September 2017 African language Wikipedia update

African language map

It’s time to look at the state of the African language Wikipedias again, as always based on the imperfect metric of number of articles.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 9/5/2013 26/6/2015 24/11/2016 5/9/2017
Malagasy 3,806 45,361 79,329 82,799 84,634
Afrikaans 17,002 26,752 35,856 42,732 46,824
Swahili 21,244 25,265 29,127 34,613 37,443
Yoruba 12,174 30,585 31,068 31,483 31,577
Egyptian Arabic   10,379 14,192 15,959 17,138
Amharic 6,738 12,360 12,950 13,279 13,789
Northern Sotho 557 685 1,000 7,605 7,823
Somali 1,639 2,757 3,446 4,322 4,727
Lingala 1,394 2,025 2,062 2,777 2,915
Kabyle   1,503 2,296 2,847 2,887
Shona   1,421 2,321 2,638 2,851
Kinyarwanda   1,817 1,780 1,799 1,810
Hausa 1,345 1,400 1,525
Igbo 1,019 1,284 1,384
Kikuyu 1,349
Kongo 1,173 1,176
Wolof 1,116 1,161 1,023 1,058 1,157
Luganda 1,082 1,153

This is the 2nd update in a row that gets to welcome a new language to the thousand article mark – congratulations Kikuyu which has now joined the list, and is already hot on the tail of Igbo.

I know some of the Afrikaans Wikipedia editors have been a bit disappointed by the slowing pace of growth as they move towards 50,000 articles. But, to put it in perspective, the 2013 Global Brittanica had about 40,000 articles, so there are less and less obvious gaps in content. Afrikaans is also one of the highest quality Wikipedias for its size – there’s a focus by many editors on the quality of articles rather than just the numbers. And they shouldn’t be too disappointed by the pace – Afrikaans is still the fastest growing African-language Wikipedia, catching up to Malagasy, which has the most articles.

It’s interesting that Afrikaans is getting more media attention, but still has to deal with concerns such as but anyone can edit it, how can we trust it?, the kind of thing the English Wikipedia has long moved on from. A definite focus area for us as the Wikimedia South Africa chapter.

Swahili continues to grow steadily, and Egyptian Arabic as well, and the other languages continue to grow slowly.

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 9/5/2013 26/6/2015 24/11/2016 5/9/2017
Afrikaans 20,042 26,754 35,856 42,732 46,824
Northern Sotho 557 685 1,000 7,605 7,823
Zulu 256 579 683 777 942
Xhosa 125 148 356 576 708
Tswana 240 495 503 615 639
Tsonga 192 240 266 390 526
Sotho 132 188 223 341 523
Swati 359 364 410 419 432
Venda 193 204 151 238 256
Ndebele (incubator) 12 12

Looking at the South African languages in particular, besides Afrikaans, Northern Sotho has returned to a more natural growth compared to the spurt of the previous period. User:Aliwal2012 continues to be the standout contributor there, having now created 3,228 pages.

Growth in the Zulu Wikipedia has picked up slightly, with a few relatively new editors contributing the majority of recent additions.

Two other languages have also seen an uptick. Tsonga has leapfrogged Swati, mainly thanks to User:Thuvack, who’s on track to make 2017 his record year for Tsonga contributions.

Sotho has also passed Swati, with User:Aliwal2012 active there as well.

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t edited before, don’t be afraid that you’ll find the syntax difficult – be bold, and there’ll always be someone to ask for help. All it takes is clicking that “Edit” link and getting started. With just a few edits a week and you could be making a noticeable difference to one of the African language Wikipedias!

Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Related articles

November 2016 African language Wikipedia update

The March update was positive, so let’s see how the various African-language Wikipedias have progressed since then. As always, this measures the number of articles, which is an imperfect metric, but it’s interesting to follow the trends.

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 9/5/2013 26/6/2015 5/3/2016 24/11/2016
Malagasy 3,806 45,361 79,329 81,240 82,799
Afrikaans 17,002 26,752 35,856 39,065 42,732
Swahili 21,244 25,265 29,127 32,565 34,613
Yoruba 12,174 30,585 31,068 31,172 31,483
Egyptian Arabic   10,379 14,192 14,839 15,959
Amharic 6,738 12,360 12,950 13,031 13,279
Northern Sotho 557 685 1,000 2,830 7,605
Somali 1,639 2,757 3,446 3,878 4,322
Kabyle   1,503 2,296 2,643 2,847
Lingala 1,394 2,025 2,062 2,131 2,777
Shona   1,421 2,321 2,459 2,638
Kinyarwanda   1,817 1,780 1,785 1,799
Hausa 1,345 1,360 1,400
Igbo 1,019 1,112 1,284
Kongo 1,122 1,173
Luganda 1,082
Wolof 1,116 1,161 1,023 1,044 1,058

Afrikaans continues to grow the steadily, and recently celebrated its 15th birthday. The quality of articles is high, and it’s starting to get more media attention. Which also means dealing with the kind of responses that the English Wikipedia has moved on from, such as but anyone can edit it, how can we trust it. It’s good to see the solid Afrikaans community continuing their impressive work.

Afrikaans Wikipedia's 15th birthday
The Afrikaans Wikipedia’s 15th birthday celebration in Cape Town

There’s a new edition to the 1000 club this time. Welcome Luganda, leapfrogging Wolof, which has mostly stalled since achieving the milestone

Most of the languages have continued to grow as per their previous tends, but yet again Northern Sotho is an exception, and showed the fastet growth over this period. Why is it doing so well? The overused Margaret Mead quote Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. perhaps? It’s disputed whether she actually said it, but moving on, just how small are we talking about? In the case of Northern Sotho, there are two main champions. User:Mohau, who has single-handedly created a whopping 4916 of them, and User:Aliwal2012, who I mentioned in the March update, has created 2958 articles. These two editors are an inspiration!

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 9/5/2013 26/6/2015 5/3/2016 24/11/2016
Afrikaans 20,042 26,754 35,856 39,065 42,732
Northern Sotho 557 685 1,000 2,830 7,605
Zulu 256 579 683 742 777
Tswana 240 495 503 538 615
Xhosa 125 148 356 473 576
Swati 359 364 410 412 419
Tsonga 192 240 266 352 390
Sotho 132 188 223 299 341
Venda 193 204 151 228 238
Ndebele (incubator) 12 12

Besides Afrikaans and Northern Sotho, none of the languages are showing substantial progress, but all are showing signs of life, except for Ndebele, which has stalled in the incubator. As South Africa’s smallest official language, it most reflects the struggles of many of South Africa’s languages, which while official on paper, receive little to no real support.

But there’s no need to wait for others. Hopefully the Northern Sotho example has inspired you. All it takes is sitting down and editing!

Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Related articles

Wikipedia and systemic bias

Systemic Bias
A while ago, I noticed a comment on the talk page of one of the Wikipedia editors that I follow. An article he had created was nominated for speedy deletion.

Speedy deletion is the kind of thing reserved for articles about my pet cat, my high school teacher, the rock band I’ve started in my my basement that will be performing its first gig soon, the brilliant new open source content management system I wrote last night. In other words, articles that are uncontroversially deemed to be a waste of space.

The editor, Bobby Shabangu, has created many articles, almost exclusively African content, on the English Wikipedia, as well as the Swati Wikipedia. He’s on the board of Wikimedia South Africa. So, unlikely to add an article about his rock band then.

I took a look at the article. It was on David Tlale, a South African fashion designer. At the time (and it’s still the case as I write), the article was very short, a stub, but had a couple of good references.

In no way was it worthy of nomination for speedy deletion.

But it’s the kind of situation African editors routinely face. Whenever African content is added, the chances of it being nominated for deletion are high. In many cases, the editor is at fault, having not provided sufficient references, but in many cases it’s simply a case of systemic bias. Wikipedia recognises this (there’s a whole article on the issue, and how to tackle it), but that doesn’t help minimise the impact. At any gathering of African editors, there’s almost always much grumbling about the latest rejected content, a sharing of war stories. Another member of the South African board says he no longer contributes to the English Wikipedia for this very reason. And undoubtedly, if you’re able to contribute in another language, it’s far more rewarding to see your contributions gratefully accepted rather than viewed suspiciously.

I started editing in 2002/2003. At the time, the English Wikipedia was a giant blank page. It wasn’t hard to find a new article to create. The city of Durban? The Springbok rugby team? Kaizer Chiefs? Lawrence Ferlinghetti? Walter Sisulu? The Pan-Africanist Congress? I created the articles for all of these and more, and many articles were in a far worse state than Bobby’s once I submitted them. References? Pfft, too much trouble, who needs them.

Today, the English Wikipedia is a very different beast, the criteria are far more stringent, and it’s no longer possible to find such low-hanging fruit to create. But Wikipedia still severely under-represents African content.

Because I happened to spot, Bobby’s article I could remove it from consideration for speedy deletion. But shortly after it was nominated for deletion, which involves more energy spent justifying an article’s existence.

If I had faced the obstacles new editors face today, if my new articles were continually rejected, deemed unworthy, and I had to spend all my energy in fighting to keep them, I can safely say I wouldn’t still be editing 13 years later.

Let’s go back to David Tlale. Let’s imagine he was an American fashion designer. He’s had articles published about him in the New York Times and the Washington Post. His work has appeared at the New Fashion Week and the Paris Fashion Week. Would his article be seen as the equivalent of one about my pet rabbit?

Of course not.

Systemic bias doesn’t imply that administrators nominating African content for deletion are malicious, out to sabotage the project. No, I’m sure they are well meaning, and having to deal with a constant stream of rubbish contributions must test one’s patience, so when they see another article about someone they don’t recognise, when because of their background they can’t quickly tell the difference between references from South Africa’s largest media companies and various personal blogs, the outcome is not too surprising.

So what can be done about it?

Since I’ve been editing for so long, I’ve been granted the “autopatrolled” right. This means any new article I create is listed as “reviewed”, and is far less likely to attract the attention of a trigger-happy administrator editor looking to delete it.

At today’s Wikimedia South Africa board meeting, I proposed that we identify various experienced, trusted editors, and nominate them to receive the autopatrolled right. Most editors don’t know it exists, or don’t want to go through the red tape of applying and justifying themselves. This won’t help new editors, but it will help retain experienced editors who’re consistently beaten down by the opposition they face.

Let’s see how it goes!

Related posts:
* Wikimedia South Africa Workshop
* March 2016 African language Wikipedia update

March 2016 African language Wikipedia update

My feeds have been full with Dumi editing up a storm on the Xitstonga Wikipedia recently, as well as helping the Ndebele Wikipedia into the incubator. Ndebele is the only South African official language without a Wikipedia, and it’s great to see this hole being plugged. So, it’s time for another African language Wikipedia update. The usual disclaimer that this only takes into account number of articles, an imperfect metric, as not all articles are equal. This article is in a far healthier state than this one, for example.

But as an indicator of trends and activity, it’s as good as any, so let’s see what been happening:

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 26/6/2015 5/3/2016
Malagasy 3,806 36,767 45,361 47,144 79,329 81,240
Afrikaans 17,002 22,115 26,752 31,756 35,856 39,065
Swahili 21,244 23,481 25,265 26,349 29,127 32,565
Yoruba 12,174 29,894 30,585 30,910 31,068 31,172
Egyptian Arabic   8,433 10,379 12,440 14,192 14,839
Amharic 6,738 11,572 12,360 15,968 12,950 13,031
Somali 1,639 2,354 2,757 3,646 3,446 3,878
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 1,000 2,830
Kabyle     1,503 1,876 2,296 2,643
Shona     1,421 2,077 2,321 2,459
Lingala 1,394 1,816 2,025 2,077 2,062 2,131
Kinyarwanda   1,501 1,817 1,832 1,780 1,785
Hausa 1,345 1,360
Kongo 1,122
Igbo 1,019 1,112
Wolof 1,116 1,814 1,161 1,201 1,023 1,044

Afrikaans as always continues to show steady growth, and while at times growth in other languages has spiked for a short while, Afrikaans has shown steady, consistent progress, and most of its articles are high quality as well.

Swahili too shows steady growth, and has passed Yoruba, which was the beneficiary of a brief spike.

Most dramatic has been been Northern Sotho, which is the most recent official language of South Africa to get a Wikipedia, and which only recently broke the 1000 article barrier. It has now surged past seven other languages, with 2830 articles. Much of this growth (a whopping 1544 new articles) is down to User:Aliwal2012, a hospital pharmacist living in Lady Grey who’s also extremely active on the Afrikaans Wikipedia, and modestly contributes to the English Wikipedia as well. Modest is a relative term, since in spite of being around for about decade less than me, and English only being their third most active language, they’ve still created more new articles in English than I have!

A great example of the impact one person can have, made more visible by it being in a language that has little content.

Kabyle, a language spoken mostly in northern Algeria, as well as France, has also shown some growth, passing Shona.

Kongo, spoken in the DRC, Republic of Congo and Angola, has now also broken 1000 articles and is a new edition on the list, and Kikuyu is knocking on the door as well.

Exciting to see new languages and bursts of activity, with only a few being relatively stagnant.

On to the South African languages specifically:

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 26/6/2015 5/3/2016
Afrikaans 20,042 22,115 26,754 31,756 35,856 39,065
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 1,000 2,830
Zulu 256 483 579 630 683 742
Tswana 240 490 495 510 503 538
Xhosa 125 136 148 333 356 473
Swati 359 361 364 400 410 412
Tsonga 192 193 240 303 266 352
Sotho 132 145 188 197 223 299
Venda 193 190 204 209 151 228
Ndebele (incubator) 12

The results here are particularly pleasing, as with the exception of Swati, all the languages are showing activity. As Northern Sotho and Xitsonga, have shown, one person can make a substantial impact.

Anecdotally, some of the of this activity may be down to the content translation tool – it’s great to see a useful tool put to use by the community.

This has probably been the most optimistic report since I started these a number of years ago. Long may it continue, as we get closer to a world where each human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Related articles

Image from Wikimedia Commons

June 2015 African Language Wikipedia Update

I recommend that anybody new to Wikipedia editing starts, if possible, with one of the smaller Wikipedias. It’s far more fun, contributions will probably be openly welcomed, and there’s less likelihood of experiencing some sort of bureaucratic nightmare. An example fresh in my mind is the OpenCart article, which doesn’t exist. Anyone attempting to create it will be faced with this page, and need to persuade the administrator who locked it (due to previous abuse) that they should be permitted to do so, and who therefore holds veto power over its creation. A bridge too far for most new editors!

While the English Wikipedia makes the news due to the declining number of editors, and has a particularly bad reputation (as can be seen in the mailing lists) amongst African editors who’ve had experience with some of its trigger-happy bureaucrats, how are the African language Wikipedias themselves faring?

African Language Wikipedias

Language 11/2/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 29/10/2014 26/6/2015
Malagasy 3,806 36,767 45,361 47,144 47,061 79,329
Afrikaans 17,002 22,115 26,752 31,756 33,392 35,856
Yoruba 12,174 29,894 30,585 30,910 30,989 31,068
Swahili 21,244 23,481 25,265 26,349 27,021 29,127
Egyptian Arabic   8,433 12,440 12,934 14,192
Amharic 6,738 11,572 12,360 15,968 16,229 12,950
Somali 1,639 2,354 3,646 3,680 3,446
Shona     1,421 2,077 2,091 2,321
Kabyle     1,503 1,876 1,967 2,296
Lingala 1,394 1,816 2,025 2,077 2,087 2,062
Kinyarwanda   1,501 1,817 1,832 1,834 1,780
Hausa 1,386 1,345
Wolof 1,116 1,814 1,161 1,201 1,148 1,023
Igbo 1,017 1,019
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 966 1,000

Malagasy has shot up, but it’s always been an outlier – a language for which, due to its unusual characteristics, there’s always been a great deal of outside interest. Afrikaans continues to grow steadily, albeit at a slightly slower pace than before. Swahili, in 4th place, is growing at a faster pace than Yoruba in 3rd. Yoruba had a huge burst from 2011-2012, but has only been slowly growing since then.

Egyptian Arabic is also growing steadily, but after that there are some interesting figures. Amharic has lost over three thousand articles. Articles being deleted is not uncommon. Spam gets removed, articles get merged and so on. Losing so many articles simply means the growth before was mostly made up of these kinds of articles, and that there’s little growth outside of that.

With the exception of Kabyle, most of the languages that follow share a similar fate, or are static. Wolof has even fallen to lower than its 2011 level. The one noteworthy milestone is that Northern Sotho has (just) joined the 1000 club.

So, barring Malagasy, while the only fireworks amongst the top African language Wikipedias are of the going out kind, and there are no trigger-happy bureaucrats to blame this time, are things in the far south looking any better? What about the South African language Wikipedias specifically?

South African Language Wikipedias

Language 19/11/2011 13/4/2012 9/5/2013 17/6/2014 29/10/2014 26/6/2015
Afrikaans 20,042 22,115 26,754 31,756 33,392 35,856
Northern Sotho 557 566 685 691 966 1,000
Zulu 256 483 579 630 686 683
Tswana 240 490 495 510 513 503
Swati 359 361 364 400 408 410
Xhosa 125 136 148 333 380 356
Tsonga 192 193 240 303 309 266
Sotho 132 145 188 197 202 223
Venda 193 190 204 209 208 151

So while Afrikaans continues steadily, Northern Sotho makes it to 1000 articles (albeit with the energy of an athlete somewhere near the back of the pack crawling over the finish line at the end of the Comrades marathon) and Sotho has managed to haul itself off the bottom, all the other languages are static or have shrunk.

The Xhosa deletion log, for example, gives an idea of the kind of articles being deleted, while the latest article to be created at the time of writing, Star Wars, is just blank, and probably also not long for this world.

Northern Sotho is an interesting case, as for a long time it sat in the Incubator, but the experience seems to have helped, as in spite of having less native speakers than both Xhosa and Zulu, it sits well above them in articles created.

Hopefully there’ll be some fireworks to report in the next update!

Related articles

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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.

Related articles

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.

Related articles

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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