Konkani Wikipedia — Climbing up the Indian Language Ladder?

Posted by Subhashish Panigrahi at Aug 31, 2013 12:00 PM |
Konkani as a language has seen geographical, political and religious conflicts. Being the official language of Goa and spoken widely in the Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra it is still trying to strengthen its base. Recently CIS-A2K in collaboration with Goa University organized a four-day workshop for MA, Konkani language students. This workshop involved 38 students creating 43 new articles on Konkani Wikipedia which is incubation. We’re hoping that these efforts will contribute towards bringing this 7 year old project out of incubation to a live Wikipedia project.
Konkani Wikipedia — Climbing up the Indian Language Ladder?

Students editing on Konkani Wikipedia. Photo: Subhashish Panigrahi, CC-BY-SA 3.0


A modified version of this was published in DNA on September 6, 2013. This was re-posted in Fitness Foundation website on October 9, 2013.


Incubation

Before any language Wikipedia shapes up as a live project an incubation process is involved. A community of volunteers (known as Wikipedians) gradually grow to sustain this Wikipedia in incubation with active contribution. Konkani Wikipedia incubator began way back in 2006. However, due to many reasons it could not take off and is still in incubation. One of the major reasons has been the issue with multiple script usage. Due to political and religious reasons Konkani has multiple writing and verbal standards and is also written in multiple script. These include Devanagari and Roman (also known as Romi) in Goa where Devanagari is the official script, Kannada in the Konkani speaking regions of Karnataka (Mangalore region primarily), Malayalam in Kerala (Kochi region) and in Perso-Arabic script by part of the Konkani speaking population. The largest script usage for Konkani is in Devanagari. Goa University is world's first university to have a masters programme in Konkani language where the writing standard is in Goan Konkani (Language code: Gom) which is written in Devanagari. During the interaction with the faculty members; Prof. Madhavi Sardesai and Head of the department Dr. Priyadarshini Tadkodar we found that the students are very enthusiastic to contribute to their language. We met the students and introduced Konkani Wikipedia to them and they showed interest to take part in a workshop to learn Wikipedia editing. This was the beginning of something new after a long time. Four out of the 38 students volunteered to coordinate the workshop on the ground. They discussed about the workshop and the prerequisites; going through the list of articles on Konkani Wikipedia, and writing a unique article by collecting resources and creating their usernames on Wikipedia before attending the workshop. To our surprise, all of the students including the four coordinators came out with at least two pages of written content before the workshop.

Day 1: Building the Blocks

It was 10 in the morning. A big LED panel in the audio visual room of the Krishnadas Shama State Central Library, Goa was displaying the word cloud containing words like Wikipedia, Openness, Education, Open Knowledge, Global Collaboration, etc. Soon the room was filled with 20 M.A. students from the Konkani Department of Goa University. Prior to the workshop we had interacted with the students in the presence of Head of the department Dr. Priyadarshini and Prof. Madhavi Sardesai and from the Konkani department. Four of the students, Supriya Kankumbikar, Fr. Luis Gomes, Vaishali Parab and John Noronha volunteered to coordinate for the workshops. With the help of them we managed to get a majority of the students to sign up and create their user accounts before the first workshop. We had to do some rough work to plan for a whole day workshop. The word "workshop" has been always boring for the students and our biggest worry was how we would keep this boredom at bay and make Wikipedia editing a fun.

Intro Yourself

To start with the first day we had an "Adjective Name" activity. It was fun to know how people judge themselves with adjective. Myself turned out to be "Sub-Hashish" and Nitika turned out to be "Naughty-Nitika"! Then we had a discussion about articles that students planned to write. A few of them were not sure if articles like social issues and biography 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. The next big thing was typing in Devanagari. Only four-five of them knew typing. Students came forward for trying their hands in typing. For the first time some of them typed a few words and they typed it correctly. We could see the glow of triumph after they typed correctly using “Transliterationlayout. The editing session began. Our 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 small little typos.

Game Time

We had to cut the session for an activity break and invited them to play “Tumi Kashi Asat” (means How are you doing in Konkani). This is a game I learned 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 bending forward. The participants have to move their body in the reverse way and answer “Ami bari ashat” (I’m doing good). This replaced the caffeine intake for the four days and kept all of us alive.

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 typing in their language a day before was not that 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, left our contacts to contact further and showed them the Facebook group that they could join and be more connected before thanking and saying bye for the day with the promise of more fun for the next workshop.

Day 3: Fresh Batch, New Start

Sixteen new students from the M.A. course were welcomed. Four student-coordinators and one from the first batch of students joined the "funday". The entire day was spent with lots of fun, creating articles and learning about the basic know how about Wiki-codes. Half the students in this batch knew typing in Devanagari Inscript. Our first and second day taught us how students ask their fellow students more than they ask us for small little help. Nitika and myself being Inscript noobs made it tough. We then paired these students with those who knew Inscript, thanks to the Fedora Devanagari keyboard layout. It helped us to look and guide the students. All of the students created their first articles. John, Supriya and Vaishali (from first batch) were giving final touches to their second articles.

Day 4: No Need to Say Good Bye!

This was the day to do two very important things: clap for their contribution on the first day and tell about contribution of their friends, teach about the advanced options and extend further support. Seeing the newspaper coverage about the workshop featuring some of their friends was a delight for our new wikipedians after two long days. 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  journey.


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Rusita Paryekar speaks about Konkani Wikipedia

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