Alternative Language Linking: Please Take Care
by jorisdelft

For just over a year ODP editors have been able to make links to alternative languages, commonly known as altlang links. They provide three benefits:

What's the problem?

Altlang links have become one of the main topics in the World/General forum and in many World request threads. We see a lot of requests to add them, which is of course a good thing in the growth of the directory, but also requests to remove or reorganize them.

Unlike much editing, creating and correcting altlang links can only be done in a cooperative way. No editor knows all ODP languages. An editor who doesn't know a language can only copy the links that have been made or suggested previously by other editors. We have to trust that these other editors made the right choice.

Example: There are Turkish and Chinese communities in the Netherlands who would benefit from altlang links to their languages. So a World/Nederlands editor, usually not familiar with the two languages, might want to copy the (not yet existing) altlang links to Chinese_Traditional or Türkçe from Recreation/Pets/Fish_and_Aquaria and paste them into the altlang links for World/Nederlands/Recreatie/Huisdieren/Vissen_en_Aquariums . In this case he needs to be able to rely on the fact that the links point to an equivalent of Fish_and_Aquaria, perhaps Fish if that implicitly includes aquarium sites, but not to something different like Aquaria_and_Terraria.

We now see that poor altlang links are copied throughout the directory, and since only a limited number of editors are able to judge whether a specific link is appropriate or not, they are removed with some difficulty and at a relatively slow pace. Therefore I suggest to think twice before making an altlang link and also to think at least once before you copy a link from another category.

Which altlang links are right?

Appropriate use of altlang links is defined by the the guidelines: "It is acceptable for an English language category to include links to a corresponding World category." In forum threads this word 'corresponding' has been defined as:

equivalent, in the sense that the other language can altlanglink back.

In other words, only use an altlang link if a reciprocal link is possible. If a category in another language is related but not corresponding, please use a related category link. The official guidelines assume that you will do this, but don't yet say so explicitly.

What should I consider before making an altlang link to a category?

What are common problems with altlang links?

A. Altlang links between a regional subcategory or a category in Regional/ and a related World category.

Example: Recreation: Outdoors: Camping: Campgrounds: Europe: Netherlands (a regional subcategory) used to have an altlang link to World: Nederlands: Recreatie: Openlucht: Kamperen: Campings which contains campground sites in Dutch, including campgrounds outside the Netherlands. An altlang link back leads directly to the mother category Recreation: Outdoors: Camping: Campgrounds . In this case, it was solved by making an altlang link to a daughter category; without this daughter category, the altlang link should have been removed, or changed to a related category link.

B. Altlang links to a broader or narrower topic in a different language, due to differences in classification.

Example: Some languages used to have separate categories for Computers: Programming: Languages: C and for C++, but others had a combined C_and_C++ category. So it happened that both the categories C and C++ altlanglinked to C_and_C++, which could not altlanglink back to both of them. In this case, it has been solved by creating separate C and C++ categories in most languages.

Such examples can also be found at a larger scale, for instance when a Recreation: Food category has an altlang link to a category in a another language which combines Recreation: Food and Business: Industries: Food and Related Products .

C. Altlang links to a category which at a first glance looks similar, but has in fact a different topic.

Example: Sports: Running: Road Running: Marathon used to have an altlang link to World: Nederlands: Sport: Schaatsen: Marathon , which is about marathon skating, not running.

D. Reorganizations (catmv's or renames) lead to a change in the topic, so that the altlang links to and from the category become non-corresponding, but the altlang links are not removed or updated.

E. Links to related, but not corresponding, categories in different languages are added as altlang links because editors don't like the look of related category links, especially for languages with different encodings.

Some tools for altlanglinking

The Tower of Babel by sfromis ( ) provides a weekly review of:

The Worldlinkerator by rpfuller ( ) provides a real-time overview of altlang links from a category, including recursive searching. For editalls it provides the means to update altlang links to several languages at once. It replaces the set of altlang links in the given language.

The Alternate languages tool by namig ( ) provides an easy way to copy the altlang links from another category, without having to copy and paste the URLs one by one.

Who Links to Me by theseeker ( ) provides an overview of links, including altlang links, for a category.

Test: World: Languages serves as a documentation center for altlang links and threads on altlanglinking.


I'd like to thank editors hstyri and sfromis for their helpful suggestions.

- jorisdelft

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