How to recruit native speakers for a small language Wikipedia : Learning from the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group approach 

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Some female members of the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group after an edit-a-thon in Lagos (Agbalagba CC-BY-SA 4.0)

One of the challenges facing small languages Wikipedia is lack of awareness and contributions from native speakers. The English Wikipedia is the most prominent language version of Wikipedia visited by millions of readers in Nigeria. Only a few people know that Wikipedia exists in the three major languages spoken in Nigeria. Between 2021 and 2022, the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group adopted different strategic approaches to create awareness about the Yoruba Wikipedia and recruit native speakers for Yoruba Wikipedia

Since the establishment of the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group, the Yoruba Wikipedia has grown from a bot-content creation encyclopedia to an encyclopedia written and read by native speakers of the language. 

I caught up with two active members of the Yoruba Wikipedia, Olatunji Marvelous, a medical student  and  Ms. Yusuf Balikiss, a Yoruba language student who was recruited through some coordinated outreach efforts of the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group. 

They certainly have so much to share about their journey to the Yoruba Wikipedia, their contributions and lessons learnt.

Isaac: Can we meet you?

Marvelous: My name is Olatunji Marvelous, a 3rd year medical student in a federal university in Nigeria and a youth that is passionate about helping to provide access to free knowledge for everyone and also passionate about eradicating ignorance. 

Balikiss: My name is Yusuf Balikiss Oluwatoyin.  I am a final year Yoruba language student of the Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos.  I obtained the  Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) from the College of Education, Ijanikin now known as The Lagos State University of Education  where I studied Mathematics, Economics and Education.

My username is Billy Bindun. The name  “Bindun” came from a stage play I was a cast member of, where I acted as Bindun but the role was taken  from me  a day before the play, even after the play people kept calling me “Billy bindun” so I adopted that name.

Isaac: How long have you been a Yoruba Wikipedia editor?

Marvelous: I have been actively contributing to the Yoruba Wikipedia for more than 11 months. I made my first edit on the 26th of January 2022

Balikiss: I joined the Yoruba Wikipedia in February 2022 and I have been contributing since then.

Isaac: How did you learn about Yoruba Wikipedia?

Marvelous: I learnt about Yoruba Wikipedia through a banner displayed (on English Wikipedia) while reading an article on English Wikipedia in November 2021. There was a registration form attached to the banner for training on how to contribute to the Yoruba Wikipedia. I completed the form and in December, I was contacted by someone from the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group with information about the training. I participated in the training and I have been contributing to the Yoruba Wikipedia since then.

Balikiss: I knew about the English Wikipedia a long time ago but I never knew that Yoruba Wikipedia existed until the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group team visited our department,the Department of Linguistics, African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos to talk to us about the Yoruba Wikipedia. A few months later, Mr. Mikaeel Sodiq came to train us in the school on how to contribute to the Yoruba Wikipedia. So I went to the meeting that day mainly because of the food but I found the training interesting and I was convinced that it was worth my time.

I have been editing and participating in all their activities since then. I have participated in subsequent trainings, edit-a-thons, meetings, and conferences organized by the User Group.

Isaac:  Did you receive any support in contributing to Yoruba Wikipedia after you joined?

Marvelous: Yes, after I registered, the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group team reached out to me and by January,  this year(2022), I was trained (alongside other newbies) on the know-how and ethics of editing Yoruba Wikipedia. Even after then, there was a follow up, and the administrators are down to earth and ready to help with any challenge. 

Balikiss: The Yoruba Wikimedians User Group sometimes provide transport support for training, meetings, nedit-a-thons, conferences. I receives a lots of words of encouragement from Mr. Mikaeel Sodiq, the President of the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group. He often motivates me to contribute to the Yoruba Wikipedia. They promptly respond to questions and are often ready to help with anything.

Isaac: How many articles have you written on Yoruba Wikipedia?

Marvelous: I have created at least 126 articles on the Yoruba Wikipedia and edited more than 500 articles. I hope to create more before the end of this year after my exams.

Balikiss: I have written about 35 articles.

Isaac:  What are your challenges contributing to the Yoruba Wikipedia?

Marvelous: No challenge really, contributing to the Yoruba Wikipedia  has really been easy, thanks to the user-friendly interface and proper guidance from administrators and experienced members of the Yoruba Wikimedians User Group. Though sometimes, poor network makes editing difficult.  

Balikiss: First, money is a major factor and it is also a problem. I mean money in a way that, whenever I want to edit, I need to buy internet data which is very expensive in Nigeria, especially these days that the networks keep increasing the price of the data bundle and even after getting the data for a huge amount of money, the network signal won’t be strong.

Secondly, Money in terms of transportation, for a student like me who’s not getting paid anywhere will have to find means to get cash to be able to attend meetings for the growth of the Yoruba community. So in other words, money, data are like a huge challenge when I want to contribute to the Yoruba Wikipedia. And also, when it’s time to convince people to join the wiki club, they will want to know what exactly they are going to benefit for the community, which is also a challenge convincing them to join.

Isaac: What are the lessons you have learned from the Yoruba Wikipedia?

Marvelous: The potency and power of teamwork, good leadership and dedication. I believe those factors have played a huge role in taking Yorùbá Wikipedia to where it’s today. I learnt how to collaborate with people, and work on a collaborative project. My participation on Yoruba Wikipedia has enhanced my understanding about copyright, neutral points of view and so on. I have also learnt more about translations in general. 

Balikiss: My participation in Yoruba Wikipedia has helped me to network with people in different parts of Nigeria and beyond..I got the opportunity to connect to great people. I learnt about some topics which I have never for once tried to look at. In addition, it has improved my translation skills. I got to know that I can create articles, and have served as a medium to showcase my own language and written skills.

Isaac: How can more native speakers like you get involved with Yoruba Wikipedia?

Marvelous: Reaching out to active English contributors that are native Yoruba speakers. I believe most active contributors that are Yoruba speakers would be proud to work on their own language Wiki.

Balikiss: By going to places like the Universites to create awareness, and monitor their participation after they have joined the community. There are other adults who would love to be involved in things like this. We need to find a way to get them involved as well

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