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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  1. I think I am going to touch base with UCT Xhosa department again because the lecturers there are willing and interested and, despite the apparent lack of interest, I think pushing it could still be beneficial. However I also think that, in terms of promoting African language Wikies in universities, the University of the Western Cape is likely to be a more fertile place to promote the Wiki.

    On a side note, it looks like we will be giving Sinenjongo High School workshop on Monday the 27th May.

  2. Stellenbosch might actually also be worth approaching. The last I checked, their language policy was to offer classes in any language spoken natively by more than a certain percentage of a course group. As such, they offer several of their more popular classes in Xhosa, and would have Xhosa-fluent lecturers in topics outside of the language itself.

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