Scots Wikipedia Is Notoriously Inaccurate Thanks to One Teenage Editor

Wikipedia / Wikipedia

A dedicated network of editors (both bots and humans) help keep Wikipedia factual, but certain errors are hard to spot. This includes mistakes in articles written in more obscure languages. A recent Reddit post revealed that Scots Wikipedia is filled with not just typos, but blatant mistranslations—most of which can be traced back to the same teen editor.

As Gizmodo reports, Reddit user u/Ultach shared the story behind Scots Wikipedia on the subreddit r/Scotland on Tuesday, August 25. Of the 60,000 Wikipedia articles written in the Scots language, approximately a third appear to be written and edited by an American teenager who Ultach claims doesn't speak Scots.

Scots—not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic—is an indigenous language of Scotland. According to a 2011 UK census, there are roughly 90,000 native speakers and 1.6 million people who learned it as a second language. In their post, Ultach calls Scots Wikipedia "legendarily bad" and characterizes the articles as "poorly spelled English with the odd Scots word thrown in haphazardly." They wrote that every Scots article from the editor is nearly identical to its English language counterpart with some modified spelling, suggesting the editor referenced the Online Scots Dictionary and translated English articles word-by-word.

An example paragraph from Scots Wikipedia shows the results of this approach. Even if they're unfamiliar with the Scots language, English speakers may notice that something is off.

A veelage is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smawer than a toun, wi a population rangin frae a few hunder tae a few thoosand (sometimes tens o thoosands).

Wikipedia articles are written and edited by volunteers, and not every language has a large team behind it. Only 10 to 20 administrators and editors in total contribute to Scots Wikipedia. For comparison, there are roughly 1136 administrators for English-language Wikipedia. That doesn't mean that nobody is reading Wikipedia articles in Scots: For some readers, Wikipedia may be their only source of exposure to a new language, and mistranslations like the one above can do irreparable damage to its reputation.

Ultach wrote, "People embroiled in linguistic debates about Scots often use it as evidence that Scots isn’t a language, and if it was an accurate representation, they’d probably be right."

[h/t Gizmodo]