Learning patterns/Materials in their own language

Materials in their own language
problemTo get the most out of an event, people need to understand what they hear and what they read.
solutionMake sure that the instructions and other materials you use to advertise and conduct your event are written in a language that your audience is familiar with.
created on21 October, 2013

Wikipedia is first and foremost an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language.
— Jimmy Wales.

What problem does this solve?


Whether you are conducting an outreach campaign or advertising an event, keep in mind that people may be able to speak non-native languages better than they can read or write them. This can be a problem if the materials you use for your outreach campaign or event are written in a language in which some of your participants are verbally fluent in, but not literate.

In some case it could be the opoposite. For languages studied in many countries, like English, Spanish or French, people could read better than speaking or writing. We have to decide what is our target and audience, which languages could they speak and which resources we have to translate.[1]

What is the solution?


Make sure that you provide copies of all necessary materials -including directions and instructions, conference programs, handouts, surveys and email newsletters- in languages that the people you are trying to reach can read and understand.

General considerations

  • If you have contact information (such as email addresses from a Chapter member list) for your potential participants, you might send them a quick, anonymous survey and ask them to indicate which languages they are able to read and write (not just speak).
  • Some times you will not be able to translate to some languages. Yo have different options:
    • Asking for help to people who speak that language, for instance at the embassy or village pump at their Wikipedia. Provide the documentation in a lingua franca to be translated and create the struture of pages to do the work easily to the volunteers.
    • Looking for a lingua franca, like English. This is not the best option, but it is better than nothing.
    • Using an authomatic translation tool. Not recommended for printed documents, but useful for messages on Wikipedia, meta, Wikimedia Commons, mailing lists, etc. But inform that you used that.[1]
  • In case your project uses a web site, provide at least the basic information in more languages, and all the information in the languages most spoken. The more languages you use, more users you could reach. Keep in mind that it could not be necessary a translation of all pages of the web site, because you'll need to update them. Consider which resources you have (volunteers, time, knowledge) and value your effort versus the results. An international contest like Wiki Loves Monuments or Wiki Loves Earth, or a multilingual challenge on meta, could be good examples of that.[1]





See also

  • Localization guideline goes through instructions for updating existing brochures and materials with translated text and local examples. It contains valuable information about using material in print and online and shares helpful tips for printing.
  • Inspiring and thought-provoking panel discussion from Wikimania 2021: English as a lingua franca of the Wikimedia movement: how do we ensure people's inclusion?