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Submissions/Multilingual Wikimedia Commons - What can we do about it

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2013.

Presentation Media

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission

Multilingual Wikimedia Commons - What can we do about it?

Type of submission


Author of the submission

Niklas Laxström and Amir Aharoni

Country of origin

Finland and Israel


Wikimedia Foundation

E-mail address

nlaxstrom@wikimedia.org and aaharoni@wikimedia.org


User:Nikerabbit and User:Amire80

Personal homepage or blog

Categories, templates, documentation, images, gadgets, banners, interface. Language selection, internationalization and translation. What can we do from technical perspective to make Commons truly multilingual. What can we already do with existing tools like Translate and Universal Language Selector. What is blocking us from using them. What issues need new solutions to be developed and what are the issues that we developers are not aware of yet?

Detailed proposal

Commons isn't truly multilingual yet – that's easy to agree on. For many years, the community has had to rely on hacks and obscure MediaWiki edge cases to provide some multilingualism: it's about time we start supporting it with more proper tools.

Hosted files are already in all languages, but TranslateSVG, when polished and enabled, will make it easy to translate vector graphs: it's an example of a tool developed by a volunteer on top of Translate. In this talk we'll show what the other tools can already expect from the Translate extension features and what the community could build on top of it, for translation of templates, image descriptions, categories and other metadata. Similarly, we'll show what features the Universal Language Selector offers, and how can other scripts live with it or exploit it to provide even more.

How do we make the search properly return results based on categories, interwikis and other multilingual information on files?

In the last part you can participate in by rising issues, providing ideas for the next steps and getting your hands dirty.

Background information. All the following is mostly covered by other presentations on Translate and ULS (for 2012, see wm2012:Category:Wikimania submissions relating to languages); it's assumed known, and will only be briefly mentioned.

MediaWiki hasn't been that good at supporting multilingualism inside one wiki – multilingual projects have always had separate instances for each content language. Multilingualism has been limited to the feature that each user can change their own interface language - and even that is not fully working.

The new Wikidata wiki is also multilingual, though a lot different from Wikimedia Commons. It however shows that multilingual wikis are possible. Support for multilingualism starts from the very beginning: users should be able to easily choose a language; fonts and input methods need to be provided to some users. Only quite recently the latter became possible thanks to the Universal Language Selector extension developed by the Wikimedia Foundation Language Engineering Team. Universal Language Selector is already in use at several Wikimedia projects, but there are technical hurdles left before it can fully replace the existing Narayam and Webfonts extensions to provide basic language features to everyone, including users that have not registered an account.

Universal Language Selector is only a start. The interface must also be translatable and the actual translations need to be made. MediaWiki has always excelled in this, especially thanks to translatewiki.net and thousands of translators. This however broke when Gadgets were introduced. Gadgets neither have i18n framework nor a way or place to localise them. One more reason to eagerly wait for central gadgets repository.


Technology and Infrastructure

Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Language of presentation/talk


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  1. Siebrand (talk) 10:58, 18 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Danny B.
  3. Saintfevrier (talk) 00:05, 22 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Pginer (talk) 12:35, 11 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Letartean (talk) 17:46, 15 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Slashme (talk) 17:59, 7 April 2013 (UTC) I'm particularly interested in TranslateSVG.[reply]
  7. Yarl 10:17, 9 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  8. عباد ديرانية (talk) 13:40, 10 April 2013 (UTC).[reply]
  9. Phoebe (talk) 02:09, 11 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  10. Jdforrester (talk) 11:26, 12 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Béria Lima msg 17:21, 18 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  12. Daniel Mietchen (talk) 23:02, 22 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  13. CT Cooper · talk 00:05, 29 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
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  19. Runa Bhattacharjee (talk) 05:21, 6 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
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  21. Ijon (talk) 02:52, 16 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  22. Vera (talk) 20:30, 4 August 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  23. --Dvdgmz (talk) 15:15, 5 August 2013 (UTC)[reply]