Group in Spain unveils Wikipedia-style site for fine-tuning Spanish language around the world

Associated Press
Jan. 11, 2008

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

MADRID, Spain A new Wikipedia-style online tool designed to help the world's nearly 400 million Spanish speakers consult on proper use of their language launched officially on Thursday.

Spoken in more than 20 countries, Spanish poses a daunting and fluid challenge to academics trying to track variations in grammar and vocabulary; there can be many ways to say a simple word such as car or pen.

The Web site, called Wikilengua, in testing since August, works like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, where Internet users can modify the entries they consult.

But Wikilengua contributors must register in order to edit entries, and supervisors check contributions and filter out those they deem inaccurate or inappropriate.

Thursday's official unveiling was at Casa de America, a cultural center that aims to symbolize and enhance Spain's strong ties with Latin America and their common use of the world's third-most-spoken language, after Chinese and English.

"The first cyberspace forum that is open and dedicated to bringing together honestly all knowledge about the Spanish language was born today," said Alex Grijelmo, president of the Spanish national news agency Efe, part of the foundation that created the Web site.

"Wikilengua aims to serve as a place for reflection on language, the grand instrument of human intelligence," Grijelmo said at the presentation.

The site gets about 1,000 visits a day, and the number is rising steadily, said Javier Bezos, coordinator of the Web site.

It is the brainchild of Fundeu BBVA, a foundation created by Efe and BBVA, Spain's No. 2 bank, to monitor and offer advice on correct use of Spanish, especially in the news media.

The plan is to enlist the expertise of the Spanish Royal Academy, the official watchdog of the language, and 20-odd affiliated academies in Latin America, the United States and the Philippines.

"What we are doing with Wikilengua is open an immense network of highways granting access to the ... work of the academies," said Victor Garcia de la Concha, director of the Spanish Royal Academy. "Now we (have) a space for exchanging opinions, studies and suggestions."