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Multilingual Edit-a-thon: Spanish writers sprechen Deutsch in Wikipedia

Two countries (Spain and Germany), two languages (Spanish and German), three universities (Complutense, Münster, and Regensburg), 66 translators, and 103 new entries by Spanish writers and creators on Wikipedia. These are the figures of the Edit-a-thon that took place on 29 June, sponsored by the Spain as Guest of Honour Project at the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Directorate General for Books and the Promotion of Reading of the Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Isabel García Adánez, translator and professor of German Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid, coordinated the wikimarathon, another name for these events, where several people meet to edit and improve together with a specific topic or group of Wikipedia articles. I’m a lousy runner of real marathons,” she says, “although I’m a bit more of a tabletop runner, even though I’d never heard of an Edit-a-thon before. This (initially crazy) idea has exceeded my expectations”.

On the morning of the 29th, the coordinator and a group of “editors-philologists-translators” met at the Complutense University of Madrid to complete a work that started over a year ago, in the framework of the road to Frankfurt and with the aim of flooding the German Wikipedia with our #SpillingCreativity.

The UCM’s Faculty of Philology and the Department of German, the largest in Spain with almost 30 professors, launched this project to increase the visibility of Spanish authors on Wikipedia.de. “We were not quite sure how to do it, nor the volume we could reach, and we were a little afraid of ‘excluding’ important names (although they all are),” explains García Adánez. “Little by little, concepts and limits became clearer, and two things became clear to us. One: it had to be a collective work that involves several people, or we would not achieve the objective of incorporating a good number of authors in a relatively short time. Two: the Faculty of Philology and our German department, which has many contacts with German universities, were the key”.

For this task, rather than editors, what was needed were German translators who liked Spanish literature and who were going to enjoy the work and do it well. From there, the idea emerged. We would bring together the departments of Hispanic Philology of some German universities with which the Complutense has a close relationship and involve their professors and students. Regensburg and Münster were immediately infected by the enthusiasm of the Spanish team.

The first step was to draw up a list of the names of the National and Cervantes Prize winners in recent years, along with other prestigious awards. Authors whose work is translated into German on the eve of the Fair, largely thanks to grants from Acción Cultural Española and the Ministry of Culture, and the authors invited to Frankfurt who did not appear on Wikipedia.de. Some of them did not even have an entry in the Spanish Wikipedia – especially the younger ones, illustrators, or children’s writers – and the aim was also to fix these shortcomings.

For months, teachers and students have been working with this list. In total, we have compiled 88 new entries for the German Wikipedia, 15 of which previously needed an entry in the Spanish version,” explains the coordinator. The process consisted of reviewing those that already existed in Spanish, expanding and updating them if necessary, and, in coordination with the universities, having the students who participated take charge of the translation, as well as checking which of them had their work published in German”, she concludes.

The 88+15, neatly classified in a folder, waited patiently for the Edit-a-thon on 29 June, the day set for the massive file upload. In the Faculty of Philology, besides the coordinator and the volunteers, professors Kilian Stockmeier, Sofía Katsikis, and scholarship recipients Alejandro Muñoz Aporta, Agustín Pérez Baanante, and Sandra Agejas Rubén Ojeda, head of projects at Wikipedia Spain, were there to help with this enormous task. “A process – as Isabel García Adánez points out – much more complex than we thought. The criteria set by Wikipedia for the articles that are uploaded is very rigorous and specific”.

Since that day, thanks to his efforts and teamwork with the German universities of Regensburg and Münster, authors such as Marta SanzLuis García MonteroRosa MonteroJuan MayorgaEsther PaniaguaKiko Amat… and so on up to 88 sprechen Deutsch in Wikipedia.

Elvira Marco, the curator of the Spain Guest of Honour project at the Frankfurt Book Fair, also wanted to be part of this multilingual Edit-a-thon: “After more than a year of work, the main objective, which is to build bridges between universities through culture, has been achieved,” she concluded with satisfaction.