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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  1. Sometimes newly added articles are simply spam, cut and pastes from another language or otherwise not notable, and these get deleted.

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