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Volunteer-crafted Bengali Wikipedia crosses landmark 10,000 articles mark September 28, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Connectivity.

The Bengali Wikipedia, a Web-based free-content multilingual encyclopedia project, has cross the landmark of 10,000 articles. It became the 50th language to do so, and only the second from South Asia.

The Telugu wikipedia now has over 15,000 articles.

Wikipedia — now among the top 20 most-visted sites worldwide — is an unusual venture that harnesses the work of worldwide volunteers to build a sharable, and copyright-unencumbered field of knowledge. It tries to do so in diverse languages.

Wikipedia exists as a wiki, a website that allows any visitor to freely edit its content, which can be accessed via its wikipedia.org cyberhome.

“Bengali is spoken by almost 220-250 million people, making it the seventh largest language in terms of total speakers. Bengali Wikipedia — http://bn.wikipedia.org — has seen a growth from 500 articles in March 2006 to 10,000 as of now,” announced Ragib Hasan, a PhD student at the Dept of Computer Science in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Ragib says there are now 20-25 active volunteer-editors who edit Bengali wikipedia on a regular basis.

“These editors are mainly from Bangladesh, and also from West Bengal (India). The main thrust has been the Bangladesh Open Source Network (BDOsn), and the Bangla Wiki project, which has raised awareness, involved the media, and recruited more editors to work on Bengali Wikipedia,” he commented in a internal discussion within the Wikipedia networks.

He said they also have an article improvement projects, aiming at having at least 1000 or so good articles (similar to English wikipedia) by May 2007.

For reasons ranging from poor connectivity to a lack of volunteers, and earlier technical problems in writing non-Roman script languages online, to a simple lack of awareness, the participation has been far lower from Asia,
particular South Asia.

In late August, Wikipedia founder Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales had said during an Indian tour that some Indian languages like Kannada and Bengali were seeing “fairly high” growth rates, over a small base.

He had then said: “It’s (participation by Indian languages) not as bad as it was a year ago. Gee we have almost nothing, then…. Hindi, which is a very large language (in terms of numbers of speakers) has only 1500 entries. That’s a little surprising,” he said.

Wikipedia, meaning wiki and encyclopedia, is written collaboratively by volunteers. It allows most articles to be changed by almost anyone with access to the website.

The English wikipedia has 1.4 million entries.

Japanese — with a quarter million entries — has been the only non-European language among the ‘big ten’ language of the Wikipedia.

But Farsi, Arabic, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia,have been among those with 10,000+ articles. In the 1000+ articles category are Urdu, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, among others.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is expected for his second visit in India, in two months, shortly.

Meanwhile, an 18-month old ‘Wikipedia for India’ network on the social networking site Orkut has some 215 members and says it wants to build this into “the place where u can find info on anything from Hindu mythology to Besant Nagar beach…or Connaught Place.”



1. tarikur - November 27, 2006

Among the South Asian people, Bengali people are one of most people that cares about their language. Bengalie people are speaking and writing and expanding their language. There are lot of Bengali websites and one can now do Bengali google search written in bengali font. Hindi speaking people don’t care about their language, they commonly use English to write.

I live in New York City, nearly all the regional Deshi newspaper are written in English. Only newspaper that is written in deshi langauage is Bengali.

2. Frederick "FN" Noronha - November 27, 2006

Thanks for your comments. I think the pressures and potential for different languages work out differently. But I would not make any comment on the commitment or lack of it among different language groups towards their language. Incidentally, I belong to a language group that’s spoken by between 1.7 million to 5.5 million speakers (depending whose figures one accepts). It’s called Konkani and comes from the West Coast of India. Its speakers have used five different scripts to write the language in. It has a long history of its people migrating. You could imagine how difficult it is to build and retain connectiveness with the language.

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