Translation Fellowship Project/Report

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This is a report from the second phase of my fellowship project for the WMF. The report for the first phase of the fellowship is located here: Fundraising 2011/Translation/Project report

A lot has changed with regards to the volunteer translation process in the past several months. This page gives a summary of most of the changes, comparing several aspects of the translation system from before to how it works now.


The goals for the project were to

  • improve the translator experience in the meta translation request system
  • incorporate the translation extension more clearly into the meta translation process
  • improve the process for requesting a translation
  • recruit an active and viable community of translators

Translation interface[edit]


  • When a page needed translation, it was put up by the translation committee or other dedicated volunteers.
  • Each translation page had its own template that linked to versions of that page in other languages.
  • If a translation didn't exist, clicking the link to that language would take you to an edit page pre-filled with the English version of the page, so that you could start translating.

This system worked relatively decently, but the problem was that it was very labour-intensive to maintain for both translation managers and translators. Almost everything was done manually, most of it making use of complex templates. If you were familiar with templates you could manage, but the templates were quite easy to break if you made a mistake. However, this system was the best that could be made with the limited means available – namely wikitext with the tools that MediaWiki natively provides.


  • The Translate extension is a better alternative, first developed by Niklas Laxström (User:Nikerabbit) for use on
  • This extension was primarily developed to translate software, but now also has a page translation module that lets users translate wikipages much in the same way that they translate software.
  • The extension automates most – if not all – of the things that had to be done manually before. It breaks the page into paragraphs, and lets the user translate one paragraph at the time.
  • With this extension there is no longer any need to maintain a template to show that a translation exists or is started, because the extension automatically does all that.

Translator recruitment[edit]


  • Up until the 2011 fundraiser, translators were usually recruited by posting on village pumps in local languages or to individual users.
  • Another way that many translators got involved was coincidental – they found a page that was translatable, saw that there wasn't a translation into their language and started translating.


  • While posting on village pumps and reaching out to active individuals isn't outdated per se, we tried to be a bit more systematic in the recruitment efforts starting with the 2011 Fundraiser.
  • For the 2011 Fundraiser we ran a banner campaign to recruit users from many languages, signing them up on a custom-built form that registered them in SugarCRM so we could contact them (more about that in Translator communication below).
  • In July 2012 we ran a CentralNotice campaign (campaign plan, banner) targetting the top 20 languages. This campaign recruited more than 1200 individual translators (live stats) for more than 80 different languages, that can now be contacted as needed using the TranslationNotifications extension (see also Translator communication below).

Translator communication[edit]


  • Communication with translators was mostly done in two ways: using the mailing list translators-l and personal outreach by those who oversee the translation to individuals who have helped before.
  • For the 2011 Fundraiser we decided to take a different approach – Peter Gehres made a sign up page, and we advertised it using CentralNotice in order to recruit translators for the fundraiser in a systematic way. When users signed up, they specified which languages they could translate into, and gave their usernames and e-mail addresses. This gave us a database of 1100 translators that we could sort by language. So for the first time, if we needed something translated into a certain language, we could target only the translators who knew that language, and ask them for help. This system was, however, separate from MediaWiki – we were using a custom form made by Peter to register the translators, and were using SugarCRM to contact them.


  • Recognizing the need to organize translators in a more efficient way, WMF's internationalization team developed a new extension called TranslationNotifications that ties in with the Translate extension.
  • This extension introduces a sign up page where users can choose which languages they want to translate into, where they want to be contacted and how often they want to be contacted.
  • It also lets translation administrators use a special page to ask translators to help translate a given page. Just like with the SugarCRM system, this allows the translation administrator to choose to only notify certain languages, and set a priority and deadline for the translation.

Meta translation requests[edit]


  • The page where translation requests were listed used an automatic system of including the translation requests dynamically. This system was quite confusing, as it was hard to tell exactly how to put a page onto it.


  • Translation requests have been changed to a more manual system. While this introduces one more step when marking a page for translation, it gives the translation administrator full control over what is listed on the page, in what order, and with as much additional information for translators as he/she wants (whereas the old system only listed the page's name).
  • Another page was created to fill an existing void, namely the page to request a new translation. This lets users who need translations but are not familiar with the Translate extension, or otherwise need assistance, to ask for help from more experienced users in putting a page up for translation.


  • We ran a CentralNotice campaign in July to recruit translators, which led to more than 1200 translators (live stats) signed up for more than 100 different languages.
  • The first page we used the TranslationNotification system on in a large scale was the page Wikimedia Highlights, June 2012. Within the first week after it was put up for translation, it had 21 translations that were 100 % complete, and another 19 translations that were started (of whom 10 were more than 50 % complete). To compare, the May highlights, which were annonced on Translators-l like usual, had 9 translations in total (8 complete).
  • The translation committee is being revived with calls for volunteers on translators-l and wikimedia-l, in order to have several active volunteers involved with translation administration on Meta, helping translators and requesters with whatever needs they have.