Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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Improve Your English, Edit a Wikipedia Page!

A few months ago I gave my students in Argentina a project and I think it worked very well.  We took the English Wikipedia page of the local city, Gualeguaychú, and we improved it.

How did the students do this?

My students looked at the Wikipedia article in the original language (Spanish) and then used this information to improve the English version.  Here is a comparison between the original Spanish and the English article before the students started the project.  As you can see the English article is MUCH smaller.

We copied the English article into Google Docs, shared the document with everybody and then the students started to work on building and improving the article.

Here is what they achieved.

As you can see, the English article is still shorter than the Spanish but it has significantly more information than it had.  This is okay, the English article doesn’t need to be as big as the original Spanish.

Click here to get higher resolution pictures of the Spanish, the old English article and the new English article.

What has this project done?
  • The students worked together, learning from each other and improving each other’s English.
  • The students have improved their vocabulary and their translation skills.
  • The students have helped to advertise their home town.
See the Wikipedia pages here: Gualeguaychú (English) and Gualeguaychú (Spanish)

The Rules

If you want to improve your English with some friends or classmates then I think this type of project is a great way to do it.  However, if you want a project to succeed then you need to have rules.  These are the rules that we had.
  1. Try to use the original Wikipedia article (if it exists) as a guide to help you build the English article but don’t worry if they are not exact translations.  Remember, good translations are often not exact translations.
  2. Very Important - Don’t be afraid to make corrections of paragraphs that other people have written.  This is a collaborative piece of work.
  3. Don’t invent information - everything in the article must be fact, not fiction.
  4. You are not allowed to talk about personal opinions - these will be removed by Wikipedia.
  5. Only do as much work as you want to do.  When it stops being fun, take a break!
  6. If you are going to add photos, they need to be your photos or photos which are not copyright.  Copyrighted images cannot be used on Wikipedia.
  7. Set a deadline and stick to it!  Give the project a week or a month.  Any more time than this will cause people to lose motivation.  At the end of the project deadline, take your work in Google Docs and update the Wikipedia page.  The article doesn't need to be perfect at the end - you can always continue to edit and improve it on Wikipedia.

Writing about your hometown is a good topic.  Other topics you could work on might be famous local people (actors, authors, poets) or famous local people from history (inventors, military people, authors, etc.), maybe events in local history, or local buildings of historic significance.  If you don’t like history then you could important areas in the area (parks, theatres, museums, etc.).  Wikipedia doesn’t need to be your only source of information for your English article, if you do start doing some research you might learn something new about where you live.

Let me know how it goes!


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