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The only example I know of someone doing this is myself, in an edit I made to a question earlier today. I made an edit to the post to clarify some of it, and then later made a second edit translating the relevant parts of the error message into English. The second edit is still waiting for peer review, but thinking more about this I wanted to make sure I was not out of order.

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True. In the question in question (ah, English) most of the post was in English, albeit with typos, so I presumed that the user understood at least a fair amount. Apparently while I was typing this the previous comment was deleted. Hmm. – Ricardo Altamirano Jun 14 '12 at 21:23
Please don't translate unexpected T_PAAMAYIM_NEKUDOTAYIM :P Us PHP developers had to learn WTF that meant and you'll only make it harder if you change it – Ben Brocka Jun 14 '12 at 21:33
(That is the honest to crap Unexpected Scope Resolution Operator error message in default English PHP installs, by the way) – Ben Brocka Jun 14 '12 at 21:40
Ah, unexpected T variable errors. Quite a good time. – Ricardo Altamirano Jun 15 '12 at 1:27
up vote 9 down vote accepted

In general, if you see non-English content, edit away. I would be very wary in case of error messages, though: much can hinge on how exactly they are put; also, your free-form translation may not turn up anything on Google, while the original will.

Translate system messages only if you know what you are doing: ie., if you know for sure a free-form translation is not a problem, or you happen to know the exact correct English wording of the message.

Alternatively, translating the message and simply adding the translation is an option as well.

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Ok, thanks. In this case, I was highly confident of the exact wording of one error message, and the others I entered into google translate, which gave me close to an exact wording. Having seen enough English error messages of all sorts I could recognise the remaining messages from there. – Ricardo Altamirano Jun 14 '12 at 21:17
True, though one could add the translation, I feel. And downvote the OP for not doing so! – Arjan Jun 14 '12 at 21:18
@Arjan yeah. I'll add that – Pëkka Jun 14 '12 at 21:19
I didn't down vote the OP because I struggled learning English as a non-native language and I hesitate to mark others down for lacking a complete understanding of it. – Ricardo Altamirano Jun 14 '12 at 21:19
That's a good thing, @pythonscript. I rarely downvote for things like that either. (Though I fail to understand why some put to little effort in their question, but well...) – Arjan Jun 14 '12 at 21:23
@Arjan I've had questions downvoted because I didn't put as much effort in as the community thought I should, so I can see how that happens as well (I still downvote for it, though). For language, though, I remember the months it took me to learn English as a difficult experience, so I let it pass much of the time when I'm online. – Ricardo Altamirano Jun 14 '12 at 21:29
Sure, @python, but nobody is forcing anyone to use these sites... Thinking about it again: boldly posting a non-English error message without any further explanation/possible translation, would get my downvote after all, if I see it. (Wow, your example was even Chinese? Google Translate is quite good at that.) – Arjan Jun 14 '12 at 22:17
True. I only partly recognised the "Connect failed" because I'd seen that error before on computers I used in China, but even then I was unsure. Thankfully Google Translate verified it and could translate the rest seemingly without difficulty. – Ricardo Altamirano Jun 15 '12 at 1:29

I say definitely do this, when the situation occurs.

The fact is, stack overflow in particular, is an English-driven site. Any time I see a post not in English, I just want to click away. Translating takes time away from me solving the problem at hand, and if someone will do that for me, I would be grateful.

Just make it clear what is the original fact-of-the-case error message, and what is just a human made translation.

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Is is appropriate to leave the original in place, while adding a separate section with the translation? I know the original can be found in the post history, but it might help (those who speak the lang) to derive the complete/correct meaning from a possibly ambiguous translation. – Gaffi Jun 14 '12 at 21:16
@Gaffi I would say no. If a user is really concerned about the content of the original, they will look at the edit history, or leave a comment. – Richard J. Ross III Jun 14 '12 at 21:16
@Gaffi - It is essential that the original error message be preserved verbatim. Error messages tend to be the most reliable facts in many questions, not speaking of searchability. – Jirka Hanika Jun 14 '12 at 22:12
@JirkaHanika I agree, hence my thought to include both the original and the English version. – Gaffi Jun 15 '12 at 0:40

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