Education

The Wikipedia resource - in South Indian languages!

The free online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a fantastic resource that is part and parcel of life online. What's more, is that this is also available in Indian languages which can be as easily accessed as it is done for English.

Anyone and everyone who uses the internet would agree the Wikipedia can very well be man’s best friend. Yes, it may not lick your face but think about it, you don’t have to feed it nor do you need to take it out for walks. Whenever you need some help, it’s always around and never lets you down as it has information about anything and everything under the sun. Sounds quite like the perfect companion doesn’t it?  

For years now, internet users have used this free encyclopedia but how much do we really know about this popular website. Launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in the year 2001, the website has slowly steadily become an extremely popular reference site for internet users across the globe. It all started with a free online encyclopedia project named Nupedia, however here the articles were only written by experts unlike in Wikipedia.  

When working at Nupedia, both Sanger and Wales came up with an innovative idea of an online encyclopedia which could be edited be users as well. Sanger came up with the idea that internet users can take the help of “wiki” (A website that allows editing of interlinked pages on the web) to edit any chosen article. It was in January 12, 2001 that Wikipedia was finally launched for the entire world to see and use. Initially it existed alongside Nupedia but soon the success of Wikipedia overshadowed the earlier website and hence it was taken down in the year 2003. However, all the information which was present and available in the website was incorporated into the database of Wikipedia.    

Although all of us are familiar with the English Wikipedia, very few are aware of the fact that Wikipedia also exists in many other languages including several Indian languages.  Wikipedia arranged their annual conference recently and the main focus was laid on language Wikipedia. 

Wikipedias are available in over 270 languages that can be easily availed and edited by users but since very few people are actually aware of this, the growth of the Non-English Wikipedias have been extremely slow and sluggish. Despite the potential, the Indian Wikipedias are not getting the right attention and hence it has been difficult for them to progress. The focus of a recent Wikimania was on how to improve participation and broaden reach in the global south. There are several Wikipedia contributors in India who work on Indian Wikipedias, all of them are hoping to make languages Wikipedia known and accepted throughout the country. However writing and editing articles in local languages is not without problems. There have been similar problems in Asian language Wikipedias as well regarding use of the standard keyboard and mouse combination to write in local languages.  

Many volunteers of the Indian language Wikipedias are doing their best to help increase the number of contributors. With a similar aim in mind, the Tamil Nadu Government in collaboration with Tamil Wikipedians had put together a competition on writing articles for college students. There are many Kannada and Telugu Wikipedians as well who are working towards training and recruiting more contributors. Malayalam Wikipedians have recently introduced a CD containing 500 articles from their Wikipedia that are to be distributed among a variety of school in Kerela so as to make the students aware of the Indian Languages Wikipedia. 

A prominent Wikipedian,Tinu Cherian Abraham, says that the whole idea behind making Wikipedia available in different languages is to appeal to all those who are more familiar with native languages. The goal is to make the information in Wikipedia available to one and all without bias to whether they know the English language or not. He also says that the same model of the English Wikipedia may be used in the language Wikipedias but there could be a couple of changes if it is deemed necessary. As like the English Wikipedia, language Wikipedias can be edited by users. Tinu Abraham also says that the database used by Wikipedia known as MediaWiki shall remain the same for the language Wikipedias.  

So why not go ahead and use an Indian Language Wikipedia for a change, you may even make some edits if you see fit. Contributing positively towards language Wikipedias can help make them as good as the English Wikipedia. 
 
Tags: south indian languages, wikipedian, tinu cherian, indian language wikipedia, english, 270 languages

1 comments

Prashanth NS Aug 07th, 2010 03:57 PM

Good article. Look forward to more articles on mybangalore with coverage of Wikipedia. 

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