Launch of the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia: A Milestone in Preserving Indigenous Heritage

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On May 28th, 2024, the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia was successfully launched after a long period of dormancy. Wikipedia, an open and free encyclopedia initiated in 2001, aims to liberate knowledge on various topics, accessible and editable by anyone worldwide in the form of articles. It is one of the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF). The Kadazandusun language Wikipedia is dedicated to include articles in the Kadazandusun language, using the standard dialect Dusun-Liwan, in an effort to expand online reading materials and information about this language

In March 2023, the Kent Wiki Club form the Kent Campus of the Malaysia Institute of Teacher Education (IPGM) in Tuaran was introduced to the Wikimedia Incubator, which serves as a test wiki before developers launch a Wikipedia. The Wikimedia Incubator project for the Kadazandusun language had been in existence since 2011 but had been inactive for over 10 years due to the lack of active editors or contributors contributing information in this language. Initially, only a few contributors edited on this platform, in about 1 to 5 people, who also became less active in editing over time until 2023 when it was introduced by Taufik Rosman to the members of the Kent Wiki Club at IPGM Kent Campus. The Kent Wiki Club is a student union in Malaysia that aims to expand the Wikimedia community in Malaysia with the support of the Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia (WCUGM) in the nationwide Wikimedia movement. These students are trainee teachers majoring in the Kadazandusun language, with the objective of elevating the Kadazandusun language, introducing Kadazandusun culture on a global scale, and digitizing Kadazandusun cultural and language knowledge through Wikimedia platforms.

Kent Wiki Club, IPGM Kent Campus
JjurieeeCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The efforts to reactivate the Wikimedia Incubator specifically for the Kadazandusun language were further strengthened in September 2023 after several members of the Wiki Kent Club and lecturers from IPGM Kent Campus participated in the Wikimania 2023 conference held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Wikimania 2023
JjurieeeCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Subsequently, a meeting to discuss the efforts for launching Wikipedia in the Kadazandusun and Bajau Sama languages was held via Zoom on December 15th, 2023. The meeting was attended by Wikimedians from WCUGM, members of the Wiki Kent Club, and several Wikimedians from the Bajau Sama community. Among the requirements discussed to facilitate the approval of the Wikipedia projects were having at least three active editors with a minimum of 11 edits each per month for 5 to 8 consecutive months on the incubator (dtp is the code for Kadazandusun on Wikimedia). Additionally, the translation of the interface (most important messages) on translatewiki must reach 100%, and the entries must include high-quality encyclopedic articles.

Meeting slides for the approval of Wikipedia BDR & DTP

Farouk Azim
CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The proposal for the approval of the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia (BKD) was submitted on January 13th, 2024, by Farouk Azim (username: ultron90), a wikimedian from WCUGM. Then, on February 20th, 2024, a discussion was held with the language committee, but the challenge encountered was the lack of engagement from other committee members. This effort continued until March 3rd, 2024, when the Language Committee was contacted via email to expedite the approval of the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia. The identified issue remained the same, with only one committee member providing feedback and opinions on the launch. Finally, the pre-approval announcement for the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia was received on May 5, 2024, and it was officially approved for creation on May 17th, 2024.

The efforts to establish the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia were not easy due to various issues and challenges faced throughout its approval process. There were also issues during the creation phase, such as users questioning the terms used in Kadazandusun language articles. However, these issues were resolved through discussions within the Kadazandusun’s user community, where most agreed to retain terms that align with the commonly used standard dialect in Kadazandusun.

Throughout this effort, we found that the participation of other volunteers was crucial in facilitating the process by creating templates that made the articles resemble actual Wikipedia entries. Without these templates, the articles would have appeared incomplete. The major contributors to the creation of this Wikipedia included Rombituon, Ultron90, Jjurieee, Blusjai, and CorrelMoris38. Additionally, several volunteer members from the Wiki Kent Club also participated in the editing process.

From the left (standing): ultron90, Blusjai, Tofeiku, Meqqal
From the left (sitting): Michelina Michael, Rombituon, Jjurieee, 23jvvn

CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The efforts of the Wiki Kent Club members can also be seen through their work in completing the translation of the interface texts (most important messages) to 100%, which expedited the approval of Wikipedia BKD. Additionally, having admin rights was very helpful in managing old articles and correcting incorrect titles.

“Interest in contributing and enthusiasm are key to being a volunteer or Wikimedian in liberating knowledge. For instance, Jilorisa John with the username: Rombituon, frequently asked for guidance on creating templates until she became an admin in the Kadazandusun incubator project, which greatly helped in correcting linguistic errors in the articles, considering I am not well-versed in the Kadazandusun language,” said Farouk Azim, who assisted in submitting the approval proposal for Wikipedia BKD to the language committee.

Wikipedia & Incubator Mini Workshop by Farouk Azim along with the Kent Wiki Club members.
Farouk AzimCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As for the Wiki Kent Club, they played a significant role by encouraging their members to remain active in editing the incubator project to expedite this effort. For example, they organized an editathon for the Kadazandusun incubator project on January 15th, 2024, in conjunction with Wikipedia’s 23rd birthday. During this event, they improved existing articles and created new ones.

On March 11th, 2024, the WikiGap 2024 program was held, where the Kent Wiki Club also edited the Kadazandusun incubator to include articles related to notable women in conjunction with International Women’s through the WikiGap program. This event was conducted simultaneously in Malaysia in collaboration with the Embassy of Sweden.

To date, there are 858 Kadazandusun articles that have been created in the incubator project until the launch of the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia. In conclusion, the efforts to approve Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia were not easy, filled with ups and downs like a rollercoaster. Without the perseverance and efforts of the Kent Wiki Club, along with strong support from WCUGM, Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia would not exist as it does today.

“I would like to extend my deepest appreciation and heartfelt thanks to everyone involved, directly or indirectly, in the effort to create the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia despite the many challenges faced,” said Jurina Jonimin (username: Jjurieee), chairperson of the Kent Wiki Club.

Congratulations also to the champions of the Kadazandusun language, who are also members of the Wiki Kent Club, for their unwavering determination and high spirit in elevating and ensuring the existence of a platform that preserves, documents, digitizes, and globalizes this language and culture through Wikimedia platforms, especially the Kadazandusun Language Wikipedia as a public reference to address the challenges faced by this language, particularly the lack of reading materials or references in Kadazandusun. Additionally, this initiative provides an opportunity to elevate the Kadazandusun language and culture on a global scale, as Wikimedia is an international movement that can showcase this language and culture to the world.

Before that, from the Wiki Kent Club, we would like to wish everyone a happy Kaamatan festival. Our efforts have been successful this year, just in time for the Harvest Festival.

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