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Welsh Wikipedia Gives Me Hope by Stephen Harrison
Welsh Wikipedia Gives Me Hope
If you say, “Alexa, faint o'r gloch yw hi?” the smart speaker will not understand that you are asking for the time of day. That’s because Welsh is not one of the eight languages currently supported by Amazon’s Alexa devices. Gareth Morlais, a Welsh language and digital media specialist for the Welsh government, has argued for years that this language gap is disturbing. In a 2017 presentation, Morlais noted that the Welsh language, then ranked 172nd in the world by number of speakers, was not supported by Alexa, Twitter, or Google’s search interface. At the time, Alexa only spoke and understood two languages—English and German. “The technology actually tells you which language your family can speak at home, which is a horror story,” Morlais said. “What we need to do here is try to shape the technology so that it speaks the same language that we want to speak.”
Although Alexa still does not speak or understand Welsh, the Celtic language’s presence in tech has increased dramatically within a short period. Google announced in February that it had expanded its offerings in Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive to include Welsh. And Google Translate—infamous since 2009 for its Scymraeg, or scummy Welsh—has, according to the BBC, recently taken a great leap forward in terms of the accuracy and quality of its Welsh translations. Morlais and others attribute this in part to the fact that there are now more than 100,000 articles on the Welsh version of Wikipedia, known as Wicipedia.
Wikipedia Doesn't Know What To Do With Almost-Famous People - Eric Ravencraft's piece for Medium's OneZero tech publication includes a quote from yours truly :)
I'm attending the Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm from August 15-18. Let me know if you'll be there and we can meet in person!
A few people asked if I had any book recommendations, so I think I'll include them here periodically. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari deserves its reputation as a beautifully written narrative that charts human history. The takeaway for me was the dark side of historical developments, including the Agricultural Revolution, which Harari calls "history's biggest fraud." Can't wait to read the sequel, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
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Read previous entries in Source Notes, my regular column for Slate about the internet's knowledge ecosystem.