Non-English Wikipedias

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Lombard Beige, Jan 16, 2007.

  1. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy

    I am an English-language translator based in Italy, and I use Wikipedia regularly for my work. To be exact, I consult Wiki in every language I can understand. I am also in contact with people involved in editing Wikipedia in the various Italian regional languages.

    In that context, we were discussing why some Wikipedias are more successful than others. It was suggested, for example, that Maltese speakers, given their fluency in English, would tend to consult the English-language version more than that in their own language. But if this is true, why are the Dutch-language and the Nordic language Wikipedias so successful?

    I think most people would agree that the Dutch and the Nordics are among the best (non-native) English speakers. So what is the explanation?

    I have my own (partial) theory, but I would like to read some other opinions before expressing it.

    Lombard Beige
  2. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    UK/US, English
    Even though Dutch and Nordic language-speakers are generally highly fluent in English I am sure they would choose their own language over their second one whenever it is available. Not only because of their greater understanding of it, but because both Dutch and Nordic or Scandinavian languages are spoken by a relatively small amount of people concentrated in one part of the world, and I am positive that they take extra pride in their native languages and want to promote material published in those languages and not have them overrun by ever-imposing English.
  3. xarruc Senior Member

    The proportion of users able to create a wikipedia in a language is related to [how many people speak that language] x [the proportion with suitable access to the internet (home computer, permanent connection)] x [the proportion of people who want to write].

    So population, wealth and "communal sense of giving/enjoyment of teaching"

    A regional language is good for regional things. Catalan for Catalan customs, Scots for Scotish customs, etc. It's written by locals for locals. However if the thing is more general, say something that happens both in the rest of Spain and Catalonia, then the higher Spanish population produces a higher probability of a better or more informed writer being from the larger language pool.

    In addition writers want their work to be accessible to as many people as possible (unless their primary concern is pushing the dominance of their own language). Thus the large languages win out - standard german over the regional dialects.

    Finally, English is already well established as the international language of business, science and technology and people are accustomed to reading and writing in these fields through English. Wikipedia would be expected to continue that trend rather than oppose it.
  4. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    There was a thread about why there are so few articles in the Spanish-language Wikipedia.
    It is, indeed, very interesting question. I like Xarruc's suggestion that a regional language is good for regional thing. I was pleasantly surprised to find a Piedmontese Wikipedia. Of course, most articles here are devoted to Piedmont, its language, history and culture.
  5. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    For some languages, it would be just painful and difficult. It is very hard, at least for me, to drudge through a Hindi wiki article. I would have had to of been born and raised or at least educated in India.
  6. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    But what about those who were born in India and live there? One would think that for them it would be easier to read articles in Hindi than in English.
  7. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    No. I honestly feel that they would choose English. My parents would in a heart beat.
  8. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I've just thought of one more reason why Wikipedia authors may prefer English, even if it isn't their native language. It's quite easy to insert links to other Wiki articles in your articles; most articles are written in English; so, if you're writing your article in English, you don't have to explain everything - you can give links to other articles!
    For example, if your article is about Mozart, you can just insert a link to the article about Salzburg instead of explaining where it is!
  9. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    If we consider the Wiki ranking and exclude for the moment your 3rd criterion [the proportion of people who want to write], I find the languages marked with an asterisk are “out of place”.

    * Polish
    * Dutch
    * Swedish
    * Spanish

    Could your 3rd criterion possibly be linked, apart from the determination of the Dutch, Swedes, etc. to continue using their own language, also to the climate? People living in colder climates probably spend more time indoors. (I recently saw a documentary about a very well stocked library in Northern Lapland). I don't think this is the determining factor, but it may explain something, cf. the Finnish Wiki ...

    I have no easy explanation as to why Polish should outrank Russian.

  10. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    In response to Etcetera.

    There are now Wikipedias in all the “regional languages” of Northern Italy, as well as in Sicilian, Sardinian, Corsican and Maltese. The South of Italy is represented by the Neapolitan Wiki, which also offers spaces for regional variants.

    The number of articles varies from the 12 thousand plus of Neapolitan to the 100 or so for Ladin of the Dolomites ... an officially recognized language similar to Swiss Rumantsch (or Romansh as Wiki spells it.

    If you glance at these Wikis we can see the differences from and similarities to standard Italian and each other.

    In the case of Spanish, I read elsewhere that the main reason for its relatively poor performance (but not in wordcount or number of users) was a “schism” a couple of years ago, which apparently was not too successful, but in the meantime allowed the Portuguese (language) to achieve a “sorpasso” (“overtaking” in Italian).

  11. frenchtranslater Member

    Belgium, french, hebrew
    I simply cannot understand why wikipedia has versions in dead languages. I saw Yiddish and Ladino on wiki. These are two hebrew derived languages which died about 20 years ago. And still there are articles posted in these languages.

    It simply puzzles me, why anyone would bother to wrtie articles that no one reads.
  12. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    When I have too much time on my hands, I go to Wiki and skim the Yiddish articles. I am glad they exist because Yiddish resources are rare otherwise.

    I think this has to do with Internet penetration. It is substantially better in Poland, although Russia is growing fast.

  13. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    There is also a successful Wiki in Latin (more than 10,000 articles), which is also a dead language and also in invented languages, not just Esperanto ...

    cf. Wiki art.: Britannia Spears, cantrix et saltatrix americana ...

    I think it is because the Wiki provides an opportunity to use the language in all kinds of situations. I personally find it interesting to read the same article in several languages. The quality varies, and also the point of view ...

    On the Internet, though not yet in Wiki, there are even invented versions of Romance languages as they would have been if, for example, Latin had not died out in Wales (Brithenig) and in Carthage (la limba carrajena).

    The author of the Welsh Romance language justifies his effort, which others say he should dedicate instead to saving the real Welsh language, by saying that it is something he enjoys doing, in other words it's his hobby ... Why not?

    If you follow the links from Wiki art. "Constructed Languages" you'll find all sorts of invented languages.

  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Ladino is not a dead language... yet.

    I understand perfectly. Wikipedia is written by enthusiasts. Enthusiasts often have peculiar tastes/hobbies, like writing in Latin, or Esperanto.
  15. frenchtranslater Member

    Belgium, french, hebrew
    Ladino is dead, dead and buried. More people speak yiddish than Ladino (which is not very much).

    It is true that writting in all these languages is a nice innitiative, and even amusing. (looking at the Somali version of wiki)
  16. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    As a further contribution to the debate and going back to my original question, i.e. why the English Wiki is not enough even for people like the Dutch and Scandinavians who (on the whole) know English very well, I think the main reason lies in the different points of view expressed in the various languages. Of course, in natural sciences, there is probably less latitude, so English, as the most widely used language, is the obvious choice, as Latin had been for a thousand years, but in fields like history ... Consider these examples.

    Battle of Québec

    They (the British) were, however, repulsed by significant fire given by the (American) Indian and (French) Canadian Militia forces in the trees on the British flank. It was these forces that inflicted the majority of British casualties. General Wolfe was himself struck by several musket balls, one in the chest. He died as the battle was ending, the British victorious.

    English Wiki

    Durant la première charge de Montcalm, Wolfe fut mortellement blessé. … La retraite de l'armée française fut aidée par un groupe de 200 miliciens, dont plusieurs réfugiés Acadiens, qui était resté à l'arrière garde de l'armée française et qui opposa une forte résistance à l'armée britannique au bas de la côte Badelard. C'est le combat qui fit le plus de victimes parmi les civils lors de la bataille. L'histoire s'est faite très discrète à cet égard ; seule une plaque installée en 1997 au jardin de Saint-Roch rappelle cet évènement. French Wiki

    Independence of Texas

    In the years following the Louisiana Purchase by the United States, U.S. settlers began to move westward into Spanish territory, encouraged by Spanish land grants and the United States government. After the Mexican War of Independence, Mexico inherited ownership of the provinces of Alta California, La Mesilla, Nuevo Mexico and Tejas, from Spain, and the westward migration of U.S. settlers continued. Since the times of New Spain, the Spanish Crown gave permission to U. S. settlers to obtain land in Texas provided they declared themselves to be Catholic and manifested their obedience to the king.

    English Wiki

    Los mexicanos consideraban una injusticia que los colonos estadounidenses hubieran recibido tierras gratis en Texas con condiciones generosas. Y los estadounidenses no cumplieron dichas condiciones: entraron en México aceptando cumplir con las leyes del país, incluyendo la ley de no tener esclavos (era ilegal en México) y convertirse en católicos. Pero cuando se terminó el período de importación libre que les había concedido el gobierno mexicano se negaron a pagar impuestos y apoyaron el contrabando de productos mucho más baratos que traían naves estadounidenses a través del golfo de México.

    Spanish Wiki

    “San Patricios” [I'm half Irish so this concerns me directly]

    The Saint Patrick's Battalion (San Patricios), was a group of several hundred, the majority Irish immigrant soldiers who deserted the U.S. Army and joined the Mexican army. Most were killed in the Battle of Churubusco; about 100 were captured and hanged as deserters.

    English Wiki

    Un grupo notable de combatientes que es recordado controversialmente, fue el Batallón de San Patricio, un grupo de varios centenares de soldados inmigrantes (la mayoría de Irlanda) que desertaron de la armada estadounidense en favor del lado mexicano.
    De acuerdo a la versión mexicana, el batallón desertó después de haber percibido lo injusta que era la guerra que había forzado Estados Unidos y así se fraternizó con el pueblo de México. La mayoría murió en el conflicto. Algunos fueron capturados y colgados. Los generales dieron instrucciones para que se asegurara de que lo último que vieran fuese la bajada de la bandera mexicana y el alzado de la bandera estadounidense. Los mexicanos consideran que estos irlandeses fueron verdaderos hombres de honor que se fraternizaron con la causa mexicana. Se construyeron varios monumentos que se mantienen en la actualidad en México.

    Spanish Wiki

    And on a lighter note ...

    Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is a Grammy Award-winning American pop singer, dancer, actress, author and songwriter. In 2004, she married dancer and aspiring rap artist Kevin Federline and the following year she gave birth to their son, Sean Preston. Their second son, Jayden James, was born in 2006.

    English Wiki

    Britannia Spears est cantrix et saltatrix Americana. Nata est 2 Decembris 1981 in Silva Cantii (Anglice: Kentwood) in Ludoviciana. Musicam popularem canit. Anno 2004, Coemgeno Federline nupsit, et duos filios habent.

    Latin Wiki

    Concluding, I don't know Dutch, but I assume that articles on the naval wars between England and Holland are rather different in tone in the English and Dutch Wikis, cf. the English expression "Dutch courage" ...
    Similarly, I assume that Nordic articles on the foundation of Russia or the wars between Sweden and Peter the Great read rather differently from Russian ones and that both differ from those in English ...

  17. TRG Senior Member

    english USA
    It would seem to me that there is much in wikipedia that has a cultural bent and perhaps can only be preserved or appreciated in the native language. Thus, the Norwegians and Swedes and others can preserve their own cultural heritage while also enjoying the benefits of the English language versions. Why not have both?
  18. xarruc Senior Member

    That's an interesting observation. Apart from the differing point of view, the articles share different writers and different editors. An obvious point, but remember that Wikipedia is user-regulated. If one or both 'sides' do not have access to the other's because of a language barrier, Wiki's authors are free to write as they wish without contrary comments.

    It's easy to say that someone would object, that there would be a historian to point out an error or someone to object to a tone, but there may not. We have deep-rooted myths and beliefs. If these are taught at school or at home they become gospel-truth. In addition we might point out an error or a biased comment, but are unlikely to demand that a complimentary comment is removed.

    For examples of deeply rooted myths. I have seen on the Wiki catalan language page (If I recall correctly) that cul-de-sac and alioli are Catalan-derived words in English. There is no evidence provided for this assertation. Provençal also claim to have invented alioli. Cul de sac seems far more likely to have been borrowed from French. Unless Catherine of Aragon managed to start a trend for dead-end roads.... I was recently proudly informed that I was humming a well-known Catalan tune. Actually I was humming Auld-Lang-Zyme.
  19. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Let's look at the number of articles from another point of view. If we assume that the number of articles written in a language other than English might indicates a "weakness" in English, then we would have to conclude that "native German speakers" must be very weak in English.

    After all, there are more than 500,000 articles in German, about 1/3 of the total in English. :)

    Obviously this is not leading us anywhere, and I'm stumped.

    I'd like to hear your theory!

  20. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    I think that proficiency in English by speakers of the X language helps the X wikipedia expand... because you can simply translate the articles from the English wikipedia.
  21. boardslide315 Senior Member

    English, USA
    Government restrictions also seem to be a factor in some countries. China, for instance, has the second largest number of internet users in the world next to the United States, as well as the world's most widely spoken language, but is blocked for the entire PRC as being "politically sensitive."
  22. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Then why do we see this:

    English 1 582 000+ articles
    Deutsch 527 000+ Artikel
    Français 427 000+ articles
    Polski 336 000+ haseł
    日本語フリー百科事典 (Japan) 313 000+ 記事 (articles)
    Nederlands 264 000+ artikelen
    Italiano 233 000+ voci
    Português 230 000+ artigos
    Svenska 204 000+ artiklar
    Español 190 000+ artículos

    Why are there so few articles in Spanish?

    If this is accurate:


    425 million people speak Spanish
    123 million people speak German

    Unless I am very wrong, there are a great many people in the world who are very strong in both Spanish and English!

  23. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    Yes but, in my understanding, of all that people :

    - a majority lives in the USA.
    - they often have low income and do menial jobs.
    - they haven't often had much access to education.
    - for those with higher income and better education, their Spanish is often shaky.

    I can tell you that people with a good command of English is not common in Spain.
  24. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Re Spanish Wiki, etc.

    The Spanish case is rather peculiar for a number of reasons. Etcetera includes a link to a thread in which this specific case is discussed.
    I added that a few years ago there was a “schism” that led to the formation in Spanish of an “Enciclopedia Libre” based in Seville. Apparently, this project in its first year drained off a lot of energy from the Spanish Wiki, but then ran out of steam, after reaching about 50'000 articles. If these are added to the existing 190'000 articles, Spanish would be in 8th place, with 240'000 articles, achieving its “sorpasso” (overtaking) of Italian, Portuguese and Swedish, but not yet of the Polish and Dutch Stakhanovists ...
    Another factor to be taken into consideration is that the Spanish co-official languages (Catalan, Galician, Basque) total about 50'000, 20'000 and 15'000 = 85'000 articles !!! (The situation of these languages is clearly different from that of other European “regional languages”: the best of which is Neapolitan, with just 12 thousand plus.)
    Presumably, most of these articles were written in Spain, so the total number of articles for Spanish (Wiki and Enciclopedia Libre) and the co-official languages of Spain is 240 + 85 = 325'000, which puts them in 5th place, before the Japanese and the Dutch, but still behind the Poles ... (The degree of Internet penetration explains why the Poles beat the Russians, but not their absolute ranking in 4th place. I assume that the Wikipedia in Polish must have filled an information gap.).

    Lastly, re Spanish, in terms of users, it comes in 3rd position, after English and German, but before French. Also, for the “density” of the text Spanish fares better than it does in terms of articles:
    1. Inglés (2.700 megabytes)
      Alemán (1.100 megabytes)
      Francés (785 megabytes)
      Japonés (752 megabytes)
      Holandés (441 megabytes)
      Polaco (430 megabytes)
      Italiano (402 megabytes)
      Español (355 megabytes)
      Ruso (280 megabytes)
      Portugués (266 megabytes)
      Sueco (203 megabytes)
      Chino (186 megabytes)
      Hebreo (165 megabytes)
      Finlandés (134 megabytes)
      Noruego (109 megabytes)
    It was also mentioned that the Spanish Wiki was inspired more by the German model than by the US model, so the articles tend to be longer and more detailed than those of the Portuguese and Italian Wikis, which instead contain a lot of short articles, hopefully to be completed. This is certainly true of the Wikis in the Italian regional languages, but I know that this was done on purpose to create a framework and to gain visibility for the languages so that people would be attracted and encouraged to contribute.

    I think that covers Spanish and I think we are beginning to understand the Polish case (better Internet penetration and possibly filling a previously unfilled gap), but the Dutch and Scandinavian/Nordic cases still remain to be explained. Dutch (NL+B) is equal to 50% of the German Wiki, whereas in terms of population (D+A+CH) it should represent 1/6! And look at the megabytes ... 1/3

    The Nordics (including the Finns) can probably count on positive competitive rivalry (“anything you can do, I can do better”), and possibly they do a lot of inter-Nordic translation.

  25. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Why are you so sure that no one reads these articles?
    Many people study dead languages, and reading such articles can be a good practice.

    I think Jana's right. Russia's much bigger than Poland, but Internet penetration isn't that good here. The vast majority of Russian Internet users live in big cities; most of them know English well enough to read and understand Wiki articles in English.
  26. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    I'm not sure that the majority of people whose first language is Spanish and who are fluent in English are living in the US. Certainly there are many such people here.

    I've met people from around the world whose first language is Spanish who write English very well. However, I may be meeting an "elite" group. Perhaps the majority, those who are unable to read English, do not have Internet access.

    However, Lombard Beige mentioned many other factors. The "density" of the Spanish articles is an important factor. The articles in German tend to be rather scholarly and thorough, and there are a suprising number of articles about subjects that are not in English or that present a very different view from their English counterparts.

    Perhaps the Spanish articles are similar. It also sounds to me as though Spanish went in two directions as described by the "schism" that Lombard Beige mentioned.

  27. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    For completeness, I forgot the Spanish "regional languages" - Asturian (7'500) and Aragonese (5'000) - comparable to other European "regional languages", but not to the 3 co-official languages. If we add these to the total, Spain, etc. overtakes Poland by 1'600 articles and comes up to 4th place, which is not bad in combination with their 3rd place in terms of users and 8th place in terms of megabytes.


  28. Vladislav Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    As for me I love wikipedia and use it in as many languages I can.
    Usually, if it's a general topic, I first go to the English wikipedia. If there's not enough information (or too much soemtimes) or I don't understand it I go to Russian or Spanish. If I'm looking for something specific, I could first search in Russian (ex: Stalin, T -34, Kazakhstan) or Spanish (ex: Venezuela, La Armada Invencible, Franco) and then check it out in English.
  29. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    I thought of another reason to why the Indian language wikis may not be quite popular: fonts. And also, Hindi is only spoken by 30% of the population, and so more publications are in Hindi. I have seen few things in Gujarati and even fewer in Panjabi.
  30. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    A curiosity. The Romani Wiki is written in both Latin and Devanagari scripts. This is because Romani, the language of the Roma people, is of Northern Indian origin. The language used is an Eastern European variant. Also, a new Wiki has been created in Konkani, the native language of Goa, written in Latin script and presumably with some Portuguese influence. I think both of these Wikis fall into the "regional languages" category. Regards
  31. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Very interesting on the Konkani version. There are several standards for Konkani: the Konkani of Kerala, the Konkani of Karnatika, and the Konkani of Goa. Though the Goan is probably the most widely spoken, it is not understandable to my Kerala Konkani speaking friend. I wonder which Konkani they use...
  32. Riccardino Member

    USA - English
    I find wikipedia to be a great foreign language learning tool. I read Italian wikipedia fairly often, and I find I get a better feel for how correct Italian should sound. I also find the Italian history articles more interesting, as they should be.
  33. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    As mentioned before in this thread, if you are interested in topics related to specific areas of Italy, you may also be interested in the Wikis in "regional languages" spoken in Italy and nearby areas.

    In approximate order of closeness to standard Italian they are:

    Corsican (France) (the Corsican Wiki explicitly suggests that people translate from Italian and Sicilian)
    Neapolitan (all of Southern Italy, with sections for local variants)
    Venetian (also Slovenia and Croatia)
    Ligurian (also Monaco)
    Lombard (with Western - also "Italian Switzerland" - and Eastern varieties)
    Emilian (with 8 variants !) (also Republic of San Marino)
    Romansh (Rumantsch Grischun - Switzerland)

    and, last but not least, Latin (State of the Vatican City) ...

    The quality and size of the Wikis vary, but this depends more on the people working on them than on their potential size and readership. For example, Emilian should be larger than Ligurian, but the Wiki started later and they still have problems in managing the local variants.

  34. Vladislav Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Oh, very interesting indeed. I've always been asking myself the closiness of those "languages-dialects" to the standard Italian. And which ones are really spoken? (I mean, not only drawn in the linguistic maps) :D
  35. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Concerning these "linguistic entities" (this is apparently the current Wiki terminology to avoid disputes as to whether they are languages or dialects), they are all spoken by a high percentage of the population.
    The highest percentage in Northern Italy, where I live, is around 50% for Venetian, i.e. 2.5 million people! Just go to Verona, for instance, and listen ...
    In Southern Italy, the regional languages are very healthy.
    Of course, today most people are bilingual with Italian, but many older people still speak Italian with difficulty, if at all. My daughter's in-laws, for example, speak Bergamasco, which is completely incomprehensible to other Italians, including people from Western Lombardy (look at the Lombard Wiki, which gives both versions).
    As written languages, the figures drop dramatically (well under 5%), as these languages are not usually taught in schools (with exceptions).
    Until recently, the Italian government recognised no languages except Italian (plus French, German and Slovene in some border areas). Ladin was also recognised, but only in the Province of Bolzano-Bozen (Alto Adige-Sud Tirol), in the provinces of Trento and Belluno, it suddenly became an ordinary Italian dialect ...
    Recently, however, the Italian government has extended official recognition to all areas where Ladin is spoken and also to Friulan, Sardinian, Occitan and Franco-Provençal, which is curious, because it's not recognized in Switzerland and France ...
    Greek, Albanian and Croatian, spoken in parts of Southern Italy, are also recognized.
    Recognition in Italy is on a much lower level than Spain and is even lower than the support given to Asturian by the Principado de Asturias.

    Corsican is recognized by France as a "regional language", so it is taught in schools, etc., but about half of the population of Corsica is non Corsican, so French is the generally used language.
    Ligurian, in the form of Monegasque , has been recognized as a "national language" of Monaco, but I think this will just mean support for small groups of enthusiasts.
    Rumantsch Grischun is now the 4th official language of Switzerland. It was formerly (since 1938) a "national language", but now it used as widely as possible by the Swiss federal government (on money, passports, official forms, TV, newspapers, etc.). The number of speakers is limited (about 50'000), like Ladin in Italy, but Switzerland is richer than Italy (proportionally) so the language is better supported.
    Latin is still used in the State of the Vatican City and in the Roman Catholic Church.

    As I said before, you can see examples of all these "linguistic entities" in the Wikis.

  36. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Lombard Beige has forgotten about Piedmontese.
    I am not sure if it has an official status in Italy (the answer seems to be negative), but there are several sites devoted to this language on the Net, and there's a Piedmontese Wikipedia.
  37. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    I didn't mean to forget Piedmontese in my last message and I think I've mentioned it several times before. Piedmontese in fact is the best "equipped" of all the Northern Italian "regional languages" , as it has a full set of dictionaries, grammar books, courses, etc., and also a regional standard, although of course there are people who insist on writing in their local dialects. As you say, the Wikipedia is active and there are a few sites. The total population of Piedmont is 4.3 million. Possibly 1/3 know some Piedmontese, but there are no reliable figures. Piedmontese does have some local recognition, but less than Asturian in Spain, about the same as Byelorussian in Belarus ... :)

    The Lombard Wiki is also active and has more articles than the Piedmontese Wiki, but unlike Piedmontese there is no recognized regional standard. The Wiki group have remedied this by using two variants: Western and Eastern, as though the Catalans had one version for Lleida (and Valencia) and another for Girona (and Barcelona). The total population of Lombardy is close to 10 million, and a good percentage of people still speak the local dialects (of Lombard) as well as the regional variety of standard Italian (which are not the same thing, like Catalan and Barcelona Castillian). The Swiss dialects of Lombard enjoy some measure of support from the Swiss Cantons and the Swiss Broadcasting System.

    Emilia-Romagna is even worse off than Lombardy, in the sense that each province uses its own variant, say Lleida, Girona, Tarragona and Barcelona. They need a Pompeu Fabra!
    Emilian is very different from standard Italian, for example "slèr" = "sellaio" = "saddle maker". Because of the lack of unity, the Emilian Wiki was the last to take off. There is a good site for the dialect of Bologna. Total pop. about 4 million.

    Veneto, as I mentioned, is the variety that is still most widely spoken and they too have a de facto regional koiné, as they all understand each other quite easily, like the Galicians in Spain. Veneto is or should be easier for other Italian speakers to understand. Tot. pop. 5 million.

    Ligurian is a very "strange" language, but of course interesting. The total population is just over 1.5 million.

    These are the five unrecognized regional languages in Northern Italy. Then there are the 3 Rheto-Romance languages: Friulan and Ladin in Italy and Romansh in Switzerland, but as they are better known and officially recognized, you can find more details about them through their Wikis. (Ladin is still in the incubator stage).

    The Southern Italian languages are in good shape, except for Sardinian, which is recognized and very different from Italian, but they too have difficulty in defining a regional standard.

  38. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Belarusian/Byelorussian is the official language in Belarus, along with Russian, and I believe it has more recognition in the country than Piedmontese in Piedmont.:)
  39. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    It is a good thing Wikipedia articles are written in many languages. One should beware of the idiosyncracies of a single language. I also think it natural that people should prefer to read in their native language. The contrary would be surprising, but does exist in former colonies where it was the language of the colonizer that channelled the modern world into ancient minds.
  40. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I read mostly articles in English, although Russia has never been a British colony.:D
    The point is that I usually look for information connected with English history and culture, languages, more rarely movies and music. Articles on these subjects are better in English than in Russian.
  41. Vladislav Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    That's the point. Probably it would be better to make fewer articles in Russian, but a better ones, of a higher or, al least, even quality than the English ones.
  42. Vladislav Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    I mean, if you don't find it in Russian you go to English. But if you find it in Russian you switch into Russian, being sure that the information provided would be at least at the same quality than in Engish.

    Otherwise, even if you find a Russian version of many subjects you usually don't look at them.
  43. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Well, you know, if I have enough time, I would rather read different versions and compare them. The results can be really interesting!
    I assume that most articles in Wikipedia started as a mere paragraph, with a short description, which was then expanded by other people.
    And one more thing - I usually start with looking for English articles. Unless it's something really specific for Russia.
  44. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    I was, of course, joking ... But not too much, as my daughter hosts a child from Belarus every year (one of the Cheronobyl - right? - victims) and we noticed that these children are all very pro Russian. When I asked about Belarusian, the girl - Marina, same name as my daughter - said: "I prefer Russian; Belarusian is too funny ..." and she was very pleased to see Euronews in Russian on Sky TV ... I know she is ehtnically Belarusian and not Russian, but she does have Russian relatives.

    I believe the attitude to the national language is more positive in the Ukraine, but even there I understand that the eastern regions and Crimea are more inclined to use Russian than Ukranian, right?

    In Piedmont, as in Italy in general, everything is conditioned by politics, so support for the local language may be viewed by some as "right wing" or "conservative", although back in the 70's it was "left wing" and "progressive" ... This rule is not infallible, of course.

    My personal position is that all small languages deserve a minimum of support, as they preserve certain elements of our cultural heritage. For example, the Rumantsch language still uses some Latin words they have died out in other Romance languages, e.g. "cudesch" = "book" from Latin "codex". Or "crus alva" = "white cross" = "the Swiss flag".

    Regardless of all political considerations, it would be a true loss for everyone if Basque were to disappear.

    That is why I think what people are doing in the Wikis is very important. Obviously nobody is going to consult the Lombard Wiki for articles on mathematics, but one of the contributors is a mathematician and I think he writes in Lombard as a break from his work. Another contributor to the Lombard Wiki is a language professor in Norway and so on.

  45. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In Russian, it's Чернобыль - Chernobyl. I'm not sure about the Ukrainian name, but it's something like Chornobil.

    I have a number of friends who live in Belarus. They all prefer to speak Russian.
    As for Belarusian sounding funny for natives of Russian - frankly speaking, it does for me. But all Slavic language sound very curiously. I wonder if a Polish native would consider Russian sounding funny!:D

    Yes; about three years ago I spent a fortnight in Odessa, and (believe it or not!) I didn't hear a single word in Ukrainian! Everyone was speaking Russian!

  46. Lugubert Senior Member

    According to Wiki, Ethnologue estimates that in 2005 there were 3 million speakers of Eastern Yiddish (which seems to be a high estimate). In Sweden, Yiddish rather recently was granted the status of officially recognized minority language. If not thriving, the language is at least sufficiently far from dead. If you read some modern US authors, like Philip Roth, you'll find quite a few Yiddish words, which probably the vast majority of US citizens understand, like goy, schmo, chutzpa, tushy.

    A very entertaining book, which explains several Yiddish words and tells you a lot on the culture associated with the langauge, is Leo Rosten: The Joys of Yiddish.
  47. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Hello Lugubert:

    I see you are writing from Sweden, perhaps you can give a more precise answer to my original question at the beginning of the thread.

    Given that Scandinavians/Nordics and Dutch are among the best non-native English speakers, what is the secret of the phenomenal success of the Wikis in these languages?

    We have discussed the other major languages (in terms of Wiki) and it would seem that the Polish Wiki has filled a gap ... The Finnish Wiki is also positively disproportionate to the population and economic ranking of the country, but the Finns are Nordics, although my father, who was a seaman, told me that other Scandinavians perferred not to sail with them, as they were thought to bring bad luck.

  48. Vladislav Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Don't you think most part of them just repeat the English version? (and besides, they are shorter and worse)
  49. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Hi Etcera et al.:

    Well I read through the thread you mentioned and what the people said applies more or less to the local language situation in the whole of Northern Italy. As I mentioned, the local language is most healthy in Veneto, and I think this is because venetian is the most similar to Italian, so people can use the language without fear of being misunderstood.
    Elsewhere, the situation is as described for Piedmont, some places more, some less.
    As you are interested in Italian history, it will be easier for you to understand why in Italy "linguistic entities" that elsewhere would be called languages are called dialects.
    There are in fact true Italian dialects - those of Tuscany, Rome and nowadays the "Regional Italian" spoken in the various regions of Italy -, but the so-called "Italian dialects" are really Romance dialects, i.e. Piedmontese derives from Vugar Latin not from Tuscan (Italian). The Italian spoken in Turin derives from Florentine Italian (the language of Dante, etc.).
    As for "paradise on Earth!", I think Italy, like everywhere, has its good points and its bad points.
    The attitude to local languages derives from the Italian Nationalist ideology that accompanied the formation of modern Italy. Before unification everyone used their own local language and wrote , if at all, in Italian or another language.
    I assume the attitude towards Belarusian and Ukranian was similar in Russia in the time of the Tsars: OK to use locally, but for public purposes the language of Pushkin is better.
    I have read that under the USSR the situation changed, initially for the better, with all languages being recognized and alphabets invented, etc., and then for the worse, because of the war, etc.
    I think Ukranian went through a process similar to Breton and Flemish, as they were accused of being collaborators of the Nazis ...

    Zdravo Druga Etcera (Serbo-Croatian but still Slavic)
  50. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    Drugarice Etcetera.;)

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