The Welsh Government aims to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using Welsh grow to one million by the year 2050. Enabling people to use technology in Welsh will play a key part in reaching this target.
How many different languages do the big technology companies currently offer users? Well Twitter has 48 interface languages; Google understands 46 search languages; and Apple’s Siri speaks 20 languages. Welsh is not one of these. Why not?
If you list the 6,000+ world languages in order of the number of speakers, Welsh is the 172nd most spoken language in the world. As our strategy to get a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is implemented, we hope to see the language move higher up this table.
But it’s not the number of speakers which is the most important metric used by large companies when choosing which languages to prioritise. There appears to be an indication that there is a link between the languages with the most Wikipedia articles or pages and the languages that are supported by the digital giants.
So where is Welsh in terms of the number of Wikipedia articles?
Well there are over 91,000 Welsh articles on the website and the language is number 60 in the Wikipedia languages table. English is at the top of the table of article languages, with 5.4 million pages. It would be good if the number of Welsh articles could be increased in the first instance to the level needed to get Welsh into the top 50 of the articles table. The higher a language is up the table, the more notice the digital giants are thought to take of it. When they add Welsh to their list of supported languages, this increases people’s exposure to the Welsh language, which should help in the aim of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Another potential benefit of publishing content on Wikipedia is the size of this website’s audience. A ‘Wikipedian in Residence’ is a person appointed with Wikimedia UK to work in a public organisation to publish more of its content on Wikipedia. Since the National Library of Wales’s Wikipedian in Residence, Jason Evans, began his work in 2015, the pictures he’s published on Wikipedia have been seen 294 million times. When Jason publishes these images on Wikipedia, they’re used by editors all around the world to illustrate articles in many languages. So many more people get to see them and get to know about Wales. This high reach suggests an exciting potential to attract more tourists to Wales.
Apart from catching the eye of the big companies, increasing the number of articles means more people get writing, editing and publishing in the Welsh language. So there’s an opportunity to link this activity with editorial research skills, literacy and digital literacy. These can be valuable to school students in the context of the Digital Competence Framework, Welsh Baccalaureate and across a number of subjects of the curriculum. So this is another good reason for supporting this important public resource.
What else are we doing?
The Welsh Government’s Welsh Language Unit has been funding projects and collaborating with the National Library of Wales to increase the number of Welsh Wikipedia articles about music and health. We’re also working with the National Eisteddfod and Menter Môn to help get Anglesey school students publishing articles about scientific sites on the island. Workshops called Editathons are being held across Wales, showing people how to create a new article, or add to one that’s already live.
Get involved at the Eisteddfod
There are opportunities to get involved at the National Eisteddfod in Anglesey this week. Visitors will be invited to record themselves saying the name of the village, town or city they’re from in a project being run by Menter Môn and the Eisteddfod as part of #WiciMôn. This is being launched by the First Minister Carwyn Jones at 3.15pm, Monday 7 August 2017 at Menter Iaith Môn’s stall on the Eisteddfod field. These audio clips will be published on the Welsh Wikipedia site and be available for editors of the Wikipedia in all languages to use, so people know how place names are pronounced by local people. You can contribute to this by visiting Menter Iaith Môn’s stall throughout Eisteddfod week.
Post by Gareth Morlais, Welsh Language Division, Welsh Government