Last modified on 26 May 2014, at 03:55

Best practices for reaching out to projects in multiple languages

Wikimedia projects are massively multilingual. There are many people who would want to do outreach, but find foreign letters and words very intimidating. This page tries to provide some tips for doing it without fear and getting good results.


  • Putting a message in English in the Village pump will often not work. Quite often it will be a waste of time. It may be easy to write a boilerplate message to a village pump, but if you need a reply and nobody reacts, it's pointless.
  • There may be projects in which few people, or nobody at all knows English. Try to find somebody who can communicate with them in their language. It may be Spanish and Portuguese for Native American languages, French for African languages, Russian for languages of Russia, etc. Don't give up just because people don't know English. You can check this list of fallback languages to find out the vehicular language you'll want to use.
  • Even if people know English, they will often ignore a message in English, especially if it's long and looks like boilerplate.
  • Follow m:Global message delivery/Instructions instructions for body when they apply.
  • The project's village pump as linked on the distribution list, or the embassy/Main page talk/community portal when no distribution target is known, is the easiest destination of messages.

Be specificEdit

Another reason why village pumps and mailing list are often useless is that not everybody looks at them, so you still rely on someone to forward the message to its actual consumers. On each wiki, there might be a single person maintaining the thing you want to communicate about, be it a gadget or a community process or whatever.

On big wikis, village pumps tend to be too long, only a very small minority of editors looks at them; on smaller wikis, it's the same with the additional problem that English announcements often bury all the rest and specific competencies may be held by users who are most active elsewhere and check the wiki sporadically. On big wikis people necessarily use watchlist and namespace filters to recent changes to keep track of discussions they're interested to, and on small wikis RecentChanges will sometimes suffice to alert most active users.

Think what sort of people you want to reach and what are the places where you're most likely to reach them, in a month from now in the recent changes/watchlist or in the future if they look for that specific information.

  • Successful examples from real experiences: File_talk:Wiki.png for logos; MediaWiki_talk:Common.css for outdated CSS styles for diffs; the talk page of an optional system message recently introduced for local customization; the talk page of MediaWiki:(Common|Monobook|Vector).js containing deprecated methods.
  • Possible examples: talk page of a system message which changed behaviour; talk page of MediaWiki:<skin>.(js|css) for specific communications about that skin; MediaWiki_talk:Spamblacklist for the SpamBlacklist extension; the talk page of the localised Help:Contents for help pages; specific maintenance WikiProjects if existing in enough wikis; ...

Getting personalEdit

  • Try to find a person to speak to. If you invest a few minutes in finding a person and reaching out to that person directly, and that person replies, then you invested your time well.
  • Try to look for people who reply in the Village pump.
  • Try to look for people who reply in Talk:Main page.
  • Try to look for people who reply at the embassy.
  • Try to find people who speak the target language by browsing w:en:Category:Wikipedians by language and the corresponding categories in other languages.
  • Try to find people who edited recently, using Special:RecentChanges and editor statistics (example: en.source).

Simple technicalitiesEdit

  • Change your interface language to whatever is convenient for you. Goto Special:Preferences and choose your language in the list of languages. It's a dropdown menu in the middle of the pages. Of course, this will only change the interface and not the content, but it already will make navigation and editing easier.
  • English names of special pages work in all languages. For example, Special:Preferences, Special:RecentChanges, Special:Watchlist etc. The same goes for namespace names, such as "Category:", "Talk:" and "Template:". Instead of "Wikipedia:", use "Project:" - using "Wikipedia:" may be quirky.
  • Wikimedia projects use ISO 639 codes to indicate languages. Learn at least some of them.

Right-to-left languagesEdit

  • If you try to write in English or in any other left-to-right language on a talk page, an embassy or a village pump in a wiki that is written in a right-to-left alphabet, such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Hebrew or Divehi, your text will be aligned strangely. This problem may have a nicer fix in the Visual Editor days. In the meantime, use the following trick to fix this:

<div class="mw-content-ltr">
Hi, sorry for writing in English. I am pleased to inform you that MediaWiki version 1.22 will be installed on your project next week. --your signature, date
:Thank you for this information. --signature, date

Writing in EnglishEdit

Ideally, of course, you will want to post in the language of the project. However, this is often not feasible, especially when posting a global message across many projects. In that case, it is customary to introduce the message with a brief apology and an invitation to translate the message. To prevent this from appearing on projects whose language is actually English, you can enclose it in the following code:

{{subst:#ifeq:{{subst:CONTENTLANG}}|en||Apologies for writing in English ...}}

(Note that this code regards Commons as an English-language project and will prevent the "Apologies.." message from appearing there as well, even though Commons also has some non-English village pumps.)

Translate in place, or translate on Meta?Edit

You might ask: should I link "please consider translating it" to a meta page where people share translations? or do people translate in-place?

Answer: For short messages (less than about 100 words), they translate in-place, and if you need longer things translated, you should post a short version and link to a "please translate this" longer version on meta: see a good example.
Longer answer: people translate in-place, although it is a problem that translations are not shared across projects in one language, so sometimes there are duplicate efforts (say, one translation on Wikipedia, another on Wikisource in the same language). But there is no way around that if you want to display the translated version on the local village pump itself instead of another wiki, such as Meta. What is often done is to post a short message linking to a longer one on meta, which is then translated.

See alsoEdit