Caveats--Where should/shouldn't you contribute where your language skills are weakBewurkje
On your native language projectBewurkje
You'd be surprised how many foreign language entries need obvious correction.
Does the part of speech match the translation? There are lots of these. Some people out there think "otherwise" is a noun. And I suspect some foreign language speakers don't know the English grammar terms off the top of their heads and get confused. Correct the entries. Consider creating templates to help them. Here, if I enter -conjunction- I get -bynwurd-. Kewl huh? Giving the users here the reverse courtesy is on my to-do list.
You've just barely started learning a language but something just looks funny? Download a spell-checker in the foreign language for your browser. (For firefox many here: http://ftp.services.openoffice.org/pub/OpenOffice.org/contrib/dictionaries/ A Frysk one here: http://www.bouwebrouwer.nl/varia/fryske_staveringshifker_foar_firefox_en_thunderbird.html.) Does it flag one letter off? A quick google search, or wikipedia search! can be enlightening. It will show you the term in context so you can reality check. If it's a word prominent enough to have a whole article, see that list on the left? Click English and voilà! Translation in big bold letters right at the top! ;-)
On foreign language projects: know your audienceBewurkje
What's the purpose of the project?Bewurkje
Different wiki communities have different norms.
Some smaller communities aggressively seek content. They appreciate your good faith effort. They're happy to accept your submissions in less than perfect condition, since it's easier than creating content from scratch. They're gracious when you do your best and tack a "Help! Please clean this up for me!" in the discussion page. Somebody will eventually clean up grammar, translate interspersed English words, have a giggle while fixing words that are just plain wrong, and ask about or simply delete the occasional sentence that makes no sense whatsoever.
OTOH, a primary purpose of some smaller wikis is cultural identity. They're as concerned with other goals, for example, preserving an endangered language, as much as amassing content, if not moreso. Users on these sites often share fluency in one or more languages in addition to the project's language. There are few if any users who can read content in only the project's language. Since they don't really need your contributions for that purpose, we can't expect them to be as grateful for sloppy content as those who do.
For want of a better term, I affectionately call these latter sites "boutique sites."
How can you gauge a given wiki's receptiveness (or desperation)?Bewurkje
When I create an id on a new language project, I try to put xx-0 in my babel box right away. Twice I've gotten a clueful welcome that noticed my entry and responded appropriately, making specific suggestions of how an English speaker could contribute.
If you don't get a welcome, take a look around before you post something you're not sure of. Google on xx.wikyy.org for 'help English welcome contribution foreign language' yada yada. See if you turn up any express or implied policies, or pages written with you in mind in particular! E.g., courtesy of the exceptionally gracious Croatians: http://hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedija:Kafi%C4%87/Foreign_languages and Dutch http://nl.wiktionary.org/wiki/WikiWoordenboek:Welcome_to_our_foreign_guests.
Also check the blocked/banned/deletion logs. Most projects have 2-4 mods with bad attitudes. Take a quick look and see if language purity, form over function, etc., might be one of the bugs up their arse.
Specific contribution typesBewurkje
Porting templates that require no native language content should always be OK, even on the boutique sites. If the template uses standard wiki language like "Template" and "User," in most projects, the standard English terms will work just as well as the native. For example, my Frisian user discussion page is http://fy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meidogger_oerlis:Snakesteuben. But if you go to my English discussion page and just replace the "en" with "fy" this gets you there, too. http://fy.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Snakesteuben.
But try to go one better when you can. If you're inserting a link, set your display language to the language of the project, open the page you want, and see what the native word is. If you're offering functionality, navigate to a similar menu choice on the site, and grab the verbiage from there the best you can. The "all system messages" templates can be a goldmine for stock phrases in any project's language.
At very least you should do this for the menus. An example: (complex template draft in progress) http://fy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meidogger:Snakesteuben/berjocht/ut/checkuser
(Disclaimer, I do know some Frisian. But I could have constructed the menu part even if I didn't.)
Hints for creating rudimentary content in a language with which you are unfamiliarBewurkje
I speak virtually no Croatian.
(I'll explain later how I used two similar entries and the links and articles linked in those entries to construct these.)
The Babel template pt-1 did not exist on the Croatian project. Creating the template using an example from another language was simple enough. But as you know, Babel templates link articles on the subject language. I just couldn't leave those redlinks in something I created, y'know?
So, I examined similar templates and followed their links.
(to be continued)
FAQ: (Ultra quickie version)Bewurkje
Q: Why would anyone in her right mind do this?
A: I am in no way saying that what the question presupposes is true, but...
In my case it's mainly templates and links. Stuff like: Porting a template to a new project, particularly where redlinks show users trying to use that template where it doesn't exist. Tweaking tiny errors in ported/untested templates. Adding helpful InterWikimedia links, e.g., to the English language version of the same page if it's missing in the polyglot pane, etc., enz, itd/итд, etc., usw, o.s.v, itp., ...