Critical issues presentations/Polyglotery and Wikimedia projects

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Submission no. 141
Title of the submission

Polyglotery and Wikimedia projects

Author of the submission
  • Nikolaos Papadimoulis
Country of origin



other, Outreach

  • Multiculturalism
  • Bilingual
  • Multilingual
  • Polyglot
  • Wikimedia

This talk aims to systematize my multiannual experience both in contributing to Wikimedia projects and learning languages at the same time. I believe that these two factors are directly realed to each other: I will try to share my experience about how it works and what we can learn from it.

According to a study the number of contributions of multiligual users of Wikimedia projects is significantly higher than the monolingual. That is quite obvious for someone who comes from a non-English speaking country, being bilingual or multilingual himself.

I invoke my experience as an example on the topic: I started contributing initially to Wikipedia as a language learner. I needed to find easy written texts, in the original, for languages I was learning then (Russian & Esperanto). I was fluent enough in English and had an ample knowledge of French. I contributed through translating texts, mostly from English, Russian and Esperanto towards Greek.

It was the easiest way then to contribute. Today is even easier, thanks to Content Translation, because usually somebody else has done the research before (and you just have to pick a good article). But translations are not an easy way of contributing for everybody, as they are time consuming, demand high level of fluency and many issues arise all the time with nitty gritty things, even if you'are translating towards your mother language. Most of the articles I wrote in Greek, Esperanto, and some in English Wikipedia so far are translations. Various levels of fluency in my set of languages permited me to write directly in a language, or to translate towards my mother tongue.

Since then I have studied much more languages and improved substantially the ones that I consider that I am fluent in today. Although, in principle, any translation software is insufficient in terms of creating a smooth and accurate translation. Humans are indispensable so far.

This collateral effect (studying languages and practicing them by contributing in Wikipedia) is not something that happens as part of any Education programm. Language learners don't have to get convinced to contribute. I am just confident that people who love to learn languages, also love to learn in general and that's what brought them in Wikimedia projects in the first place. I am almost convinced that the correlation among these two factors have not been sufficiently analyzed and evalutated so far. Or has been analyzed only when one of the language pairs is a major language (English, German, Russian, etc).

The backbone of my talk are some of the most important lessons I have learned both as an 'addicted' polyglot and an 8 year contributor to Wikimedia projects :

  • Polyglotery and Wikimedia projects: A general approach
  • What we know so far from studies and what we don't. Is the information that we are missing crucial?
  • I will try to answer why polyglots contribute more. Do they also contribute better?
  • What can we learn from language learning?
  • Translation: An underestimated capacity for everybody, but not for all.
  • Thinking about the bi/polyglot's needs: What is done. What has to be done (tools, tweaking Mediawiki and Mediawiki Interface, etc)

The conclusion of my talk: Bilinguals and multilinguals contributions are invaluable. We still don't have an accurate figure of their impact. We need more accurate and specific studies on multi/bilinguals behaviour also on smaller Wikimedia wikis


Not accepted