mostly a single user adding country entries.

There’s been a flurry of activity in the rest of Africa though. A number of languages have shot past 1000 articles, and two are even growing faster than the relatively stable Afrikaans.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/1/2007 30/5/2010 11/2/2011
Swahili 2980 17998 21244
Afrikaans 6149 15259 17002
Yoruba 517 8858 12174
Amharic 742 3810 6738
Malagasy   2450 3806
Somali     1639
Kinyarwanda     1501
Lingala 292 1255 1394
Wolof   1068 1096

Swahili has raced past 20 000 articles, and a number of other languages are now growing faster than 2nd-placed Afrikaans. Yoruba has started growing rapidly and gained about 3000 articles on Afrikaans since the May 2010 update, and Amharic also gained more articles in the same period. Lingala and Wolof seem to have both stalled, being leapfrogged by both Somali and Kinyarwanda, which become the eighth and ninth African language Wikipedias to pass 1000 articles.

Kabyle will also pass the 1000 article milestone shortly.

After getting a bit distracted by K.O.B.U.S! above, it’s a bit late, and I’ll update the Wiktionary stats another time.

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Northern Sotho Wikipedia needs help

Northern Sotho is the only official South African language without an active Wikipedia. The project sits in the incubator, where it interestingly has far more articles than all other SA languages bar English and Afrikaans (540 vs Swati on 187).

Mohau Monaledi has been driving the project, and has contributed 1310 edits, more than everyone else put together, and was one of the original proposers in 2007. It’s unfortunately quite difficult to get a project out of incubator these days, and the project needs some help to become an official Wikipedia.

The proposal is struggling to meet the following criterion: “develop an active test project; it must remain active until approval. It is generally considered active if the analysis lists at least three active, not-grayed-out editors listed in the sections for the previous few months.”

Mohau needs more support!

This would be a great project for the fledgling Wikimedia South Africa chapter to drive, and it would be a significant milestone to have all official South African languages represented with their own Wikipedia. Northern Sotho has over 4 million speakers, and is the 4th most spoken language in South Africa. If you speak Northern Sotho, please help out! And if not, try recruit some Northern Sotho speakers. I will try to focus some work with my template translation tool on Northern Sotho as well.

To help:

A key tracker is at
There needs to be at least 3 active (not grayed out) editors contributing for 3 consecutive months. There was in late 2009, but not recently.

Once this has been done, and it’s probably the most significant remaining hurdle, we can start on the next stage of the approval process.

Related posts:

Wikimedia South Africa workshop

This weekend a number of us held a workshop at Wits University to discuss forming a South African chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation – the non-profit foundation supporting projects such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary. For those interested in the details, the Wikimedia South Africa meta page has more, and you can also join the mailing list.

It was a good start. Many of us active on the various Wikimedia projects met each other for the first time, and a number of new people attended as well.

We finished with a concrete timeline – approximately 7 months to registration, as well as two core teams – one working on the administrative aspects of registration, and the other on activity planning.

There was also much discussion towards a draft vision, draft purposes, draft challenges and possible initiatives. I had hoped to make further progess on these, but time was very limited. Another half-day might have seen these tightened up and agreed by everyone at the workshop, while I suspect doing this on the mailing list is going to drag on a lot longer. But, it’s a good start, and many good ideas have been thrown into the mix. It’s everyone responsibility to keep the momentum going while we’re not in the room together.

Thanks to everyone who made the effort to attend the conference, and contribute in some way, taking photos, updating the wiki, and in particular Delphine Ménard and Bence Damakos from the Wikimedia Foundation Chapter Committee, who flew in for all of two days just for the workshop, the African Commons Project, for whom Kerryn McKay and Daniela Faris White attended, for hosting and co-ordinating the wokshop, Achal Prabhala for sparking it into action and Nhlanhla Mabaso for helping to network and reach many of the people who hadn’t been active on Wikimedia projects before.

There was another concrete outcome, perhaps more in line with the anarchic way things tend to happen. After the workshop, I went to the Jozi book fair with Mbulu. We met an old friend of his, who happened to have translated into English the very first Venda novel, written by his father. He showed interest in the chapter, and gave me a copy of the book. I read it at the airport and on the way home, and now there’s one more Wikipedia article towards filling the gap in African literature!

Related posts:

Wolof reaches 1000 Wikipedia articles

A sixth African-language Wikipedia has reached the 1000 article milestone, with Wolof now sitting at 1068 articles.

Two other African languages, Somali and Kabye, are also closing in on the milestone, both having moved quite quickly into the 800’s, passing the relatively stagnant Igbo and Kikongo.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/1/2007 3/8/2009 30/5/2010
Swahili 2980 12631 17998
Afrikaans 6149 12568 15259
Yoruba 517 6261 8858
Amharic 742 3333 3810
Lingala 292 1148 1255
Wolof     1068

Swahili remains the largest African-language Wikipedia, and is moving rapidly ahead. Having passed Afrikaans in August 2009, it’s now almost 3000 articles ahead, while Afrikaans remains on a steady trajectory.

Swahili also benefited from a Google project to create more Swahili content, focusing on the Swahili Wikipedia. Google initially targetted 7 East African universities, and sponsored prizes. Contributers had between November and January to write new articles, and the contest resulted in a 30% increase (by words) in the size of the Swahili Wikipedia for that period. New articles were up to 35 a day (up from 9 in October), but it appears this was a temporary boost, as rates have dropped off to 5 or 6 new articles a day since, below the Afrikaans average of about 9.

So, the African language Wikipedias show steady progress, what about Wiktionary?

African Language Wiktionaries

Language 3/8/2009 30/5/2010
Afrikaans 14128 14669
Swahili 12956 13000
Malagasy 142 4253
Wolof 2675 2689
Sotho 1387 1389
Swati 31 371
Tsonga 358 359
Amharic 311 319
Rwandi 306 306
Oromo 186 218

Many of the languages have stagnated, with the possible exception of Malagasy, which at first glance appears to have taken off and is now the 3rd-largest African language Wiktionary. In March though, the Malagasy Wikipedia stood at 6119 articles, so it appears a large number were not article quality, or were spam, and have been deleted. Article count is not a good indicator of quality, as it’s quite easy to create large number of low quality stubs, which isn’t indicative of a vibrant project.

On to the South African languages in particular:

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 1/10/2007 3/8/2009 30/5/2010
Afrikaans 8374 12568 15260*
Zulu 107 187 195
Tsonga 10 169 174
Swati 56 157 173
Venda 43 124 162
Xhosa 66 112 115
Tswana 40 103 105
Sotho 43 79 69
Northern Sotho** 0 311 540
Ndebele 0 0 0

* – yes, one article has been created since I started writing this.

** – The Northern Sotho Wikipedia is going great guns in the incubator, but it appears no closer to becoming an actual project, even though it would easily be second to Afrikaans. The missing criteria is “having an active community”, a criterion most of projects still in the main space would fail.

Besides Northern Sotho, and of course Afrikaans, there’s been some minor activity in Venda and Swati, but otherwise the other South African language Wikipedias have all failed to come to life yet, with Sotho even reducing in size as spam articles are cleaned out.

And how about the Wiktionaries?

South African Language Wiktionaries

Language 9/12/2007 3/8/2009 30/5/2010
Afrikaans 9312 14128 14669
Sotho 1381 1387 1389
Swati 31 46 371
Tsonga 166 358 359
Zulu 102 127 131
Tswana 0 22 23
Xhosa 11 Closed Closed

Again, outside of Afrikaans, and a notable spurt from Swati that seems mainly to have been contributed by one person, nothing but the most superficial of progress.

Overall, only two languages, Swahili and Afrikaans, could be called success stories, but there’s some progress overall with some of the larger African languages.

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Swahili Wikipedia now the largest African-language Wikipedia

The Swahili Wikipedia has just passed the Afrikaans Wikipedia to become the largest African-language Wikipedia by number of articles.

African Language Wikipedias – number of articles

Language 1/1/2007 16/12/2008 3/8/2009
Swahili 2980 7807 12631
Afrikaans 6149 11285 12568
Yoruba 517 6246 6261
Amharic 742 3251 3333
Lingala 292 1074 1148

Full list of Wikipedias

So while Swahili has raced ahead with great momentum (it grew by four in the course of writing this article), and Afrikaans continues solidly, the pace has slowed somewhat for Yoruba, Amharic and Lingala. The Wolof Wikipedia is also approaching the 1000 article milestone, and, currently on 969 articles, should reach it this year.

I haven’t specifically looked at the African-language Wiktionaries before, outside of the South African languages. Here, Afrikaans still leads. Yoruba and Lingala don’t feature at all, while some languages show surprising interest relative to their Wikipedia size; Malagasy, Oromo, Sotho and Tsonga, for example. I wonder if a relatively more active Wiktionary shows more linguist interest in the project rather than community interest. Outside of linguists, most people would tend to gravitate to the much more exciting task of writing an encyclopedia rather than writing a dictionary.

African Language Wiktionaries – number of entries

Language 3/8/2009
Afrikaans 14128
Swahili 12956
Wolof 2675
Sotho 1387
Tsonga 358
Amharic 311
Rwandi 306
Oromo 186
Malagasy 142

Full list of Wiktionaries

So while at least a few African languages Wikipedias show progress, besides English and Afrikaans, it’s the same old refrain for the South African languages. All have shown short bursts of energy, mainly due to individual editors, there’s not been much progress.

South African Language Wikipedias – number of articles

Language 1/10/2007 16/12/2008
Afrikaans 8374 11285 12568
Zulu 107 182 187
Tsonga 10 150 169
Swati 56 146 157
Venda 43 120 124
Xhosa 66 109 112
Tswana 40 102 103
Sotho 43 68 79
Northern Sotho* 0 301 311
Ndebele 0 0 0

* – incubator

Besides Afrikaans, none of the other languages have shown any progress at all. Northern Sotho still remains stuck in the Incubator and is unlikely to emerge with current levels of activity. Articles bemoaning the undervaluing of the humanities and the related disastrous effect on the general standard of education still appear regularly in the local media, and many South Africans are still unable to communicate effectively in any language. First languages, with the exception of English, and mainly for historical reasons, Afrikaans, are not well-served, and people are not learning them properly, instead being encouraged to communicate in a second-rate English.

It’s an indictment of South African universities that have local language departments that there’s been so little activity, and so little progress with integrating and raising the profile of the other nine languages.

Similarly, most of the South African Wiktionaries have had almost no activity this year.

South African Language Wiktionaries – number of entries

Language 9/12/2007 16/12/2008 3/8/2009
Afrikaans 9312 13036 14128
Sotho 1381 1383 1387
Tsonga 166 347 358
Zulu 102 124 127
Swati 31 46 46
Tswana 0 22 22
Xhosa 11 Closed Closed

Still, although progress is slow, the dream of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge is getting ever closer to reality.

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