Ponència presentada a wikimania 2009

De Amical Wikimedia
Dreceres ràpides: navegació, cerca

Minority languages: The Catalan experience.[modifica]

Author: Joan Ramon Gomà I Ayats.


The problems of Catalan projects due to being a minority language.[modifica]

There are several facts that minority languages have to face being a disadvantage to develop the Wikipedia projects:

  • Almost all the population is at least bilingual. They can access the projects in their own language but also in other languages.
  • Other language projects are bigger. There is a risk of people being used to access those language projects “by default”
  • The number of speakers is small compared to larger languages.
  • Main search devices as Google detect the country and assign you the majority language, and then in searches you get first the results on this language, even if articles in minority language are much more complete. This effect is dramatic in articles with same name in both languages.

Those facts are common to Wikimedia projects and to any other activities but in some sense Wikimedia projects reduce the adverse impact of those facts. Interwikis are a nice tool to say people they have the same article in their language. Open license makes work done in other language also benefit minority languages by providing material to be translated.

The advantages of being a minority language.[modifica]

The fact of being a minority language has also its advantages, witch is especially important in free knowledge projects.

  • Scholars actually publishing in those languages do it for many reasons, but economic reasons can not be the most important. Usually they are looking for diffusion. In languages with a large number of speakers economic reasons can have much more weight. They are more sensitive to release their works freely and get a bigger diffusion.
  • There are much more things to do. Many of us do it for hobby we like writing. We can see there are more opportunities to write and develop articles in projects large enough to attract readers but small enough to offer a lot of opportunities for improvement.
  • There is also the advantage of the feeling to belong to a community. People fell more motivated to contribute.

Special characteristics of Catalan.[modifica]

In Catalan, compared to other minority languages, we have to recognize we are in a privileged position. This is because there are several singular characteristics helping us:

  • Around 150 years ago started a civil movement (“Renaixença” reborn) addressed to recover the Catalan language and culture. Thanks to this we have literary works, dictionaries, grammars, and scientific works written in Catalan.
  • There is a country where Catalan is the official language: Andorra. This is a very small country (around 30.000 inhabitants) but it is a country at all.
  • Catalan has some levels of official recognition in Spain, France and Italy.
  • There is a large network of private organizations actively working to promote Catalan language and culture.
  • There is an ancient encyclopedic culture. The biggest paper encyclopedia in the world the “Enciclopedia Espasa” is an encyclopedia in Spanish, written en edited by Catalans. All the words are also in French, Italian, English, German, Portuguese, Catalan and Esperanto. The “Gran Encyclopedia Catalana” is a Catalan encyclopedia (nowadays of free internet access) promoted by private institutions and companies in the ages of Franco dictatorship when Catalan was forbidden.


The “Associació d’amics de la viquipèdia”.[modifica]

The goal of “Associació d’amics de la viquipèdia” is to support and promote Wikimedia projects but our priority is contents of Catalan projects and contents regarding Catalan language and culture in any language. We try to gather people from all the territories where Catalan is spoken in a single organization. Our view is to give legal, logistic, image and financial support to people wiling to perform activities in favor of the projects. We see ourselves more as a place where people with ideas and initiatives can found tools to develop their ideas than like a centralized organization with a strategy and an objective.

Structure characteristics and creation process.[modifica]

Associations born with the will of people to create them. So we can say that our association was born in a Wikipedia meeting held in Barcelona (in the premises of the National Library of Catalonia, one of the private institutions created by those pioneers I already mentioned). But in our countries if you want the economic responsibilities be limited to the fees paid, the association has to be a registered association. We have the headquarter in Andorra but we are registered also in France and in 3 registering bodies in Spain (one for every one of the autonomic communities where we are active). In fact while I am writing, this process is not finished yet.

Actual activities.[modifica]

To start we gave coverage to activities already carried by members:

  • There are two projects related to promote Wikipedia at school: In Balearic Islands and in Catalonia.
  • Also in university: In Barcelona University (Pharmaceutics department) and Perpignan University (Catalan department).
  • We are supporting the organization and financing of the first Catalan Viquipedist Congress. To be held in Figueres.
  • We have reached agreements wit few institutions to fee material. It is to be remarked the agreement with “Arxiu de Tradicions de l’Alger”. A small city in the Sardinia Island (Italy) where the Catalan is spoken and where there are authentic treasures for the Catalan culture of ancient ages.
  • Some of our members also have promoted projects in TV: Andorra TV, and Catalonia TV (that can be watched almost in all the Catalan speaking territories, not only Catalonia).

Ideas of projects for future.[modifica]

Just to explain only three:

  • In Catalan countries there are many people coming from all around the world. Only in Barcelona there are more than 200 languages spoken. Thousands of volunteers are offering what we call “linguistic couples”. They volunteer to meet during some hours a week to talk in Catalan so facilitating the people we call “new Catalans” to learn our language. At this very moment we are in contact with an organization devoted to linguistic interchange. Catalan people teach Catalan and foreign people teach their languages. We are studding the possibility to use Wikipedia. We help them in learning editing tools, select articles in Catalan about Catalan culture and articles in other languages missing in Catalan Wikipedia. As a practice in the courses they translate articles from Catalan to their native languages and from other languages to Catalan. Later experienced wikipedists review the articles and correct any mistake so they feel more motivated because their effort in learning a new language is useful for the community and they get feedback for free.
  • The other more than an idea is a project. We are trying to convince the “classic” pro Catalan culture movement to join free knowledge project. They have years or centuries experience some of them have infrastructure. They have libraries with invaluable materials and thousands of volunteers. Some of them have joined our association yet and we are holding meetings in a regular basis to analyze the best way to integrate some of their activities in Wikipedia. We will use the travel to wikimania to visit some of the 15 Catalan “Casal”s in Argentina, at least the Buenos Aires one (founded in 1.886) and try to go in this direction.
  • Just to explain another one, we plan to use the physical infrastructure of our partners and the mechanisms set to identify Wikipedia authors in order to accept them as members of our association to offer a new service: certify the identity of authors requesting it. This can be used by authors in writing their curriculum getting an added value from their contributions to Wikimedia projects. Also will provide a tool to enforce author’s rights against infringements.

Ideas for cooperation with Nation based local chapters.[modifica]

We are also interested in discussing and explaining our ideas to cooperate with country based chapters but we are not sure if this is within the scope of the topics in the call. Anyway we will come prepared to explain and discuss also this if there is interests people.