Saturday, 27 August 2016

Wikiproject Translation Studies: how to get involved

There is a long tradition among academics of treating Wikipedia with caution, or even disdain. Many of us don’t allow students to use it as a reference for academic essays. At the same time it’s very widely used by translators (see e.g. Alonso 2015), and it’s thus part of our role as trainers to teach students how to use it in their practice. Wikipedia has a translation interface and associated translation projects (see e.g. Panigrahi 2014) and the relevance of this aspect of Wikipedia for both research and training is increasingly evident (Ronen et al. 2014, McDonough Dolmaya 2014, 2015).

Academics use Wikipedia to different extents in their work (see Aibar et al. 2015). I know I use it a lot as a quick point of reference. Of course, it has to be taken with the appropriate pinch of salt. But whatever our relationship with Wikipedia, we must recognize that it is an important resource used by specialists and non-specialists across all subjects and disciplines all over the world. It is therefore relevant for us as scholars to consider what information Wikipedia holds about translation and Translation Studies. Other disciplines and scholarly associations are already doing this (see e.g. Ridge 2013; Hodson 2015; Machefert 2015; Whysel 2015).

Some of the initiatives already in progress seek to improve the visibility of less-studied and less-chronicled issues, for example female scientists or alternative perspectives on the First World War. Other initiatives seek to encourage greater diversity among Wikipedia editors (see e.g. Wexelbaum et al. 2015). Such initiatives speak to central Translation Studies concerns, which include increasing the visibility of translators as well as improving public understanding of translation and interpreting practices.

Translation Studies researchers who look at TS-related pages may have noted problems with some content. The Translation page, for instance, covers a huge range of phenomena, some of which are key concepts in their own right; not all of these have pages of their own. I was very surprised to find that ‘literary translation’ is not a heading in Wikipedia, for instance; it's just a sub-section on the translation page. Literary translation is a very specialized and separate area of translation, with different professional associations, different requirements, different norms and often different practitioners, so the creation of separate entries for this seems very desirable. The only language in which there seems to be a separate entry for literary translation at the moment is Spanish. Many bibliographical references for TS content are outdated, and links may be broken. While some important Translation Studies scholars have pages on Wikipedia, many others do not. Some pages are available in very few languages. Quality of entries is variable, and there are lots of stubs.

The European Society for Translation Studies set up an initiative, led by Dr Esther Torres Simón, Dr David Orrego Carmona and yours truly, to see what could be done to improve Translation Studies content. We ran two editing events in June 2015 and January 2016 to gauge interest, and created or edited a number of articles (for a sample, see James S. Holmes in English and Spanish; Indirect Translation; Retranslation). Further work was done on the main Translation Studies entry. See here for a list of articles created so far.

This work culminated in the setting up of the Wikiproject: Translation Studies in spring 2016. Participation in the project is warmly welcomed from anybody with an interest in improving the quality of Translation Studies content in any language. This may involve anything from proofreading and error correction to translating content to adding of new sections or indeed new entries. It may also include groundwork such as tagging articles which are of interest to the project.

This will inevitably be an incremental process. Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced environment where many different users negotiate their understanding of subject matter, so this is an initiative that is likely to take time. Anybody with an interest in taking part in the project, from experienced Wikipedians to newbies, is invited to contact me (you can find my email address here).

We are running a third Editathon to coincide with the 2016 EST Congress at Aarhus from 14 to 17 September 2016. A training event before the Congress on 14 September will be followed by three days of editing with support for on- and offsite editors. Expressions of interest in participating in this Editathon can be sent to me by email or you can signup via the event page here, any time before the event). For catering purposes, anyone wishing to attend the training event in Aarhus on 14 September should notify us by 11 September (extended deadline).

Aibar, Eduard, Josep Lladós-Masllorens, Antoni Meseguer-Artola, Julià Minguillón, Maura Lerga. 2015. Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it. The Electronic Library (33)4: 668-683. Online at
Alonso, Elisa. 2015. Analysing the use and perception of Wikipedia in the professional context of translation. Journal of Specialised Translation 23. Online at
Evans, Siân, Jacqueline Mabey and Michael Mandiberg. 2015. Editing for Equality: The Outcomes of the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thons. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 34(2): 194-203
Fahmy, Sarah. 2012. Rewriting History: The JISC/ Wikipedia World War One Editathon [blog post], July 2. Online at
Hodson, Richard. 2015. Wikipedians reach out to academics. Nature (7 September 2015), doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18313
McDonough Dolmaya, 2014. Analyzing the Crowdsourcing Model and Its Impact on Public Perceptions of Translation. The Translator 18(2): 167-191
McDonough Dolmaya, 2015. Revision History: Translation Trends in Wikipedia. Translation Studies 8(1): 16-34. Online at (open access at time of writing)
Machefert, Sylvain. 2015. Improving the articles about modern art in Wikipedia: a partnership between Wikimédia France and the Pompidou Centre. Art Libraries Journal 40: 34-40. doi:10.1017/S030747220000033X.
Panigrahi, Subhashish. 2014. Doctors and Translators Are Working Together to Bridge Wikipedia's Medical Language Gap. Online at, 27 July
Ridge, Mia. 2013. New Challenges in Digital History: Sharing Women's History on Wikipedia (March 23, 2013).Women's History in the Digital World. Paper 37. [conference paper] Online at
Ronen, Shahar, Bruno Gonçalves, Kevin Z. Hu, Alessandro Vespignani, Steven Pinker and César A. Hidalgo. 2014. Links that speak: The global language network and its association with global fame.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(52): E5616.
Thomas, Amber. 2012. 21st-century Scholarship and Wikipedia. Ariadne 70. Online at
Whysel, Noreen. 2015. Information Architecture in Wikipedia. Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology 41(5): 26-33 Online at
Wexelbaum, Rachel S.; Herzog, Katie; and Rasberry, Lane. 2015. Queering Wikipedia. Library Faculty Publications. Paper 49. Online at
Yong, Ed. 2012. Edit-a-thon gets women scientists into Wikipedia. Nature News, Oct 22, 2012. Online at

N.B. This post is an extended version of a piece signed by Carol O'Sullivan, Esther Torres Simón and David Orrego Carmona which originally appeared in the newsletter of the European Society for Translation Studies.

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