Wikistipend/Swahili Wiktionary translations

Fra Wikimedia Norge

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Paying a translator to improve Swahili on Wiktionary
Sammendrag av prosjektet


  • 1. juli 2022


  • 31. august 2022


  • 8000

opprettet 20. mai 2022


Wiktionary is an open, collaborative dictionary part of the Wikimedia family. While some languages are well represented, other languages, especially African languages, are very incomplete. I believe that paying professional translators to improve neglected languages is a viable approach to improve Wiktionary and create more open content. I'm seeking a grant to test this approach by paying a professional translator to improve Wiktionary for Swahili.

There are many tasks that a professional translator (or linguist) could work on, including:

  • Providing translations from the target language (TL, in this case Swahili) to English
  • Providing translations from English to TL. (English entries have translation sections, listing different meanings of the word.)
  • Adding etymologies
  • Verifying existing entries

I asked around and as far as I can tell nobody has been paid to work on Wiktionary. Therefore, this project is an initial experiment to determine whether the approach of paying a professional translator is viable and what needs to be considered. I hope the lessons learned will be of interest to the wider Wiktionary and Wikimedia community. If this experiment is successful, I will seek more funding from other sources to improve more languages.

The focus of this initial experiment will be on:

  • Translating missing Swahili words. (I have a list of over 8,000 words)
  • Verifying existing entries
  • Finding out how much time the work takes (to assess feasibility and cost of future work)
  • Finding out what tools are needed. (The translator would likely edit a spreadsheet, with a bot syncing the info to Wiktionary)

8,000 NOK would likely be enough to pay a professional translator in Tanzania for 2-3 weeks, so substantial progress can be made. (My coordination effort is purely voluntary.)

Why Swahili?

Swahili is the most common Bantu language. There are over 100 million speakers. It is an official language in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The African Union and East African Community have adopted Swahili. There are some efforts to establish Swahili as a pan-African language.

While Wiktionary has several thousand entries for Swahili, it is still quite incomplete.

Why pay someone?

Wikimedia projects generally rely on volunteers. This makes sense for Wikipedia where bias due to paid editing is a problem. However, this is not a concern with a dictionary -- there are specific attestation criteria that need to be followed before adding words and their meanings.

Relying on volunteers comes with certain limitations; people in developing countries don't have as much spare time as those in richer nations and they might also not have the equipment (computer, Internet, etc). (The main contributors to Swahili on Wiktionary are in fact not from Africa!)

Paying professional translators to improve and verify entries on Wiktionary is completely in line with the mission to develop content under a free license.

Why Wikimedia Norge?

There is no grant program in Kenya or Tanzania. The Wikimedia Foundation itself generally doesn't fund paid editing.

This proposal is in line with Wikimedia Norge's mission to "make knowledge free and accessible to everyone".


  • I have a list of Swahili words that are missing on Wiktionary
  • Find a professional translator
  • Ask them to translate Swahili words to English
  • Do some quality control on new entries
  • Sync spreadsheet to Wiktionary
  • Find out more about the process:
    • How much time does it take?
    • What pitfalls are there?
    • What tooling is required?
    • Any other considerations?
  • Write a report with the lessons learned