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I have come across a few questions that were asked by non-native English speaking developers who have asked questions that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Basically the questions asked is an answer for why something 'is this way' and not why 'does my code not work'. I feel these developers are trying to reach the collective knowledge of stackoverflow for an answer they cannot articulate. In an ideal world all questions would be translated in all languages so the best person could provide the most expert answer. But with localization stackoverflow would segment awesome questions and answers based on where you live depriving all users of stackoverflow.

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What exactly are you asking, or proposing? – Michael Petrotta Mar 9 '12 at 5:56
So as I understand it is planned to add localization to stackoverflow. This would segment questions and answers based on locals. What I am asking is would this segmentation actually dilute the quality of questions and answers since it is not reaching a greater user base thus minimizing the number of people that can provide answers and increasing the number of duplicate questions that could be asked. – Clay3981 Mar 9 '12 at 6:11
How about if we make people pass a literacy test in order to be able to ask their question? That would keep our quality up and prevent its dilution. If they fail, we could refer them to English Language & Usage. – Cody Gray Mar 9 '12 at 6:35
@CodyGray: I think we already have that. It's called the Low Quality filter. "Your question could not be submitted because it does not meet the quality standards." – Robert Harvey Mar 9 '12 at 6:59
@CodyGray I am actually arguing the opposite. Code is code, all locales should be able to access answers from everywhere even if questions can be interpreted in different ways based on language barriers. Answers should be accepted based on the questioner. Minimizing the amount of users that can answer the question seems like a negative to the site. Also as a side note, I find your comment slightly offensive. – Clay3981 Mar 9 '12 at 7:07
In the first place, we definitely want our standards to stay high in terms of quality, but this is and should be a site where anyone who is willing to put effort into it, can get a good answer. If you ask a good question, with good documentation, but you unintentionally add a little "Engrish", we'll forgive that, and jump on the chance to help you out (not to mention get 2 rep. points). :) So, if we can balance high quality, and avoid shunning those who are not extremely articulate with English, we will maintain the greatness of SO. – SamStar Mar 9 '12 at 11:58
There are area51 proposals for SO in other languages. – CodesInChaos Mar 9 '12 at 13:36
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's a small leap to take Metcalfe's law from devices to people; sites in the SOFU trilogy are awesome in large part because someone is an expert on every question. (No, not Jon Skeet.) Area51 recognizes that the size of a social network is immensely important in forming a self-sustaining community, and thus requires enough users to commit to the site as a way to gauge if it can become a viable community.

English is, for better or worse, the Lingua Franca of programming for the time being, and asking programming questions in English is going to expose the question to the largest possible audience.

If the sites are fragmented in SO-English, SO-German, SO-Russian, SO-French, SO-Indo-Aryan, SO-Dravidian, etc., will any one of them be large enough to claim the experts necessary to become generally useful enough to become the go-to programming site for that language? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm skeptical.

But another part of what makes SO great is the high quality standards we hold. We expect questions to have sufficient details to be answerable. We expect a certain amount of research when asking questions. We expect answers to be more than vague guesses. Answers that explain are held in very high regard. If you take away the community that enforces (or at least encourages) these standards, you might not get these same quality levels in the smaller communities.

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It's an unfortunate fact of life that language is sometimes a barrier to communication. The best we can reasonably do is to:

  • remember that not all SO users are native English speakers

  • try to help out when it's obvious that langauge is an issue: help fix spelling and grammar, try to understand the intent behind the words, and edit when you think you can improve the question without changing the intent

  • ask for clarification if you're having trouble understanding

  • don't be too quick to vote to close when language is the issue; give the OP time to explain

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