Blog memes in translation

I discovered today that my post Templatology, an essay was partially translated, commented-on and adapted to the situation of the Spanish Wikipedia, by Drini: Templatología (versión eswiki). Even the screenshots are of the Spanish Wikipedia! Now that’s nice. :)

That we can have this kind of “cross-stream” communication between the different flavours of Planet Wikimedia (currently ar, en, de, pl, pt, ru and zh) is really lovely. (…eh! there is no Spanish one yet. Is there only Drini, then?)

The idea of learning from one another (as in the various wiki communities), while widely agreed to be a good one, is not often seen in practice. It has not worked well on meta or mailing lists. I wonder if it has a chance in the blogosphere? It will likely suffer from the same problem as in other venues – bilingual people have better things to do than constantly translate for lazy bloody monolinguals! :)

Wiki borrowing, on the other hand, is widespread (userboxes are like a virulent virus — Template:Userbox lists no less than eight interwiki links (and likely more that are unlinked exist). The concept gets borrowed, but I wonder if fall-out from the original conflict is absorbed, dully repeated, or not even an issue. Probably all three situations exist, for different kinds of borrowing.

Translation is such a fascinating practice. I wonder if sometimes skilled bilingual speakers get tired of being treated as translation engines. I suppose they can stick to a monolingual community if it is too annoying.

At its worst, the task of translation can be dull and mechanical — I have seen known mistakes faithfully transcribed, rather than corrected in the original (and yes, on a wiki!) — but at its best it is a seamless, creative and thoughtful work of art, no less effort than creating the original and sometimes, maybe more effort. For functional type text that I usually deal with (help texts), it tends closer to the mechanical than creative.

One of my favourite things about Wikimedia Commons is that it is multilingual — or rather, tries to be. It is really a joyful thing when you create a help text, for example, and notice translations spring up from unknown souls, unbidden. It is a small thing that usually no one asked the writer to do, and usually no one thanked them when it was complete. To see such a red link turn blue reminds me that I am part of a diverse world-wide community committed to the Wikimedia mission. Such reminders are heartening and make it easier to assess petty and unimportant issues for what they are.

If you are bilingual and are interested in regularly, or irregularly, summarising or translating content from one of the non-English Wikimedia planets, please leave a comment or contact me – I would love to help set up a blog for that, or have such posts on my own blog.

26 March, 2008 • , ,



There is a spanish planet wikimedia, but it’s hosted somewhere else:

Drini · 27. March 2008, 11:39

Elsewhere on the web...

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