Wikipedia access and contribution: Language choice in multilingual communities . A case study

Joan Soler-Adillon, Pere Freixa


This paper presents a study on language use in both accessing and contributing to Wikipedia in a context were users were expected to be able to read and write in at least three languages (Catalan, Spanish and English). Seventy-seven first-year audiovisual communication students made contributions to Wikipedia as part of the assessed work in the firstyear course titled “Digital Culture.” Before and after writing Wikipedia articles, the students responded to two questionnaires that enquired about their language-related habits when using the site and about their language choice for contributing to it. The results show how some interesting facts and patterns appear between the languages known and used in editing. Students favor the English edition of Wikipedia when consulting it despite the fact that this is the language they assess themselves as being less proficient at in reading. More generally, our research shows that multilingual Wikipedia users move seamlessly from one language edition to another, thus refuting the cliché that relates minority languages with exclusively local and self-referential topics. In relation to this, it brings to light some correlations between the students’ identification with either one or two main languages, and how this influenced both their choice of language in editing Wikipedia articles and the specific topics they decided to write about. Additionally, the study also offers relevant insight on what drives students to engage with such a task up to the point of making extra contributions to make sure their contributions might reach a larger audience.


multilingualism; linguistic choice; Internet; information; competence; university; students; literacy; digital culture; Wikipedia

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