BENGALURU: Tulu is one of the five Dravidian languages but it has the least number of speakers. Though it has a script, lack of usage has made it almost obsolete, forcing Tulu writers to write in Kannada. This has, however, benefited Tulu today, allowing it to boast of its own Wikipedia.
Anyone who proposes a Wikipedia in a new language knows the labour between the proposal stage and the period it goes live. The long phase usually erodes the enthusiasm and in many cases, the proposal never passes the incubation period. In the case of Tulu Wikipedia, there were a few determined to ensure it saw the light of the day.
Like Vasanth CN, who had rallied for the Wikipedia page since it was first proposed in 2008. A native of Dharmasthala, the language enthusiast detailed how tcy.wikipedia.org came into being. “When it was first proposed in 2008, there were six people behind it,” he recalled. After a while, the Board of Trustees and Language Committee of Wikipedia accepted the proposal.
Then came the incubation period, stretching over eight years, where enthusiasm ebbed and swelled among the parties working for a Tulu Wikipedia page. “If you see the Wikipedia homepage, you see a lot of system messages. Our task was to translate these system messages first. By 2011-12, we had succeeded in generating about 120 articles related to the Tulu language and the region in which it is spoken,” he said.The tricky part was to get the page active. It needed volunteers and they were hard to come by. “For a Wikipedia page to become live, we required at least 600 articles. Moreover, we also required at least five active volunteers who could contribute content or edit existing pages” he said.
It took several workshops at different venues to get the numbers.
Vasanth told Express that the motivation behind the project was to ensure a recognition for the language and to help it evolve. “It is important to have a knowledge base in the local language,” he said. At present, the page has over 780 articles. “If there is encouragement from government agencies such as the Tulu Academy, we can easily increase the content,” he said. He added that further support was required to upload works of ancient and modern Tulu literature, in online avenues such as wikisource.
U B Pavanaja from Centre for Internet and Society, said that efforts picked up in 2014 to make the page live. Commenting on the significance of the language, he said that Tulu had a rich heritage. Several religious books and works of literature had been translated to Tulu during the late 18th century, which included the Bible. In coastal districts, Tulu can be chosen as an optional subject today, he said.