I wonder how the community feels about:

  • Allowing question about English but written in languages other than English?
  • Allowing translations to (but not from) English?

I ask because EL&U is almost the only language proposal that excluded those kinds of questions. The other language that have made it far on Area51 often allow translation questions and questions in other languages (sometimes only English, at other times more than just English).

I suspect that it's because of a bias in Stack Exchange's population. Most users who will visit Area51 will be fluent in English, on top of their own native language and thus unusually accepting or interested of those kinds of questions. I surmise the userbase of EL&U is likely to be more representative of how monolingual users stand on this question, which is why I'm curious of your answer.

So, I ask, how would you feel about allowing those type of questions?

  • 3
    Again, it seems as though people were voting this question down merely because they wanted to answer "no": what the heck is wrong with this question? It is a fine question. At least I am glad that this abuse of the voting function is not personal, because it seems Borror is appreciated on this website, as opposed to another user who got weird down-votes on his legitimate question. Feb 20, 2011 at 3:52
  • On a side note, Borror's somewhat similar question, as referred to in his Question above, got 12 up-votes and a star. And two good answers. Feb 20, 2011 at 3:59
  • 5
    @Cerberus: Downvotes on meta means you disagree. I'm not surprised that this got so many downvotes. I asked because I wanted to be sure that it would be unpopular.
    – Borror0
    Feb 20, 2011 at 5:18
  • 1
    @Dori: Ah I see, that explains it then. Thanks for the link; Shog's "The rules are different because Meta is... kinda misusing the SO engine" is what confused me. Even so, what impression does this make on newcomers? (I, apparently a newcomer, expected that the asker should add an answer and that this answer should get the downvotes...) Might not this practice put some people off? P.S. I knew it couldn't have been personal with Borror, because I sort of know him. Feb 20, 2011 at 5:38
  • +1 Most people seems to not realize that English is a derivative from other languages and rather very recent one inseparable from its roots and can't be discussed in isolation from other cultures and languages Feb 20, 2011 at 7:40
  • 4
    I must say I'm tempted to reject your premise that "the userbase of EL&U is likely to be more representative of how monolingual users stand on this question". There are extremely many non-native or bilingual speakers here, especially among the top users. Looking just through the top 100, I see native speakers of Italian, Hungarian, Turkish, Hindi, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew...
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 20, 2011 at 14:35
  • @RegDwight: It's true the population of bilinguals and non-native speakers here is sizable, but it's at least 50% lower than the 100% from Area51. Hence the use of "more likely."
    – Borror0
    Feb 20, 2011 at 17:06

4 Answers 4


While I hate to appear to be discouraging foreign languages anywhere, I have to say I would discourage them in English.SE. I say this knowing full well that I've responded to questions in a user's own native language in an effort to clarify a concept. But the point is, the user asked the question in English and the answers were almost entirely in English.

If we were to permit questions entirely in other languages, we would have to rename this site Babel.SE. This is, and I hope will remain, English.SE; and if that presents a problem for some people, I hope they will start their own SE sites: Polish-English.SE, Russian-English.SE, French-English.SE — hell, even Boston-English.SE or ValleyGirl-English.SE. Whatever.

We already bend over backwards to accommodate non-native speakers, provided they demonstrate a sincere desire to learn and make an attempt to communicate in the language they are trying to acquire. I don't see what more we can do without changing the essential nature of this site.

  • 4
    I think the best way to handle translation requests is with a free-for-all translation site, with tags to sort out the from- and to- languages, and with English as the lingua franca. area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/4306/translation
    – Marthaª
    Feb 21, 2011 at 3:58
  • 2
    Thank you so much for bending over backwards for all us non-native (English) speakers. The condescension I see displayed to "non-native speakers" by a small clique of "native speakers"/high-rep users(?) is what put me off this site, which is a shame since I was quite enjoying visiting it the first month I was here:-(
    – Tragicomic
    Feb 23, 2011 at 13:38
  • 1
    @Tragicomic: Well, no good deed goes unpunished. I'm not sure whether your misapprehension is deliberate or accidental, but it was not my intention to condescend. If you don't want the help of native speakers, and only care what non-native speakers think about the language, then good luck to you, wherever you go.
    – Robusto
    Feb 23, 2011 at 13:51
  • 1
    Upon reading my comment again, I see that it was sarcastic, and I apologize about that. I agree with you that questions on English.SE should be in English. Nor do I only care what non-native speakers think about the language. I just don't like the tone of the last paragraph of your answer (the bending over backwards etc.) I've just read some answers you've given to one of the users on this site, and I don't think you seem to mind bending over backwards.. :-)
    – Tragicomic
    Feb 23, 2011 at 16:44

No to asking questions in other languages (other proposals usually allow that proposal's language and English as a lingua franca of Stack Exchange Network; this obviously doesn't apply with ELU).

Yes to allowing translation to English questions. I'd really like to get a statement from the powers that be on this one; could we start allowing translation question to English? It would make things more consistent. It does seem unfair to me that on other language proposals, you are allowed to ask translation questions, but not on ELU.

  • 1
    The SE framework allows the community to define and maintain whatever local cultural norms a particular site has. It is possible to allow translation questions to English, but I personally don't think it would match the current culture; any such question would be localized or of-topic because it requires minimum competency in both the source language and English (just like asking questions in non-English requires).
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 0:35
  • Yes but that's what we're going to be allowing on other SE sites. Those who can't translate the phrase to English aren't obliged to answer the question.
    – Jez
    Jun 7, 2011 at 8:10
  • I understand the "non-obligation" point, but even so, the questions will be too localized (only interesting useful to a very small minority if at all). Is the proposal to allow questions from -any language to English? That would swamp this site. I am basically supporting exactly what Robusto answered.
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 14:35
  • That is the proposal for the other language sites. I disagree that they would swamp the site.
    – Jez
    Jun 7, 2011 at 14:55
  • Like Robusto, I don't care for discouraging legitimate things like translation between languages. dict.leo.org is centered on German, but English is considered well known enough to be a lingua franca there, so in say the German-Spanish section, discussinos can take place multilingually with German/English/Spansih, but French in that area would just be weird. For the proposed SE sites for 'anything to Y' translation, as much as I'd like to see it work, I think it'll have troubles.
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 15:15
  • @Jez: Actually following that logic, the one site that would have the best chance at making it because of numbers would be 'anything to English' as proposed. Now the question is whether to do that here or to have a separate site.
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 15:18
  • @Mitch Check out how the German beta is going. There's the odd translation-to-German question but I don't think it's swamping the site. stackoverflow.com receives orders of magnitude more questions.
    – Jez
    Jun 7, 2011 at 15:25
  • @Jez: OK I think you convinced me, to your answer (no to questions in anything but English, but OK to allow translation to English of any other source language snippet. But now I think it'll still be difficult to convince others here (meta or main).
    – Mitch
    Jun 7, 2011 at 15:36

FWIW, this is our policy as it stands now:


  • 2
    Jeff, this policy seems to apply to non-language sites. It makes sense that questions on German Language & Usage can be asked in German.
    – Jez
    Jun 6, 2011 at 9:00
  • @jez NEIN! NEIN! Jun 6, 2011 at 9:46

I feel freaking bad (if to put it mildly) and try to prove me otherwise hoping that this is correct answer.

And the rationale unders this is quite twisted since my question on Russian proverb was just closed but on English (American) saying or phrasal colloquial usage or meaning of a phrase taken from an American novel was just plainly deleted

  • 7
    I would add a comment, but as you are write-only, you could not read it.
    – apaderno
    Feb 20, 2011 at 14:15

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