Wikimedia Product/Perspectives/Culture/Language



This document is an exclusionary act. Conceived and written in English by highly literate speakers of English, the world’s most dominant and well-represented system of knowledge. But Wikimedia's vision aims to be for all people, in their language, calling for us to break down the exclusionary systems of knowledge creation and access. To do this, our systems, software and governance will have to evolve away from an English first, others maybe model, to a system that not only supports all languages but empowers them. For 60% of the world [1] using multiple languages, for different purposes, is a the normal way to live. Pidgins and inter-languages produce knowledge too, so how must the current one-project-one-language model adapt to support evolving languages such as Hinglish and Spanglish? And while capturing and growing knowledge in all languages is an uncontroversial goal, it is at these fuzzy edges that we can see, for example, the unintended exclusionary potential of technologies such as machine translation. As isolated cultural “space” collapses, a tension arises between support for cultural uniqueness and support for the experience of living between languages. And finally, language acquisition and cultural adaptation will be a huge factor in the foundation’s success – what new capabilities does this demand of our organization and of the movement as a whole?

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