Submissions:2014/Language Issues and Commons

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Title of the submission
Language Issues and Commons
Themes (Proposal Themes - Community, Tech, Outreach, GLAM, Education)

Community, Outreach, Education

Type of submission (Presentation Types - Panel, Workshop, Presentation, etc)


Author of the submission

Jon Liechty

E-mail address



US state or country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)

New York Society for Ethical Culture

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

There are now more than 20 million files on Wikimedia Commons. Many do not have descriptions that tell even a little bit about what they have in them; few are described in more than one language, and even fewer in more than two or three. This puts users whose preferred language is not English at a serious disadvantage. While some of the files have been used in Wikipedias of other languages, and have captions in those languages, those captions are not available on Commons.

For some languages there are additional roadblocks. Bangla, for instance, uses a non-Roman alphabet, which means that in order to type it properly special software has to be downloaded and installed. This is now much easier than in the past, but it is still necessary, and for some operating systems and languages can still be opaque.

In order to have any hope of improving the situation, more people need to get involved in the work of providing descriptions in languages other than English. This requires both reaching out to people in diverse linguistic communities to encourage their involvement, and convincing English speakers who are familiar with other languages, even at a fairly limited level, to make use of what they do know. Two words describing the subject of a picture are considerably more than zero, as long as they are reasonably accurate. It could also involve encouraging people who do not yet know more than one language to study an additional one. Wikipedia and its companion projects provide an excellent set of language-learning tools, but in order to be helpful they have to be recognized as such and used for that purpose.

This workshop/seminar would be an opportunity for those who are doing language work on Commons to connect, discuss what works for them, and develop ideas for additional outreach. It would also serve to familiarize those working on other Wikimedia projects with the situation, possibly allowing work done on one project to be more directly useful to other projects.

Length of presentation/talk (see Presentation Types for lengths of different presentation types)
75 Minutes
Will you attend WikiConference USA if your submission is not accepted?


Slides or further information (optional)
Special request as to time of presentations

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  1. Rhododendrites (talk) 21:17, 9 April 2014 (EDT)
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