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The Wikimedia Mother-Tongue Toolkit: Developing a road map for under-served language and script communities to access the Wikimedia movement
In 2022, we’ll help four underrepresented communities evaluate how to best engage with the Wikimedia movement based on local needs, and then contribute their languages accordingly to different Wikimedia projects. Based on their experiences, we’ll create a road map for efficient and effective mother-tongue contribution, in the form of a free toolkit that will help improve Wikimedia onboarding for minority language communities, including those with unique writing systems.
start date2022-01-03T00:00:00Z
end date2022-12-30T00:00:00Z
budget (local currency)52000 USD
budget (USD)56200 USD
grant typeMission-aligned organization
organization typeNon profit organisation
funding regionNA
decision fiscal year2021-22
funding program roundRound 1
applicant(s)• bogreudell
organization (if applicable)• Wikitongues, Inc.

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Applicant information[edit]

A. Organization type

Mission-aligned organization

B. Organization name

Wikitongues, Inc.

E. Do you have an account on a Wikimedia project?


E1. Please provide the main Wikimedia Username (required) and Usernames of people related to this proposal.


G. Have you received grants from the Wikimedia Foundation before?

Applied previously and did not receive a grant

H. Have you received grants from any non-wiki organization before?

H1. Which organization(s) did you receive grants from?
The J.M. Kaplan Fund - above $50,000 USD ($175,000)

The Knisely Family Foundation - under $5,000 USD ($4,000) The Endangered Languages Fund - under $5,000 USD ($2,000)

H2. Please state the size of these grants from the following options.
Above 50,000 USD
H3. What type of organization (s) did you receive grants from?
National NGO
H4. What percentage of your program budget do other funders contribute to?
Between 30 and 75%

1. Do you have a fiscal sponsor?


1a. Fiscal organization name.


2. Are you legally registered?


3. What type of organization are you?

Non profit organisation

4. What is your organization or group's mission and how does it align with the Wikimedia movement?

Wikitongues is building a world where language diversity is fundamentally respected. We safeguard endangered languages, increase access to linguistic resources, and directly support language revitalization. Within the Wikimedia movement, our User Group helps bridge knowledge equity gaps by expanding linguistic diversity across Wikimedia projects. We host mother-tongue events like translate-a-thons and record-a-thons and we facilitate Wikimedia contributions in under-resourced languages.

5. If you would like, please share any websites or social media accounts that your group or organization has. (optional)



User Group Meta Page: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikitongues

JMK Innovation Prize Profile: https://www.jmkfund.org/awardee/daniel-bogre-udell-and-kristen-tcherneshoff/

Co-Founder TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_bogre_udell_how_to_save_a_language_from_extinction

Social Media: https://youtube.com/wikitongues https://twitter.com/wikitongues https://facebook.com/wikitongues https://instagram.com/wikitongues

Grant proposal[edit]

6. Please state the title of your proposal.

The Wikimedia Mother-Tongue Toolkit: Developing a road map for under-served language and script communities to access the Wikimedia movement

9. Where will this proposal be implemented?

International (more than one country across continents or regions)

10. Indicate if it is a local, international, or regional proposal and if it involves several countries?


10a. If you have answered international, please write the country names and any other information that is useful for understanding your proposal.

One of our core objectives is evaluating how Wikimedia projects can be made more accessible in under-resourced languages, and in turn, the extent to which Wikimedia projects can accelerate language revitalization. To achieve this, we plan to work with rising Wikimedians from up to four under-resourced language communities, including the Afro-Seminole Creole language of the United States and Mexico, and the Chakma and Sylheti languages of Bangladesh and India.

10b. Are there any specific sub-regions or areas where your proposal will be implemented?

A large part of our core work will likely take place in South Asia, specifically the Bangladeshi divisions of Chittagong and Sylhet. Outside Papua New Guinea, South Asia is one of the world’s most linguistically dense regions, as well as one of the regions with the highest density of diverse writing systems (alphabets, abjads, syllabaries, and other scripts). It is also home to a wide range of economic and infrastructural development, especially as it pertains to Internet access. Therefore, it is an ideal region for exploring ways to bridge knowledge equity gaps within the Wikimedia movement.

11. What is the challenge or problem you are addressing and why is this important?

At least 7,000 languages are spoken and signed today, but as many as 3,000 languages could disappear in a generation, erasing half of humanity’s cultural, historical, and ecological knowledge. Language extinction is not inevitable. With the right mother-tongue resources, adults can learn their ancestral languages and teach their children, raising new native speakers and keeping their cultures alive — along with their cultural knowledge. In a word, language revitalization is possible. Unfortunately, a majority of endangered languages are also under-resourced, so the grassroots creation of mother-tongue materials is both a method of safeguarding cultural knowledge and a critical first step in the process of language revitalization. In that sense, mother-tongue contribution to Wikimedia projects represents a valuable opportunity for global language revitalization efforts. To date, that potential remains largely untapped. In fact, only about 5% of the world’s languages and 8% of the world’s writing systems are represented across the spectrum of Wikimedia projects, implying a significant gap in the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission to effectively safeguard and disseminate the sum of human knowledge on a global scale. In November, Wikitongues hosted a series of open discussions with Wikipedia, Commons, and WikiSource contributors from across Europe, Asia, and Africa, and identified bottlenecks that prevent or discourage under-resourced communities from contributing in and about their languages. These bottlenecks include 1) general technical challenges, like digitizing native writing systems; 2) Wikimedia-specific technical challenges, namely a cumbersome Wikipedia incubator process and interface translation difficulties; and 3) a relative lack of structural cohesion between different Wikimedia projects. In a word, the absence of a centralized support structure for mother-tongue contribution blocks most under-resourced communities from participating in the Wikimedia movement, on their own cultural terms. The impact of alleviating these challenges would be two-fold. First, expanding support for mother-tongue contribution would cultivate greater diversity within the movement, grow the scope of Wikimedia projects, and strengthen the Wikimedia Foundation’s commitment to guaranteeing equitable access to the sum of human knowledge. Moreover, creating new opportunities for mother-tongue content creation would open new pathways for global language revitalization, ensuring the sum of all knowledge for the next generation. The question, then, is: how can we make it easier, at scale, for people from all cultures, especially under-resourced communities, to access and contribute to Wikimedia projects in their languages?

12. What is the main objective of your proposal? Please state why you think partnering with Wikimedia Movement helps to achieve this objective?

In 2022, we’ll help four underrepresented communities evaluate how to best engage with the Wikimedia movement based on local needs, and then contribute their languages accordingly to different Wikimedia projects. Based on their experiences, we’ll create a road map for efficient and effective mother-tongue contribution, in the form of a free toolkit that will help improve Wikimedia onboarding for minority language communities, including those with unique writing systems.

13. Describe your main strategies to achieve this objective?

To date, Wikitongues has safeguarded materials in nearly 700 languages and supported grassroots revitalization projects on three continents. Drawing from our diverse user base, will identify four under-resourced language communities at different stages of revitalization, whose languages are also underrepresented across Wikimedia projects, especially Wikipedia, Commons, and WikiSource. We will recruit representatives from those communities who are eager and able to spearhead Wikimedia contribution efforts for their languages and provide the necessary support to realize those efforts. This support will include: 1) direct financial assistance in the form of project stipends, 2) strategic planning and guidance for cultivating stable, local interest in Wikimedia engagement; 3) technical training for language digitization hurdles, like font creation in native writing systems, 4) technical training for the needs of contributing to Wikimedia projects, like learning Wikipedia’s markup language; and 5) onboarding them to the ecosystem of Wikimedia projects. Specifically, onboarding will include a review of the full range of possibilities for content creation, and the ways in which different Wikimedia projects, especially Wikipedia, Commons, and WikiSource, can play a multidimensional role in the preservation and revitalization of their cultural knowledge, their languages, and their writing systems. We will onboard and train the participants between January and March of 2022. Between April and September of 2022, the participants will conduct the bulk of their initial contribution to Wikimedia projects. Between October and December, we will work with participants to identify the most common and critical challenges they faced in contributing to Wikimedia, within their language community, or elsewhere; and based on these experiences, we’ll build a toolkit for onboarding any language community that wants to add their mother tongue to Wikimedia projects. This will help lay the foundation for building more structured, standardized support for expanding language diversity within the movement.

14. Are you running any in-person events or activities?


15. Please state if your proposal aims to work to bridge any of the identified content knowledge gaps?

Language, Socioeconomic Status, Cultural background, ethnicity, religion, racial

16. Please state if your proposal includes any of these areas or thematic focus.

Culture, heritage or GLAM , Diversity

17. Will your work focus on involving participants from any underrepresented communities? Select all categories that apply.

Ethnic/racial/religious or cultural background, Linguistic / Language, Socioeconomic status

18. Please tell us more about your target participants.

We have already identified three likely communities for this project: the Chakma and Sylheti language communities of Bangladesh and India, and the Black Seminole community of Mexico and the United States, who speak Afro-Seminole Creole. Each language represents an important use-case in evaluating how to improve the process of mother-tongue contribution to Wikimedia projects, as well as understanding how Wikimedia contribution can serve as a language revitalization strategy. Afro-Seminole Creole is perhaps the most critically endangered of all three languages, with only a few dozen native speakers. As of 2021, there is a fledgling revitalization project for the language, led by Windy Goodloe, the niece of one of the last native speakers. Meanwhile, Chakma, which is spoken by about 500,000 people, is in the middle of a more gradual decline, having been marginalized by Bengali-only policies in Bangladeshi schools. Like Afro-Seminole Creole, there is a nascent revitalization project led by Bivuti Chakma, who has single-handedly digitized their writing system. Neither language has a sustained Wikimedia presence, be it in the form of a mother-tongue Wikipedia, mother-tongue resources on Commons, or cultural knowledge on WikiSource. Finally, Sylheti is more widely spoken, with upwards of 10 million speakers and a developed mother-tongue movement, led in large part by members of the Sylheti diaspora in the United Kingdom. This will provide a wonderful opportunity to address an increasingly common challenge: is linguistic and cultural revitalization possible in the diaspora — and can a Wikimedia presence help connect people from the same culture who now live across the globe? Unlike Chakma and Afro-Seminole Creole, there is a fledgling Sylheti presence within Wikimedia, in the form of a Wikipedia Incubator. By working with diverse language communities, we will arrive at a well-rounded understanding of the contribution bottlenecks that diverse language communities face. In addition to supporting these communities’ initial Wikimedia contribution process, we will help them develop long-term sustainability plans, which will include strategies for: 1) sustaining local interest in the Wikimedia movement, 2) hosting content creation events like edit-a-thons and translate-a-thons, and 3) operational development, especially applying for grants, building mutual aid programs, and launching local organizations like Wikimedia user groups and thematic chapters.

19. Do you have plans to work with other Wikimedia communities, groups or affiliates in your country, or in other countries, to implement this proposal?


19a. If yes, please tell us about these connections online and offline and how you have let Wikimedia communities know about this proposal.

In November, we organized a series of roundtable discussions with diverse contributors to Wikipedia, Commons, WikiSource, and other Wikimedia projects, including a conversation with Maryana Iskander as part of her listening tour. We found interest in this work among members of Wikimedia Norway, Dagbani Wikimedians, Indian Wikimedians, and Wikimedia Nigeria, as well as contributors to Skolt Sámi Wikipedia and WikiSource. We plan to assemble an advisory council of veteran Wikimedians from these groups. Additionally, members of the Language Diversity Hub have expressed interest in hosting this project, since expanding support for language diversity aligns with their mission. Wikitongues has previously collaborated with some of these groups. For example, we advised Wikimedia Nigeria’s oral history project and the Oral Culture Transcription Toolkit project in India, which both received support from the foundation; and we helped Wikimedia Norway organize the Arctic Knot festival in June.

19b. If no, please tell us the reasons why it has not been possible to make these connections.


20. Will you be working with other external non-Wikimedian partners to implement this proposal?


20a. If yes, please describe these partnerships.

Our primary external partner on this proposal will be the Endangered Alphabets Project. Founded in 2010, Endangered Alphabets is a federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Vermont. Its mission is to seek out, research, document, promote, and advise minority and Indigenous cultures worldwide and help them revitalize their languages and writing systems. Their contribution to this work will be fivefold: 1) to identify and recruit individuals or organizations in South Asia that are committed to fostering the script within their language user communities; 2) to act as a liaison between our partners in the field and valuable contacts within the language/script development community, such as font developers, digitzers, people involved in the Script Encoding Initiative and Unicode, and companies in the global language services/translation/localization industry who may have an interest in promoting or publicizing the endeavor; 3) to recruit and create a group of advisers around the world who have practical and first-hand experience in script revitalization and/or creation, and who are willing to share their own experiences and suggestions in such areas as developing community acceptance, teaching,content creation, and negotiation with academic and government authorities; 4) to document and publicize through the Endangered Alphabets Project’s social media the activities of our partners in South Asia; and 5) to offer the final deliverable of this pilot program — the road map toolkit — as a downloadable document through the Endangered Alphabets websites.

20a. If yes, indicate sharing of resources from these partners (in kind support, grants, donations, payments).

Wikitongues will share grant funds with our core partners: the Endangered Alphabets Project and the individual participants from language communities whose Wikimedia contribution we plan to support. This will include issuing project stipends to language community leaders, so they can dedicate the necessary time to this work. We will also share operational overhead costs with the Endangered Alphabets Project. These costs are specified in the budget summary below.

21. Please tell us how your organization is structured.

Wikitongues is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in New York City. We are steered by a fiscally-committed governing board, an Executive Director and a Programs Director. We also have a non-voting advisory board composed of experts in the areas of linguistics, anthropology, and open source technology. Within Wikimedia, we maintain a User Group, which is powered by a core volunteer team and serves as the umbrella for all of our Wikimedia activities. Our Executive Director, Daniel Bögre Udell, and our Programs Director, Kristen Tchenershoff, will be directly involved in implementing this proposal. Daniel co-founded Wikitongues in 2014, after completing a master’s degree at the New School for Social Research. He has been contributing to online movements since 2009, when he helped launch the Catalan-language edition of the nonprofit news organization, Global Voices, and was a 2019 TED Resident. Kristen joined Wikitongues in 2018, initially as a core volunteer, transitioning to her full-time role toward the end of 2020. A trained linguist, Kristen got her start working in human rights law in Tanzania. Outside Wikitongues, our core partner in implementing this proposal will be the Endangered Alphabets Project, described above. The organization’s Executive Director, Tim Brooks, will also play a major role in implementing this proposal. Educated at Oxford, he has spoken on various aspects of cultural and linguistic endangerment at Harvard, Yale, the U.S. Library of Congress.

22. Do you have the team that is needed to implement this proposal?

Our core team for implementing this proposal will include Daniel Bögre Udell and Kristen Tcherneshoff, the Executive Director and Programs Director of Wikitongues, and Tim Brooks, the Executive Director of Endangered Alphabets, whose backgrounds are described above. We will also bring on a project director to coordinate between Wikitongues, Endangered Alphabets, different Wikimedia projects, and the language communities we’re supporting. Finally, as described above, our project will also have a volunteer advisory council composed of members from the Wikimedia Language Diversity Hub and contributors to Wikipedia, WikiSource, and Commons. Though we have not yet finalized this team, WMF GLAM and Culture Program Officer Satdeep Gill, Kimberli Mäkäräinen of Skólt Sami Wikipedia, Jon Harald Søby of Wikimedia Norway, Sadik Shahadu of Dagbani Wikimedians, and 2018 Wikimedian of the Year Farhad Fatkullin, have all expressed interest in joining this council.

23. Please state if your organization or group has a Strategic Plan that can help us further understand your proposal. You can also upload it here.  

Upload Strategic Plan

Learning, Sharing, and Evaluation[edit]

24. What do you hope to learn from this proposal?

Our primary objectives are to understand the extent to which Wikimedia projects can be used for language and script revitalization, and how to make these options and their implementations more accessible. To that end, at the project’s completion, we will evaluate both the extent to which members of the project’s participating language communities feel equipped to navigate and contribute to the Wikimedia ecosystem, and the extent to which contributing to Wikimedia projects has driven broader interest in language revitalization in their communities. If this project is successful, we believe that it can serve as a launchpad for maintaining a mother-tongue contribution pipeline as part of the fledgling Language Diversity Hub.

Core Metrics[edit]

25. Enter a description of the metric and a number in the target field. If the metric does not apply to you, enter N/A for not applicable.

Core Metrics Summary
Core metrics Description Target
Number of participants For the most part, our proposal will involve new Wikimedia participants. Over the course of the project, this will immediately consist of the language community leaders and their Wikimedia contribution teams: about 60 people, although the number could end up being higher depending on local interest. However, their work will have the long-term effects of benefitting their entire cultural communities, both by making Wikimedia projects accessible in their languages and, we hope, by accelerating existing language revitalization projects. The total number of speakers of Afro-Seminole Creole, Chakma, and Sylheti is about 10.5 million people. Since we have not yet identified our fourth language community, this long-term impact metric could be significantly higher. 60
Number of editors Editors will include the language community leaders and their Wikimedia contribution teams: about 60 people, or 15-20 people per language community. 60
Number of organizers The implementation of this proposal will have four primary organizers: a project director, as well as Daniel Bögre Udell and Kristen Tcherneshoff of Wikitongues, and Tim Brooks of Endangered Alphabets. As described above, we will also build an advisory council of 5-10 veteran contributors to different Wikimedia projects. In total, there will be between 9 and 14 organizers, an average of 12. 12
Number of new content contributions per Wikimedia project
Wikimedia Project Description Target
Wikipedia Our approach to helping under-resourced language communities contribute to Wikimedia will not be perspective. In other words, the communities will decide which Wikimedia projects will be most beneficial to themselves. That said, we expect a strong interest in creating mother-tongue editions of Wikipedia, contributing oral knowledge to Wikimedia Commons, and leveraging WikiSource for the citation of oral knowledge. Therefore, the following metrics are estimates based on these assumptions.

We anticipate the creation of four new language editions of Wikipedia, with 100 articles each, a total of 400 new articles.

Wikimedia Commons We anticipate the documentation of oral knowledge in four languages, with at least 8 hours of video per language (captured using the Wikitongues oral history elicitation protocol), for a total of 32 hours of content. 32
N/A We anticipate contribution to WikiSource for the purpose of citing oral knowledge, although it is not yet clear how this will be quantified. N/A

25a. If for some reason your proposal will not measure these core metrics please provide an explanation. (optional)


26. What other information will you be collecting to learn about the impact of your work? (optional)


27. What tools would you use to measure each metric selected?

We will track our metrics using a combination of the Programs & Events Dashboard and Event Metrics.

28. How do you hope to share these results so that others can learn from them?

Create a video of our experience, Make a short presentation of the experience, Create a training workshop to show others what we learned, Share results on social media, Share results with our communities, Participate in one on one peer sharing session with other grantees, Develop learning material for other users, I would like to receive support from the Foundation to discover how I can share my learning, Share it on Meta-Wiki, Other
Publishing our findings and mother-tongue contribution roadmap on the Wikitongues and Endangered Alphabets websites.

Financial Proposal[edit]

29. What is the amount you are requesting from WMF? Please provide this amount in your local currency.

52000 USD

30. What is this amount in US Currency (to the best of your knowledge)?

56200 USD

31. & 32. Please provide a budget for the amount of funding requested.

Stipends to four language communities, for online events, data, etc: $5,000 each x 4 or $20,000 total

Project leader (for coordinating between participants, organizers, and Wikimedia projects): $15,000 Design and communication: $5,000 (including designing our final toolkit) Translation: $4,200 (guaranteeing the toolkit is available in languages besides English) Overhead for Endangered Alphabets and Wikitongues - $16,860 (30% of total, $8,430 each)

33. What do you do to make sure there is a good management of funds?

A significant portion of the funds will be distributed directly to the language communities we plan to support, so to ensure sound management of these funds, we will host one-on-one strategy sessions with participants to help them think through the ideal application of project stipends. We will also require light financial reporting by participants at the project’s end. We will evaluate ourselves by soliciting anonymous feedback from participants over the course of the project, to ensure they’re feeling supported and equipped to succeed.

34. How will you contribute towards creating a supportive environment for participants using the UCOC and Friendly Space Policy?

We will cultivate a safe and supportive environment for all participants by 1) hosting a UCOC and Friendly Space Policy onboarding session with all participants, 2) offering digital “HR office hours” for participants to book one-on-one meetings with the organizers, in order to discuss concerns or air complaints, 3) offering an anonymous form for reporting problems, with guaranteed communication in English and Hindi, and 4) requiring partners to create a mother-tongue version of this form, in order to support local HR solutions within their own projects.

35. Please use this optional space to upload any documents that you feel are important for further understanding your proposal.

Other public document(s):

Final message[edit]

By submitting your proposal/funding request you agree that you are in agreement with the Application Privacy Statement, WMF Friendly Space Policy and the Universal Code of Conduct.

36. We/I have read the Application Privacy Statement, WMF Friendly Space Policy and Universal Code of Conduct.