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Recently, I came across a couple of posts whose English grated on me:

Need to get my object into a subclass had "RUBY: gotta get my object into a subclass, getting closer" (emphasis added) as its title, and Braces in regexp for ruby sub-method block had "I wanna get aaa and bbb in ruby block for sub method" (emphasis added).

Personally speaking, "gotta" and "wanna" annoy me because they sound so babyish.

On the former, I merely informed the OP not to use "gotta", rather than criticize them for using that word, as the OP came from a country which doesn't universally speak English. Likewise, the second question is asked by a person from a non-English-speaking country.

I have a prejudice that people who use bad English tend to ask bad questions or give bad answers, but that's a partially separate issue.

My question is: does "English only" (ie no non-English Stack Overflows, because English is the lingua franca of programming) mean that more questions are asked in less-than-optimal English than there would be if there were non-English Stack Overflows? If so, is it something that people who care about English will have to put up with in return for a more unified programming community?

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I would bet that more native English speakers use "gotta" and "wanna" than non-native English speakers. "Gotta" and "wanna" are usually frowned upon by your teacher when learning English as a second language. Maybe we should make native English speakers write in a language other than English, since familiarity breeds contempt, and it leads to the problem you describe. –  Peter Ajtai Oct 16 '11 at 23:18
@PeterAjtai: The only post actually answering the yes/no part of my question is a comment! In response to your plausible hypothesis, I did a search of questions with wanna, and excluding one that had "wanna-be", I got: 1 questioner from India, 1 questioner from Russia, 1 from Canada, 1 from Germany, and 6 questioners who didn't fill in their location. I'd have to look at whether that's because there's lots of people from India, Russia, etc. on the site, and get a much larger sample, for it to mean anything though. –  Andrew Grimm Oct 16 '11 at 23:37
Did ya hafta post this –  bobobobo Oct 17 '11 at 12:14
What's the question here? –  Won't Oct 17 '11 at 13:02
@Won’t: Does "English only" mean more questions are in bad English than there would be otherwise? –  Andrew Grimm Oct 17 '11 at 21:20
With time everyone in the world will learn better english. In one or two generations everyone will speak it with sufficient quality. Until then I'm afraid English SEs will suffer a bit from lost-in-translation-syndrome. –  Trilarion Jul 10 at 11:39

3 Answers 3

Just edit those questions.

And I'm not sure why you aim this at non-native speakers of English. There are plenty of people who have English as a first language who can barely string together a decent question.

As for grating English: where do you stop? People using contractions? People using idioms? People using idiom that has a different modern meaning than originally? (See, for example, "steep learning curve" to mean "hard to learn" when it originally meant "easy to learn".) How about semi-random comma use?

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"There are plenty of people who have English as a first language who can barely string together a decent question." - yes, but these people don't belong on Stack Overflow. I'm happy to downvote such posts. –  Andrew Grimm Oct 16 '11 at 22:55
The day someone downvotes a post on SO because of a wrong comma I'll happily switch to another language SO. Oh, wait, this day probably already happened... –  Trilarion Jul 10 at 11:38
  1. The fact that gotta and wanna annoy you won't get fixed by a multilingual Stack Overflow. While many people may frown upon the usage of those two words, it's still correct English. Both words even appear in the dictionaries. And I doubt that anybody would be willing to go as far as forbidding them on Stack Overflow...

    Also, there's a lot of non-native English speakers out there (I'm one of them) that started using terms like gotta because they saw native English speakers do so in the first place.

  2. If it was allowed to post a question in German or Spanish (and I understand and write both languages quite a bit better than English), I would still do it in English. Why? Because writing in English will allow the vast majority of the community to understand and answer my question.

    After all, one of the great things about the Stack Overflow community is its size. Splitting up the community would stomp all over that. And it still wouldn't keep me out...

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I agree with you on everything except that those two words are "correct". They may be acceptable in certain informal situations, but they are not proper English. –  jonsca Oct 17 '11 at 2:48
"Gotta" and "wanna" are definitely not proper English, and they have no place in professional communication. –  meagar Oct 17 '11 at 2:54
@jonsca: I never said that those words were proper English. The Oxford dictionary classifies gotta and wanna as informal, so their use on a site like Stack Overflow is probably inappropriate. I agree with that. But they do appear in the dictionary, so it's still correct... –  Dennis Oct 17 '11 at 10:55
They may be considered correct as words, but grammatically, they are not correct conjugations of "to have to" and "to want to". Anyway, again, I agree with your main point, so it's not worth arguing over the semantics of it all! :) –  jonsca Oct 17 '11 at 11:01

There are already non-English stackoverflows, such as the russian clone and there was a chinese clone (not sure what happened to it).

Officially supported multi-language? That sounds like it would be a cool idea, but it ultimately fragments the information base, which I don't like.

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