Thoughts on Multilingualism

One valuable thing to do in support of making Wikipedia a truly multilingual enterprise is to include (or at least provide references to) the original-language version of titles, names, etc., whenever possible.

For example:

  • In an English-language article about the Reign of Terror, it is much more useful to have a the first reference to Robespierre's faction refer to the "The Mountain (Fr. Montagne)" than just "The Mountain."
  • This seems to me particularly critical with book titles, especially when the English-language title is not a literal translation of the original. For example, the title of Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares's screenplay Los Orilleros is only loosely translated into English as Hoodlums. It is certainly useful to provide both English and Spanish language titles in an English-language article.
  • For longer quotations, it can be most useful just to cite appropriate original language sources.

This may be of little importance to monolingual English-speakers reading the article, but can be of enormous help to:

  • people translating the article into a third language or - particularly critical - into the original language of the title, name, or term.
  • people who are not native English speakers, but are turning to the English-language wikipedia because it is the most comprehensive.
  • native English speakers who might be more familiar with a particular topic (such as the French Revolution) by reading in a language other than English.