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Best practices for translatewiki events

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

translatewiki.net is a website where volunteers translate the user interface of several free software projects. One of these projects is MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia and all the other Wikimedia wikis. It's also the place to translate the user interface of the Wikipedia mobile apps, as well as several other related tools.

The process of translating the user interface of software is also known as localization.

Localizing the user interface of the software that runs Wikimedia wikis as completely as possible is highly desirable for the following reasons:

  1. It allows people who don't know English to fully use all the features of the wiki in their language: searching, browsing categories, editing, checking page version history, uploading files, etc.
  2. It allows communities of editors (and readers!) to have written and spoken conversations about editing and reading in their language.

Localization on translatewiki.net can be done by anyone who has a web connection, but it may be a good idea to run localization workshops, in which people get together in real life or online, and help each other translate. This is particularly useful for languages that are beginning to develop in the Wikimedia world.

This page gives some recommendations for people who organize such workshops, so that they will prepare them to 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 about them and use them. See the page Learning patterns, and select "Events". In addition, the page Best practices for Content Translation events has suggestions for events for translating Wikipedia articles; there are many similarities between the processes of translating articles and localizing the user interface, but there are also some notable differences.

Venue selection[edit]

You can run the event fully online, with coördination over instant messages or video conversations.

If you are doing an event in physical space, 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 be 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 where you can rent computers. In any case, check the notes below about keyboard configuration.

As of 2024, translatewiki.net is not well-adapted for mobile phone screens. Nevertheless, it's somewhat usable on smartphones, and successful localization events were done where people used mobile phones for translations, so if everything else is organized well, it's better than not doing an event at all. (It's conceivable that translatewiki.net will become more mobile-friendly in the future, but it will take time.)

Particularly recommended places are libraries, schools, and colleges, especially those that have books on location that can be used by the translators: dictionaries, books about language grammar and style, encyclopedias, etc. In particular, having dictionaries is strongly recommended at any translation event. See also notes below.

People to invite[edit]

The requirements for writing localized strings are:

  1. Being able to read well in English or at least in another language, into which the localization is mostly complete. Examples of languages with very high completion rate of MediaWiki localization are French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish, Arabic, and Ukrainian.
    • People who cannot read well in English or in any other language with high localization rate, but can write well in the target language, can still be helpful as assistants in the event. See below.
  2. Being able to write well in the language into which the translation is done.

At least some event participants are supposed to be familiar with the following:

  • General computer terminology—words such as "log in", "log out", "download", "upload", "account", "file", etc.
  • Editing Wikipedia or any other wiki in any language, being familiar with basic wiki syntax, and knowing the relevant terminology—"edit", "category", "template", "talk page", etc.

Two particularly useful wiki editing skills are translating pages on Meta, Commons, Wikidata, or MediaWiki.org, or translating Wikipedia articles using Content Translation.

The event may focus on translating into one language, but it is also possible to organize a translation workshop where translation is done into several languages. This may be particularly appropriate if the workshop is a part of an international Wikimedia event such as Wikimania, or if many languages are spoken in the area where the workshop is held.

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 at least one person who is highly proficient in English. These people can be linguists, language teachers, or professional translators. It can even be someone who is not professionally or academically certified, but who simply loves the language and who 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 wikis, but there should be at least one person who is experienced with it. If possible, it should be a person who is experienced in writing in a wiki 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 a wiki in another language. You should have at least one experienced wiki editor per ten inexperienced people. The more experienced editors you have, the better.

Before the event[edit]

Preparing yourself[edit]

Organizer account[edit]

If you don't have one already, create a translatewiki.net account. translatewiki accounts are distinct from Wikimedia accounts. You may have the same username as on Wikipedia, but you must create the account separately. After creating the account, make some test translations by clicking the Translate button on the translatewiki main page, or send your username to a translatewiki administrator to get approved.

Language configuration[edit]

Make sure that the language into which you'll translate is configured on translatewiki: go to the translation interface, click the button next to "Translate to", and search for your language in the panel. If it doesn't appear, it probably must be added to the configuration. Read the page Translatewiki.net languages for the full instructions. Briefly:

  • Your language must have an ISO 639 code.
  • It must be a living, general purpose language (although variants and dialects are sometimes allowed).
  • If your language fulfills these criteria, ask to add it on the page Support. Mention the ISO code and the name of the language in the language itself.
  • If everything is fine with the request, the language will probably be added within a few hours by an administrator.

Notifying the staff[edit]

Announce your event on the Support page on translatewiki. This will let administrators know to expect many new accounts and translations and help prevent misunderstandings. In addition, try to make sure that one of the translatewiki administrators will be available online for necessary technical support.


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.

Translation practice[edit]

Make sure that you are experienced with translatewiki yourself:

Check whether the Translate extension is localized into the language that the participants know. To do this, log into your account on translatewiki.net and check the status of the Translate - Core User Interface project. If the page 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 Translate completely localized in translatewiki.net two weeks before conducting a localization 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", "outdated", "parameter", etc.

Another useful thing to translate as fully as possible before a localization event is the the MediaWiki Basic Glossary.

Of course, both the Translate extension and the glossary can be translated at the localization workshop itself.

Workshop Content[edit]

Check the statistics of localization into your language. translatewiki.net hosts many projects—some of them are relevant for most readers and editors of Wikimedia wikis, some are useful only for advanced editors, and some are unrelated to Wikimedia at all. The most important projects for Wikimedia users are:

  • MediaWiki (most important messages)
  • Wiki Editor
  • Visual Editor
  • Universal Language Selector
  • Mobile Frontend
  • Discussion Tools
  • Wikibase Client
  • Content Translation
  • Upload Wizard
  • Extensions used by Wikimedia - Main
  • MediaWiki core

Consult with translatewiki administrators and ask for recommendations for other projects to translate.

Find each of these projects in the project selector, select it, and examine the progress bar at the bottom of the translation tool. Write down the percentage of translated messages for the projects that you want to translate, so that you can check how much progress did you make during the workshop.

Prepare at least one project per workshop participant. It's a good idea to have even more, in case somebody completes a project.

Other logistics[edit]

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.

It is recommended to plan at least two hours for a localization workshop. A shorter time will be enough only for an introduction, but very few actual translations will probably be contributed.

Preparing the computers[edit]

If you are providing the computers that the participants will use, check that they have an up-to-date version of a modern web browser: Firefox, Chrome, Edge, or Safari. Also, check that JavaScript is enabled, as it is a technical requirement. It is likely that things will not work correctly on old versions of browsers, so update them if needed.

Make sure that all the computers that will be used have a keyboard configured for the languages that will be used at the event. Sometimes computers are configured only with an English keyboard. If these computers are in a place such as 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.

translatewiki has built-in keyboards for many languages, but test that they works. If keyboard support for your language is missing, ask for it on the Support page.

Preparing the participants[edit]

Ask all the participants to create translatewiki accounts as early as possible before the event. As noted above, translatewiki accounts are distinct from Wikipedia accounts, so please make sure that the participants understand it. Ask all participants to explicitly choose the language into which they want to translate in the account creation form and to send you the username. On translatewiki, every account must be approved before people can translate, so announce your workshop on the Support page and contact a translatewiki administrator privately to ensure that all the accounts are approved.

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 in which they'll write. 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[edit]

Introducing new editors to Wikimedia[edit]

translatewiki is closely related to the Wikimedia world, so unless all the participants are already familiar with it, introduce them to the movement:

  • A brief history of Wikipedia and Wikimedia
  • What is a wiki (a website that anyone can edit)
  • Why is it important to have content and software user interface in all languages, 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 home.
    • Increasing the amount of online content in a language will contribute to the language's standardization and development.

If the focus of your event is just translation, this introduction is supposed to take less than ten minutes.

If all the participants are experienced Wikimedians, you can skip this introduction.

Introducing localization[edit]

After the general introduction, do a short demo of translatewiki. Explain what localization is in general. Demostrate it by showing some untranslated buttons in Wikipedia in the language into which people will be translating. Important points to mention:

  • If you know other languages, add them as assistant languages in the preferences. This is especially important for people who don't know English well.
  • Always read and understand the documentation for each message in the sidebar.
  • It's OK to skip long or difficult messages.
  • Use consistent terminology. If in doubt, search for similar words in other messages and consult with other people.
  • Use parameters and PLURAL correctly.
  • Machine translation is available for some languages, but not for all of them. If machine translation is available for the language in question, tell people never to publish machine translation without fixing its mistakes!
  • It's possible to paste the source text into the paragraph if it's useful, but don't just publish the English text.
  • Code, markup, and link targets must be copied and not translated. Link labels must be translated.
  • Translations that you submitted will be used on the real Wikipedia next week. Your contribution will actually be used! It's fun, but be responsible ;)

Make sure that you understand all these points yourself, and that you are able to use them and demonstrate them.

Doing the translations[edit]

Two common mistakes when working on translatewiki localization in general, and in workshops in particular:

  1. Clicking the "Translate" button on the main page and translating random things in various projects.
  2. Two or more people working on the same project without coördinating with each other.

To avoid these mistakes, make sure to do the following:

  • Tell people not to click the "Translate" button on the main page.
  • Use the projects list you prepared earlier, and assign each project to one person.
  • Only one person must publish translations in each project. It's possible that two or more people will work on the same project and help each other with difficult words, etc., but only one should push the Publish translation button.
  • When a project is completed, congratulate whoever did it, and give them another project :)

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 the translation interface: using wiki markup, PLURAL, etc.

If you can, have a board with a list of projects 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 after the event it can be posted on blogs and social media.

Collecting feedback[edit]

It's very important to collect as much feedback as possible from the participants during the event and immediately after it:

  • What works well? What are you enjoying?
  • Is anything difficult in things like creating an account, logging in, finding a project 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 message was being translated, which operating system and browser the people were using, what did they expect to happen, and what happened instead. See the page How to report a bug for tips about reporting bugs effectively.

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[edit]

  • 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 translatewiki in an email, as bug reports in Phabricator, as a post on the Support page, or using any other means of communication that is convenient for you.
  • Share the event information and other achievements of the event on social media or other community channels. For example: "thanks to Anbeta and Besim, you can now use all Wikipedia features on mobile phones in Albanian" (make sure to replace "Anbeta", "Besim", "features on mobile phones" and "Albanian" with actual names of the translators, the feature, 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.
  • Write a public report as a wiki page or a blog post about the event: who participated, how many messages were translated, how many projects were completed, and so on. Here's one example from an event in Ghana: Grants:Project/Rapid/Twi Community/Translatewiki.net/Report. If the event was done as part of a work of a Wikimedia chapter, another affiliate, or 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 translatewiki.net and running translation events!