'Wikiferhang': British expat fluent in Kurdish creates largest online Kurdish dictionary

“We have to take all the necessary steps forward to standardize our language—the Kurdish language.”
author_image Kurdistan 24

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A British expatriate in the Kurdistan Region has embarked on a project to create the largest and most comprehensive online Kurdish dictionary.

Ibrahim Kocher is a British expatriate who has spent the last 10 years of his life in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province with his family. During that time, Kocher has become fluent in Kurdish.

“We have to take all the necessary steps forward to standardize our language—the Kurdish language,” he tells Kurdistan 24 in the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish.

Ibrahim Kocher is visibly enthusiastic about his project as he explains how the platform works. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Ibrahim Kocher is visibly enthusiastic about his project as he explains how the platform works. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

For the past few years, Ibrahim has been working on expanding an online Kurdish dictionary via Wikipedia’s platform, Wiktionary.

He has made significant progress with the initiative and believes the Kurdish language is one of the most important in the world.

“I am delighted to see how successful this online dictionary has become. The Kurdish language is rich, but we have to work hard to standardize it,” so it maintains its richness, Ibrahim explains.

“For instance, I believe there has to be attention given to the standardization of writing in Kurdish for letters in Arabic as well as letters in the Latin script. With this step, the Kurdish language will become more standardized.”

Wikiferheng, a web-based free content dictionary, does not only include definitions for words in Kurdish but also includes idioms and proverbs commonly used in Kurdish as well as their meanings.

“For example, I often say, ‘I am busier than the groom’s mother.’ This is a beautiful idiom, a colorful expression. If you search for that idiom on Wikiferheng, it will define the phrase,” Ibrahim tells Kurdistan 24. “The search will also provide the English variation of the idiom, such as, ‘I’m fighting fit,’ or, ‘I’m fit as a fiddle.’”

Ibrahim has made significant progress in creating an extensive database of definitions as well as idioms and proverbs in the past four years since his project began. He has also provided two platforms for the online dictionary: one through the web, and another through an app.

Ferhad Kurdi (right) and Ibrahim Kocher work tirelessly to expand the online Kurdish dictionary. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Ferhad Kurdi (right) and Ibrahim Kocher work tirelessly to expand the online Kurdish dictionary. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

Ferhad Kurdi, a Kurd who has helped Ibrahim with the project, said the platform had progressed significantly since its inception.

“When we first began to develop the online Kurdish dictionary, it was ranked 13th on Wiktionary’s list of online dictionaries. However, within the past four to five years, we were able to climb to eighth,” he told Kurdistan 24.

“Moreover, we have increased the number of pages from 600,000 to 800,000. Our goal is to reach over one million pages,” Kurdi added.

“The online dictionary provides definitions in all languages, not only Kurdish, Arabic, or English. You can search for a word or proverb in any language, and it will provide the Kurdish translation or definition.”

Over 350 years ago, classical Kurdish writer, poet, and philosopher Ahmad Khani wrote the first-ever Kurdish dictionary titled “Nubehara Biçukan,” or “The Spring of Children.”

Since then, there have been many other Kurdish dictionaries written and published. Ibrahim says he expects his project to be the largest Kurdish dictionary because it is available to people around the world who speak different languages.

(Additional reporting by Masoud Mohamad)