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Middle East and North Africa

From Strategic Planning

Summary of Middle East and North African languages and their Wikipedias

Wiki code Language Primary Country Number of speakers (Millions) Potential Users (Millions) Number of articles (7-09) # of articles >1500 bytes (8-09) Article, 1 year growth rate (5/08-5/09) # of 5+editors (5-09) 5+ editors, 1 year growth rate (5/08-5/09) 5+ editors, 2 year growth rate (5/07-5/09) Article to editor ratio
ar Arabic Saudi, Arab Egypt *467 102.74 99,982 18,997 64% 573 38% 53% 174
tr -*Turkish Turkey** 51 11.18 135,584 44,743 23% 718 11% 9% 189
fa -*Persian Iran 31 9.73 65,661 11,819 71% 445 50% 127% 148
ku -*Kurdish Iraq 16 3.52 12,805 1,152 12% 44 38% 83% 291
he -*Hebrew Israel 5 1.48 96,006 42,243 21% 673 -5% -9% 143

-* Semetic and Jewish.

Arabic is of Egypt, Sudan and Maghareb; Also Arabie Saudie.

  • Includes second language speakers
    • Note that while Turkey is a European country in order to be consistent with the analysis of unique users performed by ComScore we have placed it in the Middle East and North Africa ComScore data on Wikimedia[1]

Middle East and North African languages

  • There are over 571 million speakers of the 5 languages listed. However, since some second language speakers of Arabic reside outside of the Middle East and North Africa it is impossible to determine what percentage of the population of Middle East and North Africa speaks these 5 languages.
  • All of these languages are official languages of one or more countries or regions and are used extensively in the media.
  • Arabic is a collection of spoken dialects which are all written in the same form of standard Arabic. Standard Arabic can be considered a second language for all speakers of the various dialects of spoken Arabic.
  • Except for Kurdish all of these languages have an extensive written history and a wide range of literature is available on most topics.
    • Kurdish has no standardized written form and can be written in both Arabic or Latin script. The Kurdish literary tradition began in the 16th century and increased extensively in the 20th century

Middle East and North African languages and education

  • All of languages listed are used as mediums of instruction at the elementary, secondary and university level
    • Some universities in the Kurdish regions of Iraq provide classes in Kurdish however Arabic and English are also used
  • Some elite universities and graduate programs use English as the medium for instruction

Internet penetration and use in the Middle East and North Africa

  • Internet penetration in the Middle East and North Africa as a whole is quite low as only 22% of the population are Internet users [2]
  • Over the past 5 years there has been a significant increase in the number of people blogging in the Arabic language[3]

Middle East and North African language Wikipedias

  • While growth in the Arabic language Wikipedia has been steady, it is still underdeveloped considering the large number of Arabic speakers worldwide. Additionally, the depth of content of Arabic language Wikipedias may be lacking as can be seen by the low number of articles of greater than 1.5 kb
  • The Turkish, Hebrew and Persian language Wikipedias have all shown steady growth.
  • The Kurdish language Wikipedia has showed only slow growth, this is consistent with trends in other Wikipedias that are located in regions where the language of the Wikipedia is not the dominant language
  • There are also Wikipedias in Gilaki, Mazanderani and Kabyle but none of them is greater than 6000 articles

Growth of Middle East and North African language Wikipedias

Growth of articles greater 1.5 kb

Barriers to the growth of Middle East and North African language Wikipedias

  • Arabic
    • Preference amongst educated Arabic speakers to contribute to and use English Wikipedia [4]
    • Difficulties typing Arabic on some keyboards [5]
    • technical difficulties including the inability of metawiki to support right to left scripts
  • Turkish, Persian and Kurdish
    • In some cases, linguistic barriers to mutually intelligible writing and/or spelling in native language: vast differences in local/regional dialects; current lack of recognized or established standards.
  • Primary points of access to the Internet for non-elite local Arabic and Persian speakers in many regions are at public pay-for-access Internet cafes, introducing several limitations: contributing to wiki is costly; in many regions women have little access; atmosphere of surveillance.
  • In some cases, different cultural attitudes about written knowledge: e.g. skepticism and fear about involving "non-experts" in documented discussions of history, facts, or current events; preference for oral rather than written transmission of facts and histories.
  • Prejudice about Wikipedia as a "western" or "American" enterprise, hence suspect. Fear of becoming suspect by contributing to WP.


  1. Information on languages from Ethnologue 2009 http://www.ethnologue.com Potential users is calculated by multiplying the number of language speakers by the national or regional Internet use rate. Internet use rates from from the International Telecom Union 2008. Also note that figures on Wikipedia were polled at different times and it might have slight inconsistencies with the most recent data dumps
  2. Information on Internet use from International Telecommunications Union 2008 /
  3. Interview with Advisory Board member Ethan Zuckerman
  4. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/19/a-wikipedian-challenge-convincing-arabic-speakers-to-write-in-arabic/
  5. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/19/a-wikipedian-challenge-convincing-arabic-speakers-to-write-in-arabic/