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.

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  1. Hi Ian, thanks for your continuous look at African language wikipedias.
    I agree with you that Afrikaans is indeed the best quality among these.
    But to look at only article numbers can be very misleading as many have learned since Waraywaray passed a million articles. According to the story I remember, this guy from Sweden wanted to honour the language of his wife from the Philippines – and knew how to write programs that translate certain types of easily translatable short entries from English.No idea if that stuff is readable. A huge wikipedia. Is it a “success”?

    For evaluation I propose to go for a mix of indicators. Article number is for very small wikipedias a good indicator.
    Beyond say 10,000 we should also look for some quality indicators.

    An easy one is the ranking in the 1000-article-index
    Here Afrikaans is at 22/100, Swahili at 17/100 and all others down at 7/100 and less.

    Similar the 10,000 article list
    Afrikaans at 27%, Swahili at 17%, Malagasy here better at 14%, the rest down below 10% of reachable points.

    Pageview numbers are important (who reads the stuff??) but difficult to compare because of the numbers of speakers vary so much between languages. I propose to look for the market share in the “home country” (Like Afrikaans/South Africa, Swahiili/Tanzania-Kenya, Amharic – Ethiopia), using These figures are statistically perhaps not sooo strong for some countries (because of relatively small view numbers over all). It is also possible to look at the readership of a language by checking “Pageviews per language” showing the countries where requests come from. Many smaller African language versions have their readers abroad, in USA or Europe (the homesick African student? Exception; Igbo!).

    Interestingly but not surprisingly no African language wikipedia has more than 10% share of overall wikipedia views in the “home country”. Top are Somali in Somalia (very weak database) and Swahili for Tanzania with 8-9 %, the large majority reads English wikipedia. Afrikaans reaches less than 2% in South Africa wikipedia lookups, Amharic gets 4% in Ethiopia. Yoruba is not visible in Nigeria wikipedia lookups, all its readers seem to be abroad, same for Malagasy in Madagascar..

    I try to balance that with a check using the langviews analysis tool at

    I go for some locations which will probably not be searched a lot from outside the country. (Not for Cape Town, not for Dar es Salaam, as these are sought from all over the world. I assume that small places will be looked up rather by people inside the country). I get a comparison of language searchs for the entry if it is connected to wikidata. My random check shows a surprisingly strong position of Swahili in the interlanguage search compared to English.

    Places in Tanzania
    Pos. Lang. Name lookup/day
    1 en Mbozi District 6 / day
    2 sw Mbozi 3 / day

    1 en Mbeya Rural District 3 / day
    2 sw Mbeya Vijijini 1 / day

    1 en Mpwapwa District 4 / day
    2 sw Wilaya ya Mpwapwa 4 / day

    1 en Kigoma Region 34 / day
    2 sw Mkoa wa Kigoma 28 / day

    1 en Sumbawanga 15 / day
    4 sw Sumbawanga (mji) 1 / day

    1 en Tabora 39 / day
    4 sw Tabora (mji) 6 / day

    1 en Tabora Region 20 / day
    2 sw Mkoa wa Tabora 17 / day

    This very tentative comparison puts Swahili in a stronger position even compared to Afrikaans!
    Places in South Africa
    Pos. Lang. Name lookup/day

    1 en Dordrecht, Eastern Cape 11 / day
    5 af Dordrecht, Oos-Kaap 1 / day

    1 en Noordhoek, Cape Town 26 / day
    4 af Noordhoek 0 / day

    1 en Melkbosstrand 28 / day
    2 af Melkbosstrand 1 / day

    1 en Langebaanweg 5 / day
    3 af Langebaanweg 0 / day

    1 en Velddrif 15 / day
    3 af Velddrif 2 / day

    Ok, this just as some indicators for ways to look for quality. Because just quantity should not be the decisive factor when looking where to invest energy and time.

    Kipala – Ingo

  2. At our last Wikimedia ZA AGM, Deon Styne mentioned something I thought was important. Doing radio interviews, after all who and where are the people who could be potential contributors to the small language Wikipedias?

    And the answer is simple, the contributors to these small languages Wikipedias are listeners of these radio stations and they speak those languages but they might not be aware that they can read Wikipedia in their mother tongue let alone do Wikipedia entries on their mother tongue themselves!

    Great article thanks Ian.

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