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Proposal:More multi dialect wikis

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This proposal is associated with the bolded strategic priorities below.

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership.
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation.
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation.


Cater for multiple dialects/language versions within the same pedia, with flags or alphabet icons to allow users to choose which dialect they wish to read or edit in. This would enable us to cater for more dialects and more effectively for some we currently cater for.


We have a routine in Chinese Wikipedia that ZhengZhu wrote which allows one Chinese Wikipedia to display in either traditional or simplified Chinese, and also regional word conversion. The system has subsequently been used to allow Serbian editors to choose whether to read the Serbian pedia in either Cyrillic or Latin script.[1] Currently, the feature is also used in Kazakh, Kurdish and Tajik languages and being proposed for portuguese Wikipedia.

I suggest we use that software to defork some of our other wikis and to cater for multidialect languages on wikis that are currently hybrids.

We can also give users the option of preferring kilometres or miles, kilos or lbs, AD or CE eras, centigrade or Fahrenheit. With a bit of work and some complex longterm currency conversion tables we could even let them choose the currency they prefer stuff in.

How the software works

The language conversion system is very simple, it's just a table of translated pairs, where the longest match takes precedence. The translation table in one direction (e.g. UK -> US) can be different to the table in the other direction (US -> UK). You would not list "ize-> ise", you would list every word in the dictionary with an -ize ending that can be translated to -ise without controversy. The current software could handle 50k pairs or so without serious performance problems, and it could be extended and optimised to allow millions of pairs if there was a need for that.

It's possible to handle any pair of languages which are separated only by vocabulary, transliteration or spelling. It's only differences in grammar, such as word order, that would give it trouble.[2]


The wisdom of crowds works best when you have a crowd - we could merge some smaller pedias where the languages are close enough to map them. It would also give editors access to more articles, and users access to information in the dialect they prefer.

Our readership in the USA is a lower proportion of that population than in Canada, Australia or the UK, this could be related to Americans being uncomfortable and unfamiliar with English as opposed to American English. Enabling them to display an American English version of Wikipedia by clicking a US flag icon might increase the number of our US wikipedians. It would also prevent the large numbers of good faith newbies who start their wiki careers shifting spelling from one version of English to another.

Key Questions

Which differing pedias could we merge using this software?

Are there dialects that we don't currently support but could support as views of existing wikis?

  • Portugese (pt), Brazilian (pt-br) and Galician (gl)
  • English (en) and US English (en-us)
  • Malay (ms) and Indonesian (id)
  • Serbian (sr), Croatian (hr), Bosnian (bs) and Montenegrin (no ISO 639-1 code)

Apart from wikipedias are there other wikis that this would work for such as perhaps commons?

Potential Costs

Hopefully minor as software exists, though rules would need setting. Might actually save money if we can consolidate some different wikis as views of the same wiki.


  1. Andrew Lih, The Wikipedia Revolution page 152 - Hyperion ISBN 978-1-4013-0371-6
  2. Tim Starling, explanation as to how this word work for US/GB differences

Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:More multi dialect wikis.

Further reading

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. Vapmachado 18:20, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
  2. Owain.davies
  3. WereSpielChequers 09:05, 16 July 2010 (UTC)
  4. .. Sign your name here!