Best practices for Content Translation events
Content Translation is a feature of Wikipedia which helps editors translate articles between languages.
Content Translation can be a quick and effective introduction to editing Wikipedia for people who know more than one language. With Content Translation, a completely new editor who knows two languages can create a full-fledged Wikipedia article with formatting, images, and references with practically no preparation, in less than an hour. It is also, by its nature, a good contribution to enhancing the knowledge across languages and cultures. It is therefore quite a good fit for editing workshops.
However, the people who run the workshop should make some preparations so that the event will run smoothly and effectively.
Unless noted otherwise, all the best practices for running Wikimedia events in general apply also to translation events, so you should read them and use them. See the page Learning patterns, and select "Events".
Any quiet place with room to sit down comfortably and type on a computer is fine.
It is not necessary for the place to have computers. If people can bring their own laptops, it's good because they will comfortable with their own devices. If the people cannot bring laptops and you cannot find a venue that has computer stations, try to find a service that can rent computers. In any case, check the notes below about keyboard configuration.
Particularly recommended places are libraries, schools, and colleges, especially those that have books on location that can be used by article writers and translators: dictionaries, books about language grammar and style, encyclopedias, books about history and biography, etc. In particular, dictionaries are strongly recommended having at any translation event. See also notes below.
People to invite
Anybody who knows at least two languages can participate in such an event. You may choose to focus on translating into one language, but you don't have to: If you are doing a translation workshop as part of an international event such as Wikimania, or if many languages are spoken in the area where the workshop is held, the participants may translate into different languages.
That said, it is always very useful to have at this event at least one person who is highly proficient in the language into which the participants are translating, and in the language from which people are translating. This person can be a linguist, a language teacher, or a professional translator. It can even be someone who is not professionally or academically certified, but who simply loves the language and is good at reading and writing in it and in using dictionaries, grammar books, and style guides. It's OK if this person is also the organizer of the event. If there are several such people, it's even better.
It's OK to invite people who are completely inexperienced with editing Wikipedia, but there should be at least one person who is experienced in writing in Wikipedia. If possible, it should be a person who is experienced in writing in Wikipedia in the language into which most participants will be translating. If it's hard to find such a person, it can be someone who is experienced in writing in Wikipedia in another language. You should have at least one experienced Wikipedian per ten inexperienced people. The more experienced people, the better.
It is less essential, but quite useful to have at least one person who has administrator rights, so that it will be possible to resolve issues with accounts, protected pages, etc. If an administrator cannot be present at the event in person, it is advisable to be in contact with one remotely by phone, instant messaging, or email. Finally, it is also useful to have somebody who is able to analyze, report, and resolve general technical problems with wiki syntax, keyboards, fonts, gadgets, software bugs, etc.
If you want to focus your event on translating articles about a particular topic, such as "The cities of our country", "Famous people from the history of Thailand", "Diseases and vaccines", and so on, you should have at least one person who is knowledgeable about this topic.
Before the event
It is recommended to plan at least two hours for an article translation workshop. One hour may be enough, but it may feel rushed, and the quality of the published articles may be compromised. Two hours or more will give the organizers and the participants more time to relax, discuss difficult points, make the necessary corrections, and publish great articles.
Make sure you know how to type in your language. Some languages can be easily typed on any computer, but some others have difficulties, especially in India, South East Asia, and some countries in Africa. If people bring their own laptops, try to learn as much as possible about configuring keyboards for the relevant language on common operating systems, especially Windows, and also Mac, Chromebook, and Linux.
Make sure that you are experienced with Content Translation yourself. Translate at least one article using it, and preferably more than one. Test it again a day before the event: It sometimes happens that recent software changes in Content Translation or in the gadgets on the wiki itself change or break some functionality.
Read and re-read the Content Translation user manual, even if you are an experienced user of Content Translation, and even if you had read it already. In addition to the technical description, it includes useful advice that you should pass on to the workshop participants. If the user manual is not translated into the language that most of the participants know, consider translating it by clicking "Translate this page" at the top of the page.
Check whether the Content Translation software itself is localized into the language that most of the participants know. To do this, log into your account on translatewiki.net and check the status of the Content Translation project. If the link says "Nothing to translate", then everything is ready! If you see rows of English strings, then not everything is translated. Even though it is not a requirement, it is highly recommended having the user interface of Content Translation completely translated before conducting an article translation event. This will make the interface easier and more familiar for the participants, and it will help everybody in the event use consistent terminology for words like "translate", "publish", "link", "template", "reference", etc. For general tips on using translatewiki.net, see the post Translating the software that powers Wikipedia on the Wikimedia blog.
Prepare a list of articles that should be translated. It is usually OK to encourage the participants to decide what they want to write about (see below), but sometimes people don't know what to choose, so it's good to have a list of articles to translate as a fallback. One fun way to do it is to choose several topics that may be relevant for the participants (sports, music, animals, history), then write the articles' titles on cards, and hand them out in the beginning of the event.
While translating, people often have questions about translating difficult words, about spelling and grammar, and so on. Bring dictionaries and books about grammar and style to the event, or prepare a list of websites where materials of this kind can be found.
Preparing the computers
Make sure that all the computers that will be used have a keyboard configured for the language that will be used at the event. Sometimes computers are configured only with an English keyboard.
If these computers are in place like a school, a library, or a community center, ask the IT person to do this. If people are bringing their own laptops, tell them to do it before they come.
Ask the participants
Ask all the participants to create Wikipedia accounts. Creating them all on the day of the event will cause unnecessary delays in the beginning of the workshop. Also, creating many accounts from the same network may be blocked.
Ask all the participants to test that their accounts work in the Wikipedia in the source language and in the target language. Occasionally an account can be created in one language, but auto-creation in the other language may be blocked. If anybody has issues with this, contact an administrator.
Ask all the participants to decide which articles do they want to translate, and encourage them to read the whole source article. It is also a good idea to pick more than one, because it may happen that an article already exists in the target language, or locked by another translator.
If participants bring their own laptops, tell them to do the things described in the section "Preparing the computers" above: update the web browser and configure the keyboard for the language they'll use. Many people don't know how to do it themselves, so try to learn how to do it on as many operating systems as possible so that you'll be able to help them.
During the event
Introducing new editors to Wikipedia
One of the advantages of Content Translation is that it allows the workshop leader to skip long introductions about wiki syntax, uploading files, or copyrights.
Nevertheless, it is highly recommended giving the participants a short introduction:
- A brief history of Wikipedia
- What is a wiki
- What is an encyclopedia (as opposed to a blog, a news website, a social network, etc.)
- What are the copyright principles: Free culture is great; translation between languages is allowed; copying text from other websites without an explicit permission is forbidden; uploading photos is allowed only if they are your own or if they are under a compatible license (when using Content Translation, only images that are already on Commons will be auto-adapted, so image copyright shouldn't be an issue)
If the focus of your event is just translation, this introduction is supposed to take less than fifteen minutes.
If all the participants are experienced Wikipedians, you can skip this introduction.
Introducing Content Translation
After the general introduction, do a short demo of Content Translation. Important points to mention:
- Translate paragraph by paragraph.
- Machine translation is available for some languages, but not for all of them. If machine translation is available for the language in question:
- Don't publish machine translation without fixing its mistakes!
- Show how to turn machine translation on and off.
- It's possible to paste the source text into the paragraph, or to start from an empty paragraph.
- Images can be automatically transferred by clicking on them, but you have to translate the caption.
- Links are adapted automatically, and can also be added and removed manually.
- References (footnotes) are adapted automatically, but may need manual tweaking.
- Content Translation creates the first revision of the article. After this, the article can be edited just like any other article.
- For experienced Wikipedians: Don't use wiki syntax.
Make sure that you understand all these points yourself, and that you are able to use them and demonstrate them.
You should also explain why translating Wikipedia articles is useful even if many people know major languages like English, French, or Russian. You should adapt this explanation to your country and to the event participants. Some possible points to mention:
- Many people don't know these major languages, and translation will make useful knowledge more accessible.
- For school children it is easier to read Wikipedia in a language that is familiar to them from school or home.
- Even editions of Wikipedia in very large languages don't cover all the topics in the world. It is possible to translate from the local language of your culture into a major language, so that people from other cultures will be able to learn about your culture.
- Increasing the amount of online content in a language will contribute to the language's standardization and development.
Make sure that everybody enables Content Translation in the preferences, show people how to enter the Content Translation dashboard (hover on "Contributions"), and then just tell people to start translating!
Tell people not to translate the same article as you are showing in the demo. If several people want to translate the same article, only one user should open it, and the other people should gather around the same computer. It is technically impossible for several users to translate the same article with Content Translation. (This may become possible in the future, but there is no target date for this yet.)
During the translation phase, people will likely need help with certain issues:
- Translating difficult words: Encourage people to talk to each other and give each other friendly tips about the language. Language experts, as well as dictionaries and grammar books will be especially useful at this point.
- Using Content Translation: images, templates, references, etc.
- Publishing: Some wikis are configured to disallow publishing to the main space for new users. If this happens, tell people to publish to the user space by clicking the gear icon.
- Fixing reference formatting: Sometimes reference formatting becomes jumbled or references go missing following publication. This is a known issue with efforts ongoing to fix it as of August 2019. After finishing the translation, it is often necessary to fix these issues manually.
If you can, have a board with a list of articles that people have started translating, and mark those that people have completed. It's a fun activity, it encourages participants to complete the translation and publish the page, and after the event it can be posted on blogs and social media.
Encourage people to write good translations and correct them both during the translation, and after publishing the first version. For example, it's OK to skip some paragraphs if they are unreliable, too difficult, or not so relevant for people who read in the target language, and it's OK to add more locally relevant paragraphs after publishing.
It's very important to collect as much feedback as possible from the participants:
- What worked well? What did you enjoy?
- Was anything difficult in things like creating an account, logging in, choosing an article to translate, starting the translation, reading the source text, writing the translation, publishing, etc.?
- Are there any particular bugs in the software? When there is doubt whether something is a bug or not a bug, always note it—it's important to report anything that could be a bug to the developers. When noting a possible bug, write down as many details as possible: the username, the language, which article was translated, which operating system and browser were the people using, what did they expect to happen, and what happened instead.
For more on observing users and collecting and reporting feedback, see this English Wikipedia Signpost article: How to make editing workshops useful, even if participants don't stick around.
After the event
- Ask the participants for more feedback: What did they enjoy and what worked well? What didn't work well? Do they feel that they achieved something? Did their opinion about Wikipedia change?
- Ask the participants to tell their friends about this.
- Ask the participants to translate more at home.
- Submit all the relevant feedback that you collected to the developers of Content Translation in an email, as bug reports in Phabricator, or using any other means of communication that is convenient for you.
- Share at least a few translated articles and other achievements of the event on social media or other community channels. For example: "thanks to Maria, you can now read the article Korean massage in Wikipedia in Spanish" (make sure to replace "Maria", "Korean massage", and "Spanish" with actual names of the translator, the article title, and the target language). By doing it, people can give rewarding kudos to the editors (new or experienced) and other users can check the work done. You also spread the idea of the event to other potential event organizers. On Twitter, you may mention Content Translation's account: @WhatToTranslate.
- Write a public report as a wiki page or a blog post about the event: who participated, how many articles were written, and so on. Here's one example from an event in New York City: :w:en:Wikipedia:LaGuardia Community College/Reports. If the event was done as part of a work of a Wikimedia chapter, another affiliate, or somehow funded by a grant, you probably have to do it, and you will know in what format does this report have to be. However, it's a good idea to write such a report in any case, even if it's not required. It will raise awareness of such events, and it will also help you prepare for the next events.
Finally, if you used this page for preparing your event and you have more ideas that are not covered here, please edit this page and add them!
Thank you for using Content Translation and running translation events!
- Content Translation development project page on mediawiki.org
- Getting newcomers into Wikipedia with Content Translation, a post on the Wikimedia blog about one of the first Content Translation workshops