Election candidates 2006/ArnoLagrange/statement/En

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

That was a Google translation through the french version of my esperanto original. Grandan dankon al / great thanks to Yekrats kaj /and Brion ke ili korektis / that they have corrected. Arno Lagrange  09:40, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Other languages : Ar; Da; De; En; Eo; Es; Fi; Fr; It; Ja; Nl; Pl; Pt; Ru; Zh;


It might seem trivial that in my statement I treat only the language question and none other. But as long as this important problem is not solved correctly, it seems impossible for me to look further into any other subject. How does someone enter a debate on some important subject if, because of a language barrier, I, like a great many users, cannot understand well what it is about? There is certainly an effort to develop some amount of multilingualism on meta (such as, for example, this election) but obviously the majority of the debates on the pages of meta, by IRC or mailing lists (e.g. Foundation-l) proceed only in English. I tried to become interested in certain questions but I am constantly overwhelmed by long English messages; they lack conciseness, a summary and even a summary in other languages. One can note that those used to the English language (whether native speakers or non-native English-speakers accustomed to using English every day) are totally unaware that they leave behind all those who do not use the language as well as themselves. They do not make any effort of conciseness, stuff important messages with unimportant chatter, slang or jargon, abbreviations (which one finds neither in the dictionary nor elsewhere). Consequently even with a pretty good level of English it is impossible to enter the debates when you do not have unlimited time.

Linguistic diversity[edit]

Linguistic diversity is an invaluable richness of humanity. That seems to be recognized by the multilingualism of the Wikimedia projects: providing knowledge to humanity only makes sense if the knowledge is given out in a language which the recipient understands. This goes as well for the operations of the system in which that knowledge is provided.

Chart showing the weight of some languages by speakers (total and native), economy, net surfer, web pages and Wikipedia articles

The English language currently occupies its dominant position in the world, on the Internet and in the Wikimedia projects for reasons explainable through history and economy. First of all the British spirit of conquest had imposed the English language in the whole of British Isles, and subsequently in every part of the world where the British empire conquered territories. And this happened in an oppressive and bloody way. Then -- mainly due to the World Wars -- the United States became the most powerful country in the world from an economic and military point of view. Parenthetically, English became the language of -almost- all Americans, immigrants from the most diverse lands, after the loss of their original languages. It is in this context that computers, the Internet and Wikipedia appeared. In all these areas English occupies a dominant position, because English-speakers (Americans, Canadians, Britons, Australians, etc) enjoy a better economic situation compared with the rest of the world. In these countries there are more computers, more people with access to the Internet. Moreover, many people who are non-native English-speakers from many different countries accept that English is the inevitable world language which they must master, up to the point where they start speaking even to fellow speakers of their own languages in English (oh yes, they do!). Consequently, English – which is only one of the 6700 languages spoken in the world and the mother tongue only of a small fraction of humanity – occupies a disproportionate position on the Internet and in the Wikimedia projects. A majority of participants in the projects are not even aware of the situation and the disadvantages it creates: most of humanity, and even most of the participants in the Wikimedia projects users are simply pushed aside and in fact silenced.

How to move the situation forward?[edit]

Obviously when in some system a given language occupies such a dominant position it is very difficult to move the situation forward because those who don't suffer from it have no interest in change, and those who are harmed by it cannot even make their voices heard. When for example I pose the problem someone might challenge me “How could you take part in the Board when you don't speak English properly?” The situation thus seems impassable. Obviously if we held a vote today in the Wikimedia projects with the question: “Does the current dominant position of English bother you, and do you want Wikimedia to become truly multilingual, i.e. all the elements of debates be necessarily available in a given number of languages?” there is a good chance that the majority of the voters will respond: “No, the dominant position of English does not bother me (I speak good English), multilingualism is a cumbersome gadget which I make fun of". To develop the situation can only be the result of a deliberate effort of the current community to open the system to the participants who are now (and in the future) left aside.


Regarding the current use of nearly only English with occasional attempts to apply multilingualism, some thoughts:

  • establish true multilingualism, defining a few rules:
    • for each element of debate (proposal, discussion, vote, decision) in whatever language, provide a concise summary
    • each element of debate should be translated into a few particular languages (for example those of the most important Wikipedias) within a prescribed time
  • as multilingualism has the disadvantage of being heavy and slow, propose the use of a neutral auxiliary language which would act as a working language for everyone, before which everyone would stand equal, since it would not be someone's national language, a language learned slowly and never completely, through which others can express themselves only with embarrassment.
    • because currently no auxiliary language is immediately applicable, a schedule should be defined:
      • 1 - decide about the use of an auxiliary language
      • 2 - decide which auxiliary language to select (Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, Lojban, ...)
      • 3 - to define a probation period during which volunteers will learn the language, and start using it alongside other languages with continuing multilingual operation
      • 4 - after this probation period, if the process is successful, redefine the languages use rules: debates will be held mainly in the auxiliary language, translations will be provided to maintain a multilingual operation.

About possible auxiliary languages[edit]

  1. Esperanto: the most fitting, most mature, most developed in vocabulary, the practical use of the language by thousands of speakers over more than a century from every culture in the world, cultural output (literature, scientific documents, terminologies, ...). A living community, distributed worldwide. Other language candidates lack this development. Today there are only a few dozen speakers of other such language projects just a few countries.
  2. Ido: differs from Esperanto by a few linguistic modifications.
  3. Interlingua: a fully Latinate/Romance language, easy for speakers of Romance languages, not for others.
  4. Lojban: totally immature. Very few speakers. The vocabulary is incomplete.
  5. others: even less mature, even fewer speakers.

Read more :[edit]