Wikimedia Product Guidance/Translations

The Wikimedia movement serves a global audience and supports projects in nearly 300 languages. Having information available for volunteer translators to localize and disseminate is crucial to spreading important information about Wikimedia Foundation product and engineering work. Proposals and updates can be marked for translation, and assistance can then be requested directly from translators. This can create a network of users helping to spread information and gather feedback for products and projects. Additionally, there is a mailing list for volunteer technical ambassadors to gather information that needs distributing to communities.

There are two types of translations:

  • full text translations, alias Translating documentation or communications
  • interface translations

Getting translationsEdit

Translations are primarily obtained in four ways: automated messaging on-wiki from marking a page from translation, emailing the translators' mailing list, one-to-one requests, or system messages translated through Of these four methods, sending an email to the translators' mailing list or contacting an individual for a request are generally the most common way to ask for translations. Messaging through the translate extension requires a user right, and is not a Wikimedia project.

Translating documentation or communicationsEdit


  • If a target audience is not English-speaking, translations should be made into the appropriate language (or languages) when feasible. Not all messages will be able to be translated into every appropriate language.
  • If the target audience is international, the English must remain simple with short and understandable sentences, both to facilitate translation and reach as many non-native English speakers as possible when no translations are provided. Wikimedians are rather culturally sensitive and they tend to dislike messaging that sounds too "US-centric", for example (overuse of positive superlatives), so this is something to bear in mind and account for.

How to create pages or messages that can be translatedEdit

Video tutorial on how to use the translate extension; you may also check out a Wikimedia Hackathon 2018 class on the subject.

Considerations about these translationsEdit

  • Provide space for translators to write their own version of the message. If there is information to be communicated, consider providing translators with all the information that they need to compose their own messages rather than limiting them to a direct translation. This gives a personal touch to the message, ensures that the meaning is correctly conveyed, and allows for flexibility in language that might be difficult otherwise.
  • Provide context to translators, by defining a glossary of the main terms. That glossary will help translators to create accurate translations.
  • Reduce translation fatigue. Volunteers tire of translating a constant stream of communications and system messages. Request translations only when necessary. Re-use the exact language of previous messages when possible.
  • Marking a page for translation makes the page more difficult to update. Consider providing updates that need translation in pieces, and create main information pages knowing that extensive updates to the page may create additional work for everyone due to how the translation extension works.
  • Long or complicated pages are difficult to translate. Make all messages that need translation as short and simple as possible for the information contained.

Distributing translationsEdit

Announcements and calls for feedback are generally distributed through mailing lists as well as on-wiki. Unfortunately, major movement mailing lists are predominantly in English and do not support distributing translations very well, if at all. Additionally, far fewer people read mailing lists than the wikis. On-wiki messaging is the way to deliver new as well as updated information to the wider international audience of users.

Translating interfacesEdit

About TranslatewikiEdit is a separate wiki. It is designed for translating the user interface—i.e. the buttons that say "Edit" or "History", the error messages you see if something doesn't work—not for policy pages or messages that you want to post. However, it is also a useful place for finding people who might be willing to translate other documents for you. is not run by the Wikimedia Foundation, but some staff have major involvement in it (such as Niklas from the Language team). Wikimedia SULs do not work there, so all users, including Foundation staff members, have to register a new account and apply for permissions before they can work on translations. It can take some time for new account requests to be processed, so requests need to be made as early as possible. For some work, it may be more efficient to ask someone who already has an approved account. See the FAQ for more information.

  • Check Translatewiki
  • lists languages and shows activity levels of translators at a glance. Click on the language you need in the word cloud, or scroll down the page, to get a list of all translators who have done work in that language. The color coding shows how recently the translator has been active (green = good, red=more than six months ago). Being inactive at Translatewiki doesn't mean that the person is inactive in their community. Many translators use the same name on Wikimedia Foundation projects as they do at, and you may be able to reach an "inactive" translator by looking for the user in the Wikimedia projects.
  • You can select the group of messages and the language you are interested in to find out who worked on them before. Then click "Export for off-line translation" and "Fetch". A .po document will appear (you can open it in your browser or in a text editor). Users you are looking for are called Authors at the beginning of that document.

See alsoEdit