What does the distribution of languages in Wikipedia reveal about culture?
On the Internet we find articles and content in all kinds of languages. On Wikipedia there are also many different languages in use. And a question, related to the understanding of international culture, is:
What does the language distribution on Wikipedia say about culture?
The distribution of languages on Wikipedia can be derived directly from the language ranking of the number of articles published per language. This shows the following list (April 9, 2009, (1)):
– English 2,826,000+ articles
– German 888,000+
– English 786,000+
– Polish 593,000+
– Italian 556,000+
– Dutch 528,000+
– Portuguese 470,000+
– Spanish 460,000+
– Russian 376,000+
This is obviously a snapshot, which will change over time. But what deductions? First of all, it seems logical that the highest entries are in the English language. English can be described as the language of modernization. English is for many countries – and cultures – the second or first language to study alongside the mother tongue, as it is in many European countries. Universities offer material in English etc. etc.
But, what about the difference in number between the Spanish Wikipedia entries (440,000) and the Dutch ones (525,000)?
There are about 430 million (of which not only native) Spanish-speaking people in the world and “only”
45 million Dutch-speaking.
Spanish-speaking citizens outnumber Dutch-speaking citizens by a factor of 10. However, the number of articles published on Wikipedia is 5.2 versus 4.6. How is this possible? And what does this say about culture?
Wikipedia is a fairly new phenomenon and one conclusion might be that the Dutch-speaking world has mastered this trick (of publishing content) more quickly.
Another argument could be the penetration of the Internet in either of the two talking worlds. Penetration in Europe is higher than in South America where many Spanish-speaking people live (out of 430 million, since Spain has only about 45 million inhabitants).
A third argument may be that many Spanish-speaking citizens do not see/understand the use of a collaborative knowledge base. That could be an indication of the level of collaboration. The culture of collaboration is not perceived in the same way in different countries. As this distro shows on Wikipedia.