Helana Fola and Mina Saber are students of French Literature at Ain Shams University in Cairo, and neither had given much thought about contributing to Wikipedia or doing translations until they enrolled in Dr. Hoda Abaza’s French course in spring 2012. Dr. Hoda had signed up to participate in the Cairo Pilot of the Wikipedia Education Program, and was encouraging her students to translate high-quality articles from the French Wikipedia into the Arabic Wikipedia.
“When I learned that I would write content for the Arabic Wikipedia, I was scared,” Helana says. “How will I write information that’s will be readen by millions?”
Helana didn’t want to translate articles from the French Wikipedia; she wanted to improve content about the Arab world on the Arabic Wikipedia. So Helana created the article on the Arabic Wikipedia events of 2011 in Egypt . She revised the article over and over, and with input from Wikipedia Ambassadors and other Arabic Wikipedia editors, she brought the article up to a Featured Article status on the Arabic Wikipedia.
“My favorite part about writing for Wikipedia is that I learned something new that’s useful to me and to my community,” Helana says. She’s also working on an article that had the chronology of the January 25 revolution in Egypt and has signed up to continue helping new students in the Wikipedia Education Program as an Ambassador in Cairo.
Mina has also discovered translation skills from the Wikipedia assignment in Dr. Hoda’s class. He chose to translate and expand the article on the 2012 French presidential election (French original) (Arabic version).
“I was interested to know about the election and the political parties in France,” Mina says. “Dr. Hoda gave me the idea and I wrote the article using a lot of French newspapers and French Wikipedia articles as reference.”
Mina really enjoyed working on Wikipedia, and he was looking for his next topic to work on when tragedy struck the Ain Shams campus. Dr. Alaa Fayez, the president of Ain Shams, died in a car accident, and Mina decided he would write the article about him on the Arabic Wikipedia. Mina followed that by translating a Featured Article from the French Wikipedia about the history of Jews in Germany.
“My translation skills have improved, as have my knowledge and performance,” Mina says of the Wikipedia assignment. “My favorite part was having a new experience writing long articles on Wikipedia and seeing the page view statistics.”
Like Helana, Mina is now serving as a Wikipedia Ambassador to help new students learn how to edit Wikipedia in the next term of the Wikipedia Education Program. He credits Dr. Hoda and the Ambassadors, especially Faris El-Gwely, with helping him discover a passion for editing Wikipedia.
“I really liked the Wikipedia program, and I am happy we were given the opportunity to participate in this project,” Helana says.
LiAnna Davis, Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager