Fate of "Simple English"

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Fate of "Simple English"

Brion Vibber
Will someone explain what we have these "Simple English" sites for?

It's recently come to my attention that there's a simple.wiktionary.org as well
(probably created by accident when Wiktionaries were bulk-created) and
somebody's been editing it and is now requesting a custom logo.

In the four years or so I've been here, nobody's *ever* had a clear picture of
what the "Simple English" Wikipedia was meant for: who it's targetted at, what
kind of "simple" is meant, what's appropriate or not appropriate.

Having a Wiktionary too looks completely useless IMHO. It's bad enough that it's
an unstructured wiki for a dictionary, but without knowing its purpose? Bah.

What are we doing with these? What are they here for? Who are they here for? Do
we actually want to keep them?

-- brion vibber (brion @ pobox.com)


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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Mark
Brion Vibber wrote:

>In the four years or so I've been here, nobody's *ever* had a clear picture of
>what the "Simple English" Wikipedia was meant for: who it's targetted at, what
>kind of "simple" is meant, what's appropriate or not appropriate.
>  
>
I can see the point of the Simple English Wikipedia, but IMO it's not
likely to attract enough attention to be useful.

The argument is that since so much of the world turns to English as a
second language for information, it would be useful to have an English
Wikipedia written in simple, easy-to-understand English, but at the same
time we don't want to banish the use of "big words" from the normal
English Wikipedia and require it to be written in some sort of
lowest-common-denominator English, so instead create a separate
Wikipedia explicitly for that purpose.

A good idea in theory, but the problem is that very few people seem to
want to work on such a thing.  Even people who speak English relatively
poorly as a second language seem (based on current evidence) to prefer
to struggle through editing the "real English Wikipedia" than to
contribute to the simple-English one.

-Mark

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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Gregory Maxwell
On 2/22/06, Delirium <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I can see the point of the Simple English Wikipedia, but IMO it's not
> likely to attract enough attention to be useful.
>
> The argument is that since so much of the world turns to English as a
> second language for information, it would be useful to have an English
> Wikipedia written in simple, easy-to-understand English, but at the same
> time we don't want to banish the use of "big words" from the normal
> English Wikipedia and require it to be written in some sort of
> lowest-common-denominator English, so instead create a separate
> Wikipedia explicitly for that purpose.
>
> A good idea in theory, but the problem is that very few people seem to
> want to work on such a thing.  Even people who speak English relatively
> poorly as a second language seem (based on current evidence) to prefer
> to struggle through editing the "real English Wikipedia" than to
> contribute to the simple-English one.

Simple English wikipedia makes fantastic sense as a resource for
people who do not speak English as a primary language.... and it isn't
quite as adrift as Brion made it sound, at least last I checked there
was a proposed vocabulary.

I think the most important counter is the argument "How can we expect
to make a usable Simple English, when the English Wikipedia still
lacks sold coverage of so many fairly basic subjects you would expect
to find in an encyclopedia?".    If you accept that argument it would
follow that it makes sense to shut down simple English until English
moves on to the next stage of it's existence.... better tasking what
little resources are currently going into simple English.

But it's not that simple...

At least on English Wikipedia we've been almost completely unable to
agree on what is important and focus our resources on those tasks. For
some reason (perhaps inexperience?) most people seem to believe that
'volunteer' means completely disorganized... and as a result, even
though we have an unimaginable amount of man-hours of work being put
into the project, many basic things which are considered important are
being left to rot because we're afraid of telling people what to work
on.

I've even seen it argued that we must permit and even encourage
various unprofessional looking content on userpages in order to
attract volunteers. ... I wonder if the people making these arguments
have ever been a volunteer at a off-internet organization?  Using
volunteer labor means simple that, it doesn't mean abandoning
professional standards, accountability, or proven practices for
reaching goals. But this has been lost on English Wikipedia.

Under this current model, the impact of keeping around a bit-rotting
and infrequently edited simple English Wikipedia is no different than
the impact of the multitude of elementary school stubs which are
created and then forgotten on En.  Harmless by itself, and there no
compelling reason to discourage it since we would be unable to
effectively focus any recovered resources.

Brion, would turning off simple english recover much of *your* time?
If so I could see a case for removing it, ... but that isn't the
argument you seemed to be making.
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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Jake Nelson-2
In reply to this post by Brion Vibber
Brion Vibber wrote:
> Will someone explain what we have these "Simple English" sites for?

I don't have time to say too much right now, but figured I'd just shoot
this out quick:

Simple English Wikipedia: I can see good reasons for such a thing, but
actually working it out seems difficult, and I'm not at all interested
in it (I lean toward 'needlessly complex English', myself).

Simple English Wiktionary: Completely pointless, IMHO. I can't think of
any possible reason for such a thing, given as Simple English is
basically just a subset of English. A full dictionary is exactly what
simple-english people need to get their way to full-english. (And if the
issue is the verbiage in definitions themselves... they've got a
dictionary open right there to look that up in!)

Just a half a thought on that.

-- Jake Nelson
[[User:Jake Nelson]]
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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Ray Saintonge
In reply to this post by Brion Vibber
Brion Vibber wrote:

>Will someone explain what we have these "Simple English" sites for?
>
>It's recently come to my attention that there's a simple.wiktionary.org as well
>(probably created by accident when Wiktionaries were bulk-created) and
>somebody's been editing it and is now requesting a custom logo.
>
>In the four years or so I've been here, nobody's *ever* had a clear picture of
>what the "Simple English" Wikipedia was meant for: who it's targetted at, what
>kind of "simple" is meant, what's appropriate or not appropriate.
>
>Having a Wiktionary too looks completely useless IMHO. It's bad enough that it's
>an unstructured wiki for a dictionary, but without knowing its purpose? Bah.
>
>What are we doing with these? What are they here for? Who are they here for? Do
>we actually want to keep them?
>
While I don't use them myself because I am addicted to big words.  I
find that these projects have some value for those with a limited
knowledge of the English.

The simple Wiktionary was indeed started when the bulk creation
occurred.  It did not receive much attention for a long time, but I'm
glad to see that some people have finally taken an interest.  I have no
opinion on their logo request.  I would simply let the people interested
in them carry on.

I don't find an unstructured wiki for a dictionary to be very much of a
problem.

Ec

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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

MHart
In reply to this post by Mark
> The argument is that since so much of the world turns to English as a
> second language for information, it would be useful to have an English
> Wikipedia written in simple, easy-to-understand English, but at the same

I recently created a widget where you hold the mouse over an acronym and
press some key combination and the definition of the acronym pops up. It
reads the acronyms from a QuickBase database - almost 800 acronyms in the db
(used at Intuit).

Something like that would be great for English-as-a-second-language folks.
An English-to-whatever dictionary widget. Hmmm... maybe I'll just write it
real quick...

- MHart


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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Alison M. Wheeler
In reply to this post by Ray Saintonge
I've often thought that the 'simple English' was the right product aimed
at the wrong market.

Instead of targetting it at people how have English as a second language
(who, quite rightly, want to learn English "properly"; long words and all)
why not consider it as targetted at that other group who *need* simple
English ...

Children.

Simple English is, I would have thought, perfect for pre-schoolers and
under-12s generally as it sets out to explain concepts in simpler language
and as that means a reduced vocabulary then let us target it at those who
already daily use that reduced vocabulary.

Alison
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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Robert S. Horning
Alison Wheeler wrote:

>I've often thought that the 'simple English' was the right product aimed
>at the wrong market.
>
>Instead of targetting it at people how have English as a second language
>(who, quite rightly, want to learn English "properly"; long words and all)
>why not consider it as targetted at that other group who *need* simple
>English ...
>
>Children.
>
>Simple English is, I would have thought, perfect for pre-schoolers and
>under-12s generally as it sets out to explain concepts in simpler language
>and as that means a reduced vocabulary then let us target it at those who
>already daily use that reduced vocabulary.
>
>Alison
>  
>
This, in theory, is what Wikijunior currently covers.  Wikijunior is
currently a bunch of Wikiprojects that are organized in a format like a
Wikibook, but include largely a bunch of encyclopedia-like articles.
 The editorial policies for Wikijunior strongly encourage simplification
for our target audience (currently 8-12 year olds in most Wikijunior
projects).

I don't know to what degree the current group of Simple English
participants are also involved in Wikijunior, but my sense of things is
that they are two very different groups of editor/contributors.  Still,
it is an interesting thought that perhaps some collaboration between the
two groups of editors ought to take place and could be beneficial to
both of them.

Wikijunior is also multi-lingual, with the French Wikijunior having been
just started, and some very interesting content on the Chinese
Wikijunior project.  I have not seen any efforts to go multi-lingual
among the Simple English group (aka Simple Spanish or Simple French).

--
Robert Scott Horning


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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Lars Aronsson
In reply to this post by Alison M. Wheeler
Alison Wheeler wrote:

> why not consider it as targetted at that other group who *need* simple
> English ...
>
> Children.

There are also books in simplified language for people with
various kinds of reading/understanding handicap, so that is also a
possible audience.  But either way, it ruins the wiki concept that
the readers are the writers.  You cannot make a useful childrens
encyclopedia by letting 10 year olds publish their school papers
on dinosaurs.  Rather, you need pretty good authors, possibly with
teacher training, who don't only know the subject, but who also
know what to cut away to make it useful for children.  I wouldn't
say it's impossible, but I think it could be hard to achieve.

"Your parents and teachers can edit this page now."


--
  Lars Aronsson ([hidden email])
  Aronsson Datateknik - http://aronsson.se
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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Ray Saintonge
In reply to this post by MHart
MHart wrote:

>>The argument is that since so much of the world turns to English as a
>>second language for information, it would be useful to have an English
>>Wikipedia written in simple, easy-to-understand English, but at the same
>>    
>>
>I recently created a widget where you hold the mouse over an acronym and
>press some key combination and the definition of the acronym pops up. It
>reads the acronyms from a QuickBase database - almost 800 acronyms in the db
>(used at Intuit).
>
>Something like that would be great for English-as-a-second-language folks.
>An English-to-whatever dictionary widget. Hmmm... maybe I'll just write it
>real quick...
>
Acronyms are jargon, and should mostly not be a part of simple English.

Ec

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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Ray Saintonge
In reply to this post by Alison M. Wheeler
Alison Wheeler wrote:

>I've often thought that the 'simple English' was the right product aimed
>at the wrong market.
>
>Instead of targetting it at people how have English as a second language
>(who, quite rightly, want to learn English "properly"; long words and all)
>why not consider it as targetted at that other group who *need* simple
>English ...
>
>Children.
>
>Simple English is, I would have thought, perfect for pre-schoolers and
>under-12s generally as it sets out to explain concepts in simpler language
>and as that means a reduced vocabulary then let us target it at those who
>already daily use that reduced vocabulary.
>
Pre-schoolers  are not the right target for this.  They build their
essential vocabulary through conversation, and not through staring at a
computer screen.  Subject matter also needs to conform to children's
views of what is important in their world.

ESL people or others with reading problems are much better targeted.  
The subject areas can be more advanced, but they must be put in simpler
language.  Before they get into reading the long words, they need to
master the short ones.

Ec

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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

Robert S. Horning
Ray Saintonge wrote:

>Alison Wheeler wrote:
>
>  
>
>>I've often thought that the 'simple English' was the right product aimed
>>at the wrong market.
>>
>>Instead of targetting it at people how have English as a second language
>>(who, quite rightly, want to learn English "properly"; long words and all)
>>why not consider it as targetted at that other group who *need* simple
>>English ...
>>
>>Children.
>>
>>Simple English is, I would have thought, perfect for pre-schoolers and
>>under-12s generally as it sets out to explain concepts in simpler language
>>and as that means a reduced vocabulary then let us target it at those who
>>already daily use that reduced vocabulary.
>>
>>    
>>
>Pre-schoolers  are not the right target for this.  They build their
>essential vocabulary through conversation, and not through staring at a
>computer screen.  Subject matter also needs to conform to children's
>views of what is important in their world.
>
>ESL people or others with reading problems are much better targeted.  
>The subject areas can be more advanced, but they must be put in simpler
>language.  Before they get into reading the long words, they need to
>master the short ones.
>
>Ec
>  
>
Eight to twelve year olds are hardly pre-schoolers.  Yes, they are
beginning readers, and to be honest, when I was learning a second
language by actually living in the country where it was spoken natively,
one of the best sources of learning basic grammar and understanding the
language (once I made the initial breakthrough to decode the vocabulary
mentally in the first place) was to sit down with a group of elementary
school students and go through their language primers.  Content that is
oriented toward an eight year old is also understandable (generally) to
a foriegner who is just picking up the langauge.  Generally a lot more
thought goes into those kind of primers as well compared to say a
Berlitz grammar guide, and they are paced toward an audience with a very
short attention span (children).  The only problem with trying to learn
a language this way is 1) obtaining the materials in the first place
(getting to know a large family with lots of kids does help to do this)
and 2) some adults are not prepared to try and learn out of the same
lesson books that children are using because of personal pride or honor
of some sort.

ESL and Early Childhood Education are usually seperated on most
university campii by seperate colleges, ESL in a Humanities or Foriegn
Language college and Early Childhood Education usually in a completely
seperate college of Education.  My contention here is that they do
essentially the same thing from two different viewpoints, but because of
pure political reasons that have nothing to do with the students
themselves but instead quests for academic power, these discliplines are
rarely coordinated or merged.  There is no reason to continue such a
struggle within Wikimedia projects.

--
Robert Scott Horning


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Re: Fate of "Simple English"

MHart
In reply to this post by Ray Saintonge
> Acronyms are jargon, and should mostly not be a part of simple English.

I wasn't clear - it's not about acronyms, but rather about a translation
widget (adapted from one I wrote for acronyms). I got it working - you
highlight words you don't understand and the translation pops up (in
Spanish, French, Portuguese, Latin, Italian, German - whichever you pick).

- MHart


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