[Wikipedia-l] Languages

Delirium delirium at rufus.d2g.com
Mon Aug 25 20:19:03 UTC 2003

Merritt L. Perkins wrote:

> What language should be used in the Encyclopedia? The English language 
> used in the UK and other parts of the world differs from that used in 
> North America. Translating an encyclopedia into another language is an 
> overwhelming project. It should be done by someone who translates it 
> into his native language. One approach might be to follow each 
> paragraph in English by the paragraph translated into the other 
> language. This could be tried out gradually, adding more and more of 
> an article and then starting on a few other articles
This brings up two separate points I think: one is which dialect of a 
language to use (where multiple exist), and the other is how to deal 
with actually different languages.

Taking the second point first, the way we deal with this is to have 
separate encyclopedias.  This can be supplemented by translating from 
each other (and in fact anyone who is fluent in more than one language 
is greatly encouraged to do so), but may also simply be original content 
provided by a native speaker of that language.  Currently these are 
located at xx.wikipedia.org, where xx is a 2-letter language code (for 
example, de.wikipedia.org for the German-language Wikipedia).  Keeping 
all the languages in sync would ideally be nice, but in practice is 
nearly impossible.

As for the first point, the English-language Wikipedia solves this by 
for the most part not caring whether you use British or American 
English.  Articles specifically about one or the other country generally 
are encouraged to use that dialect (for example, American English for 
the article on [[George Washington]], and British English for the 
article on [[England]]), but for most articles either is okay.  The 
policy is generally to let the author of the article use whichever they 
wish, and then to keep subsequent additions in the same dialect.  Some 
effort is also made to avoid particularly provincial idiom and slang; 
thus most Americanisms that would only be understood by an American are 
avoided if possible, as are the Gaelic-influenced idioms of 
Hiberno-English and anything particular to Australian idiom.  As not 
everyone realizes what's provincial, this is generally enforced by 
someone from a different region saying on the talk page "I have no idea 
what this sentence means," after which it is usually rephrased in a more 
generally understood manner (or explained further in parentheses).

I do not know how other languages with dialects handle the issue.  
Perhaps someone from the French Wikipedia can comment on how that 
encyclopedia handles French as spoken in France versus French as spoken 
in Quebec; or someone from the Spanish Wikipedia might be able to 
comment on Spanish as spoken in Spain versus Spanish as spoken in the 

> It takes too long to read a long Encyclopedia entry while connected to 
> the Internet so there should be a way to copy it so that it can be 
> read later.
> It seems like a great idea to record the encyclopedia on a CD but by 
> the time we can make a copy (an hour) it would be out of date. When a 
> prominent person dies his article needs to be changed, when a 
> government changes or a building is destroyed the encyclopedia needs 
> to be updated.
This is a difficult problem.  If the people in question have access to 
computers, but not access to the internet, a CD is really the only 
option I can think of.  An alternate option for a computer that has 
intermittent internet access would be to set up a system of incremental 
updates, whereby the contents of the Wikipedia are downloading for local 
viewing, and periodically updated by re-downloading the articles changed 
since the last update.  For computers on a slow connection, the local 
archive might be jump-started by an initial CD version, so only updates 
need to be downloaded from the internet.  Such a system has not yet been 
developed, to my knowledge, partly because it's unknown how much of a 
demand there might be for it (and partly simply because nobody's written 

If it's a small number of articles, a solution is always to print them 
out for reading at a later time, or copying the text to a file on a 
computer hard drive.


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