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Learning patterns/Organize paid translators for your on-wiki information

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A learning pattern forproject management
Organize paid translators for your on-wiki information
problemFrom the perspective of DEI, it makes sense to have information about your international project also available in different languages from English. But where do you start, and how do you organize this?
solutionI will share the story off the approach for the testcase translation of the research report for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity report of Wiki Loves Monuments in 2022.
created on11:03, 15 July 2023 (UTC)

What problem does this solve?[edit]

Wiki Loves Monuments in 2021-2022 conducted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity research among their national organizers, to collect in a structured way information of the barriers that prevent people from joining in the global photograph competition, and find out what the International team can do to to solve these issues.

Wiki Loves Monuments International team is the team supporting the WLM national organizers, and the team responsible for the international 'grand finale' of this annual photograph competition. These communications are mainly done in the English language: 'communications' in the context of this Learning Pattern specifically refer to our information materials and pages on Wikimedia Commons and our own website wikilovesmonuments.org. In these two places we host the information for organizers and participants (Wikimedia Commons) and third party enthusiasts (wikilovesmonuments.org).
And when a report on DEI indicates that you need to communicate also in languages different from English, it would be very ironic to only publish said report in the English language, so we decided to pioneer and find an answer to the question:
How can a volunteer team from our movement organize paid translations in 10 major languages?

Why did the translators need to be paid? Well, we value all of the (mostly volunteer) national organizers and are aware of the limited time Wikimedia volunteers have. As the international team we want them to focus on the participation in and organizing of the national competitions: organizers should also have FUN! in Wiki Loves Monuments. We think the nature of the work of producing translations for our information materials in big or prioritized languages is one of the supporting roles the international team should take on, as is differs a lot from the normal work our national organizers do. And if we ask volunteers to translate an extensive report like this, we want to offer them a reasonable compensation for going the extra mile.

What is the solution?[edit]

Decide on priority languages[edit]

There are so many languages in the world, how to decide on the priority languages for your information? This is a question that will be answered differently by organizers, depending on context, goal, and timing of your communication - the information might be relevant to a different group of readers now, compared to in 5 years.

These were the considerations we took into account for the translations of the Wiki Loves Monuments DEI final research report in 2022:

  • The United Nations have six languages used in UN meetings and in which the UN writes all its official documents: English, Chinese, French, Russian, Arabic and Spanish. In general, also Wikimedia Foundation chooses to communicate in these languages when doing translations.
  • From the DEI research interviews, we heard from several organizers that their competition would benefit from the availability of our information in their local language.
  • We reached out to the Wikimedia Foundation Communications Department to get insights in current language communities: which ones are the bigger language communities in the Wikimedia movement? Which ones are growing at the moment (traffic), and is there an overlap with the recent participating countries in WLM and their main languages?

With the points above we made a weighed selection for translations of the English report into the following twelve languages: Spanish, French, Arabic, Brazilian-Portuguese, Chinese Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian, Urdu, Farsi, Swahili, Zulu and Hausa.

Estimate your budget[edit]

Take note: this information is from March 2022, prices may have changed!!
So: how much does a translator actually cost?

Basically, translators that work in our movement are used to the following distinctions in the size of translations:

  1. Small: everything up to 500 characters
  2. Medium: 500-1500 characters
  3. Big: 2500+ characters

The number of hours needed will mainly depend on the complexity of the wordings used in your report, and about the difference in language families between the source text and the intended translation. English into French are both in the Latin language family, where as German into Chinese takes a lot more time and expertise because they are very different. This said, in general a small translation will take about an hour for 'easy' translations, 2-3 hours for medium translations and 5 or more for big translations. But again: the more difficult the translation, the more time it will take.

In Q1-2022 a base rate for a translator would start at US$25,-, though it is up to the translator of course to negotiate a higher prize. For instance if they are not 'professional volunteers' from our movement, but have translating as their profession, or the language you request for translation is very complicated, or if they review the text and find the wording to be very complicated. Please respect this!
As we were on a limited budget, and for the WLM DEI our researcher was able to bring down the final report to 2500 words in English. Additionally, we used the Hemingway app to bring the difficulty of the text down as much as possible. Instead of a budget per hour, we decided on one general compensation for all translators for easier languages, and a bit higher compensation for languages that use symbols: we offered $250,- for the first and $300,- for the second group. (In our case: ten translators agreed to our offer (one of them offered to translate the information to two languages)).

With the priority languages you have decided on and the budget you have estimated you need, you can now include this number in your regular Grant Request with the Wikimedia Foundation, or -be bold!- request a Rapid WMF Grant for these translations! See notes below for the links to the Strategic Recommendations that could align with such a request and help support your request when applying.

Finding translators[edit]

Now: you have your list of languages and (hurray!) your Regional Grants Committee decided to grant you the budget. But where to find the translators?

For WLM, one of the big advantages were the contacts we already had from the DEI interviews we did. A lot of communities know who the Wikimedia user is that often translates information from English for their project. This most of the time is a fellow volunteer, sometimes it's a paid professional. Be aware that paid professionals from outside the movement may struggle with our movement-specific language, as well as the context in which phrases are used here ('editwar', 'user', or for instance for some languages almost untranslatable words as 'accountability' or 'equity'), and when simply hiring any professional translation service the quality will depend!

WLM was privileged to be able to work through our own networks: most of the time, if you have one friend that does paid translations, they will know others that translate for WMF or other movement partners. And remember you contacted the Communications Department to help prioritize languages? They are also very happy to give you some names and contact details of others to get you started. Now, send the suggested translators a friendly request for translation through email. In this email, please mention:

  • Information about your text: is it handwritten or typed, does it have a lot of links, does it included tables, is it available on-wiki or somewhere else? Also mention the number of characters and source language of the text.
  • The rate for the translation: either ask how much they charge for a translation (hourly rate), or how much you offer. Also, ask if they can send you an invoice in case you work from a grant.
  • The deadline for the translation or a translation window in case you are able to communicate this on forehand: having a window helps with the availability of the translator for your request, because they would be able to schedule it into their other work!

Be sure to have your document ready for review for the possible translators in case they like to review before agreeing to help you.

Technical side[edit]

Our report was published on Commons, and the multilingual projects Commons, Meta, Wikispecies and Wikidata all have a translation interface that works with Translatewiki. There were two different approaches we took from the technical side. The translators that do more translations for our movement will be familiar with the Translatewiki interface and know how it works, so that is great. But this interface does not just appear like magic on every page: you as the organizer of the translations have to prepare your page to be ready for translations, and this starts by adding language tags throughout your document. At first it might be a bit of a challenge to master, but I promise you'll get the hang of it quickly: basically it comes down to adding < /language> in the top of the page, and then adding tags like <translate> and </translate> to every section on the page. Every multilingual project has it's own translation admins that can help you if you get stuck. These admins are also needed to activate your translation tags so they become visible in Translatewiki. These are the Help-pages on the projects where you can read up on how the magic works:

We prepared a separate copy of the text document in our Google drive for every language we planned to translate: some translators like to work from a document, others prefer to work in Translatewiki directly. We liked to have a place where we could keep track of the status of the translation, and also for archiving purposes it was nice to have all translations collected in our own internal documentation though for the translators it was not mandatory to use (we prioritized the result and efficiency over documentation in this case). For translators that don't know or don't want to use the translation interface themselves, you will have to put their translations into Translatewiki. This does not have to be a problem, Translatewiki has an interface that is quite easy to navigate for established Wikimedians, and also in this case: help is only one mouse click away.

General timeline[edit]

The time you'll need to get a document translated for the first time will vary, and you can see from all the former sections in this Learning Pattern there are quite a lot of dependencies in the process. Availability of the translators, time needed for the grant process, setting up the translation interface, and afterwards please don't forget to process the payments.

In general, setting this up from scratch will take about 2 months. Creating your own network for translators and reaching out to them, agreeing on the prize and agreeing on the deadline or window for translations can be done well in advance of course: in our case, the translators were asked 1,5 month in advance to schedule their translation for us to be done somewhere in a two week window. Remember, our translation was a 'big' translation and would cost a translator at least half a day: shorter translations can be done in a smaller window. Once your document is available, send it to them and they will do their work in case of an off-wiki document: in case your information is available on-wiki, take a week to get the hang of the translation tags, and coordinating with the translation admins to activate the translation tags and to make sure everything works as intended.

The translators will notify you when their translation is completed: when you are satisfied with their work, please show this satisfaction by paying them the agreed amount within 30 days.

And that's it: now you have your translations!!

Things to consider[edit]

Budget for translations!!

  • Based on both Manage Internal Knowledge and Invest in Skills and Leadership development as core recommendations from the Movement Strategy 2030, it makes sense for international projects to have your most important materials translated, and for the translators to get a fair compensation for their work. So don't forget to budget these expenses when applying for a Grant!


See also[edit]

Related patterns[edit]

External links[edit]