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Konkani Wikipedia climbing up the Indian language ladder

Friday, 6 September 2013 - 4:34pm IST | Agency: dna

Guest post by Subhashish Panigrahi.

Recently the CIS- A2K team organised a four-day workshop in collaboration with Goa University for students of MA (Konkani). This workshop involved 38 students creating 43 new articles on Konkani Wikipedia, which is incubation. We hope that these efforts will contribute towards bringing this seven-year-old project out of incubation into a live Wikipedia project.

Before a Wikipedia shapes up as a live project, it undergoes an incubation process. A community of volunteers gradually grows to sustain this Wikipedia in incubation with active contributions. The Konkani Wikipedia Incubator started way back in 2006. However, owing to many reasons it could not take off. One of the major reasons has been the usage of multiple scripts. Because of political and religious reasons, Konkani has multiple writing and verbal standards  as also multiple scripts. Devanagari is the official script, but Konkani is also written in the Roman script (also known as Romi), the Kannada script (in the Konkani speaking regions of Karnataka, primarily in and around Mangalore), the Malayalam script in Kerala (Kochin region), and in Perso-Arabic script. The most used script for Konkani is Devanagari. Goa University is world's first university to offer a master's programme in the Konkani language, in which the writing standard is in Goan Konkani written in Devanagari. We met with the students and introduced Konkani Wikipedia to them. Four students volunteered to coordinate the workshop. They discussed plans for the workshop and its prerequisites, going through the list of articles on Konkani Wikipedia, writing a unique article by collecting resources before attending the workshop. To our surprise, all of the students including the four coordinators came up with at least two pages of written content before the workshop.

Day 1: Intro yourself
To start with the first day of the workshop held at Krishnadas Shama State Central Library, Goa we had an “Adjective Name” activity. It was fun to know how people judge themselves with adjectives. I turned out to be Sub-Hashish and Nitika turned out to be Naughty-Nitika! Then we had a discussion about the articles students planned to write. A few of them were not sure if articles on social issues or biographies of a writer could fit into Wikipedia framework.

Editing time
Article titles were decided, everyone was ready with their homework write ups and books for adding sources. Only four-five of them knew typing in Devanagari. For the first time some of them typed few words and they typed correctly. I could see the glow of triumph after they typed correctly using Transliteration layout. My experience with majority of the Indian language outreach participants had been more or the less the same; most new wikipedians struggle to type. This time we printed some handouts with the layout for typing help. It worked well. Students managed to type albeit with small typographical errors.

Game time
We had to cut the session for an activity break and invited them to play “Tumi Kashi Asat” (meaning "How do you do?" in Konkani). This is a game I learnt from my colleague Vishnu. To make it more interesting we got it translated to Konkani by our coordinator Supriya. The host has to make some body movements and ask “Tumi Kashi Asat?” and bend forward. The participants have to move their body in the reverse way and answer “Ami bari ashat” (I’m doing well). This replaced the caffeine intake for the four days and kept all of us lively.

More editing post lunch:
The editing spree went on for rest of the day. Regular doses of small fun activities were served to keep the Goan tides high. To our surprise all of the students created articles; I don’t know if I could judge them as "Stub" or "Start" class articles. For me it was the greatest start for a language to have the asset of these sweet Wikipedians, even as the Konkani Wikipedia has seen many struggles and spent seven years in incubation.

Rat and frog game
There was surprise for participating Wikipedians: Rat race. Participants sit on chairs and one of them is made to stand in the centre. The rat makes others run and replace each other's seats and one of the participants becomes the 'rat'. This rat race brought back old childhood memories and for a moment everyone forgot their age. At the end of it students sat down to take a deep breath and we taught them some basic Wiki codes (bold, italics, and adding references). To our surprise all of the students had created their first articles by the end of the day.

Konkani (Devanagari) keyboard layout and typing

Day 2: Climbing up the ladder

This was the day to tell the students about the advanced options and ensure addition of more citations. Citations on Wikipedia are very essential for readers to validate the facts. But bringing this to the students who just had started learning to type in their language a day earlier was not easy. The second day was spent giving small breaks during the editing session for small activities. Running, jumping, and shouting fueled the students to be happy editors and not burdened. We managed to teach them the advanced options for proper Wiki-formatting (Bold, Italics, Heading, and Category), and citations. By the end of the first two days 22 students created 24 articles (about 42 pages of written content). Everyone clapped for their friends. We welcomed them to Konkani Wikipedia community.

Day 3: Fresh batch, new start
16 new students from MA course were welcomed. Four student coordinators and one from the first batch of students joined us. The entire day was spent having lots of fun, creating articles and basic know how of Wiki syntax. Half the students in this batch knew how to type using the Devanagari InScript layout. Our first and second day taught us how students ask their fellow students more than they ask us for small help. Thanks to the Fedora Devanagari keyboard layout, it helped us to look and guide the students. All the students created their first articles. John, Supriya and Vaishali (from the first batch) gave final touches to their respective second articles.

Day 4: No need to say good bye!
This was the day to do two very important things; applaud their contribution on the first day and tell about contribution of their friends, teach about the advanced options and extending support further. Seeing the newspaper coverage about the workshop featuring some of their friends was a delight for our new Wikipedians after two long days. A few of them came forward to share their experience about the workshop and their vision for Konkani language.

At the end of four days all of them bid us farewell. It felt like saying bye to good old friends. These were the foundation days and the biggest editing rally Konkani Wikipedia Incubator has seen in the last seven years with this milestone that the students had created. Happy faces of our new found friends is going to be a great piece of memory in this personal journey.

Important links:
Konkani Wikipedia Incubator
Konkani Wikipedia Workshop (21-24 August 2013) at Goa State Central Library
Konkani department, Goa University, Goa
Media files (Photos, videos, presentations, etc.)

Bio: Subhashish Panigrahi is Programme Officer for Access To Knowledge at The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS-A2K), Bangalore. Prior to his work at CIS-A2K, he was a consultant with the Wikimedia Foundation’s India Program. He contributes to Odia Wikipedia, donates pictures, presentations and videos to Wikimedia Commons, writes, speaks and conducts activities for South Asian language communities for Open Source, Digital natives and Collaborative contribution models. When not online, he travels, goes biking, meets new people, cooks and tastes various cuisines, learns new languages, and explores the world outside. subhashish @ cis-india.org

Copy edited by Rohini: rohini at wikimedia dot in