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How To: Using Wikipedia to translate difficult terms

May 25, 2008 – 4:02 am

Sometimes we come across a very specific word which is not in our dictionary. We need a translation anyway. So what can we do? Wikipedia rescues us, at least in many cases. This How To is written for the English -> Chinese translation, however it can be applied for almost any language to other language translation, as long as these languages are part of wikipedia.

Step by Step guide

In this case we attempt a translation from English to Chinese.

  1. Think of a word You know in English. In this case we attempt to translate Penicillin, which is an antibiotic.
  2. Look it up in wikipedia
  3. Then have a look at the right sidebar. A little down there is a category called Languages. There are all languages listed that feature an article about the same topic. While the content of the article might be different, that is a sure-fire way to translate a word into another language, in our example into Chinese. Now click on 中文 (Chinese).
  4. An article appears in Chinese, on the top in bold is the word we were looking for in Chinese.

Here is an image to illustrate where to click:


Finally the result, here is where to look for the translation:

the result

Remember, You can always use a tool like Chinese Pera Kun to get the pronouncation. You can also translate the whole website by a translation service offered by many large Websites like Google. However these translations are often rather bad and I don’t recommend them.

As stated before, this translation with the help of wikipedia can be done in many languages and with many words. It’s a really nice tool once Your dictionary runs out of helpful translations.  Apart from looking up words, I can always recommend to learn foreign languages. I compiled a list of 16 effective language learning methods to get You started.

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  1. 18 Responses to “How To: Using Wikipedia to translate difficult terms”

  2. MDBG ist auch ganz nett: Beispiel


    By kozen on May 26, 2008

  3. Yeah, except that Chinese wikipedia is blocked. Nice try.

    By Vern on May 27, 2008

  4. @Vern
    Don’t worry about the Chinese censors. Just use a proxy, for example:

    By Hendrik on May 28, 2008

  5. Yes, I use it all the time as a professional translator.

    By mokarider on May 28, 2008

  6. mdbg is OK. 我想喝啤酒.

    By justrecently on Jun 6, 2008

  7. Also some good sites for Chinese to English translation are:


    By youcantry on Aug 20, 2008

  8. There is a website built especially to do what you described here and it’s automatic:

    It connects to Wikipedia via the WikiMedia API and displays results instantaneously.

    By Grzegorz Bober on Sep 21, 2010

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