Tuesday, November 18, 2008

O bonus!

My faith in humanity has been shattered. Wikipedia is now available in Simple English, a service designed for people who find Wikipedia's articles too intellectual, with overly complex vocabulary. (The tagline "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" has become "The free encyclopedia that anyone can change". Presumably the word "edit" is too complicated for a broad audience?)

My faith in humanity has been restored. Wikipedia is now available in Latin. Latin Wikipedia on Paulus Hindemith:
Paulus Hindemith fuit illustris psaltes violae et compositor Germanicus musicae quae dicitur novae (Germanice Neue Musik).

Anno 1938 propter vexationes contra musicam novam et leges Nazismi contra Iudaeos Hindemith, Iudaea Gertrud Rottenberg in matrimonio habens, in Helvetiam et postea in Civitates Foederatas Americae migravit.
Sed Vicipaedia Latina est sine biographia de Olivier Messiaen! Vir sapientiae debet id creare sine mora.


diplomatizer said...

"...did you know that rabbits are found in many parts of the world?"

I think I might have to disagree with you on this one--for an ESL person struggling with English, many Wikipedia articles are unreadable--some because they're very complex, and some because they're just poorly written. The litmus test of this version will be whether or not "simple English" includes proper grammar.

Osbert Parsley said...

I'm with you on the part that Wikipedia articles are often too complex or poorly written for a beginning English speaker. But why on earth should an online, anonymously-edited encyclopedia be a usable language-learning resource?

If I were teaching ESL and wanted to supplement the core texts with more contemporary content, I would find a simplified English newspaper of far, far greater benefit than a simplified-English Wikipedia.

diplomatizer said...

But maybe it's the interactive nature of Wikipedia that's driving this; unlike a newspaper, ESL people can create, read and edit articles without having to worry about the administration's quality standards. Granted, the number of ESL people who actively want to create and edit Wikipedia articles and who are looking for practice is probably small, but I still see value in the democratic principle.

That being said, it would be easier to teach ESL using a newspaper. But we're not teaching ESL, are we? =P

Osbert Parsley said...

I'm sorry - I am glad to see democracy applied to most situations, but creating content for an encyclopedia is not one of those situations.

If the encyclopedia is supposed to be a pedagogical tool, then the best people to create the articles are teachers (ie: native English speakers). If the encyclopedia is supposed to be an opportunity for ESL students to practice their English skills, there are better ways to accomplish this goal. If the encyclopedia is supposed to be an encyclopedia, then the best people to write articles are experts in the appropriate field. As it stands, the project conflates pedagogy, the traditional encyclopedia, and the democratizing principle of the Internet, with the predictable result that none of these objectives can be realized effectively.