Task force/Local language projects/Commons and differences in reach and regional analyses

From Strategic Planning

This is an atempt and summarizing the commons and differences between the regional analyes for Europe, Middle East & North Africa, South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

About the regional languages

The analysis is made for 21 European, 5 Arabic, 7 Southeast Asian and 12 Sub-Saharan African languages. These languages totaly amounts to 1,762 billion speakers, divided among the four language groups the numbers are 491, 571, 470 and 230 million speakers respectively. The number of speakers are for some languages counted including, for some excluding second language speakers. But for all of the largest languages the second language speakers are included which make the overall figure reflect how many people have any of these 45 languages as either first or second language (there is a possiblility of overcounting here because if anyone has one of these 45 languages as first, and another as second language he is counted twice). Spanish, French, English, Portuguese and Chinese are all excluded from this analysis which means that 1,762 billion speakers, at least if overcounting ain't to extensive, represents a large part of the people not speaking any of these five languages.

Written history of local languages

All of the languages included are national language in at least one country. The European and Arabic languages in general has a long written history and an extensive literature covering a variety of subjects. The written history of the languages in Southeast Asia varies from country to country but most of these languages also has literature that covers a wide variety of subjects, but coverage of more advanced technical subjects might be limited. The Sub-Saharan African languages has existed in written form for a very short period of time and has a very limited literature.

Use of local languages in education

All of the languages are used as mediums for instruction at elementary school. The European, Arabic and Southeast Asian languages are also all used in secondary education, while the European and Arabic languages are all used even at University level. Some universities in the Kurdish regions of Iraq provide University education in Kurdish but in general Arabic and English are the languages used at Arabic universities, some elite universities and graduate programs use only English. In Malaysia education is taught in Maylay, Mandarin, Chinese or Tamil. Science and math at secondary level is taught in English but will from 2012 be taught in these four languages instead. For public universities Malay and English are the mediums of instruction. In Philippines education is bilingual in English and Filipino, but higher education is largely done in English. Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia all use their national language for all education. Thailand and Vietnam has strong English as second language programs though. In some African countries the national languages are used even at secondary level, but the former colonial language are primary used for higher education.

Internet penetration in different regions

The internet penetration is 64% among Western European internet users and 29% among Eastern European users. In the Arabic countries the overall internet penetration is 22%, but blogging in these languages has seen a significant increase in the past five years. In the Southeast Asian countries the internet penetration varies drastically from country to country. Malaysia and Singapore have rates as high as 63% and 69%, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have values around 11-12%, while Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao and Timor Leste have rates of less than 2%. The overall numbers for Sub-Saharan Africa is 4% and in addition most people with internet connection use the colonial languages for written communication, but mobile phone penetration is however significantly more widespread than internet use.

Growth of local language Wikipedias

The European language Wikipedias has in generally had a strong growth rate which is in a loose relationship with the number of potential users, the Scandinavian Wikipedias has however performed even better than such a relation suggests. The Arabic Wikipedia has grown steadily, but is still underdeveloped in relation to the amount of speakers worldwide, in adition the number of articles larger than 1.5kb is small. The Turkish, Hebrew and Persian language Wikipedias have all shown steady growth. The Kurdish Wikipedia has shown slow growth, which is typical for languages located in regions where it ain't the dominant language. There are also Wikipedias in Gilaki, Mazanderani and Kabyle but none of them is greater than 6000 articles. In Southeast Asia the growth of Wikipedias has depended on two factors, the number of speakers with internet access and the number of English language litterate. A larger number of speakers is correlated with a larger Wikipedia, while a smaller number of English litterate also is correlated with a larger Wikipedia. The Sub-Saharan African Wikipedias has generally seen a very slow growth and only three languages has a Wikipedia larger than 5000 articles, these are the Swahili, Yoruba and Afrikaans Wikipedias. There is 13 languages with more than 3 million speakers that have less than 500 articles. Most African language Wikipedias lack tools and support structures such as templates, info boxes and village pumps that support editing.

Barriers of growth in different regions

Barriers to the growth of Wikipedias in Europe that has been identified are quality of internet connection (dial-up, unstable connections and reliance on internet cafés instead of home connection), attitude toward internet usage (uses internet primarily for email and social networking), attitude toward free content (volounteers doesn't do as good a job as paid experts) and attitude toward contributing to a project without payment. For Arabic Wikipedias barier that has been identified are that educated Arabic speakers preffer to use and contribute to the English Wikipedia, there are difficulties typing Arabic on some keyboards and technical difficulties including the inability of metawiki to support left to right scripts. In the Southeast Asian region the Khmer and Burmese are severely limited by lack of Internet access amongst native language speakers. Barriers for the Sub-Saharan language Wikipedias are lack of source material in African languages, lack of Internet access amongst people who use African native languages as their primary written language, lack of Wikipedia tools to facilitate editing in African languages and a lack of editors who have the technical skills to address problems and fix bugs, lack of time to devote to Wikipedia projects amongst people in Africa who have Internet access, prestige of former colonial languages and illiteracy in the vernacular and until September 2009 there where poor connections between Africa and the Internet, a fiber cable connecting Africa and Europe has however since then increased this connection.