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So there was a Spanish question on Stack Overflow, which I edited and translated to English.

Now, there's an answer on the question. The optimal thing to do would be to send the asker a message with the translation, but there's no PM system and the user hasn't listed an email.

So, should I edit the answer and append a Spanish translation so the original author can understand it? Should I leave a comment?

EDIT: The reason I added the translation was because a reputable (>20K rep) user added a comment that gained four upvotes:

The question needs to be in English or it will be closed (perhaps someone would be kind enough to edit with a translation).

So I assumed it was the community's policy/opinion to do so.

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4 Answers 4

So, should I edit the answer and append a Spanish translation so the original author can understand it?

No, we're an English language site. The correct thing to do from the start would have been to just close the question.


Since you already took the time to translate the question, I don't see an issue with leaving it there for other English speaking programmers who may have run into the same problem. The reasons I think it would be wrong to add a translation to the answer are:

  1. Are you going to maintain this question by translating every answer to Spanish? What about French programmers? What are they supposed to do? (Yes, these are rhetorical questions. I hope you see my point. We can't be a translation service for all the world's languages.)

  2. We do not want that question to show up in Spanish search results and lead other people to think that it's OK to ask questions in Spanish on Stack Overflow. As Bernie mentioned, it would be better for them to support the Stack Overflow in Spanish proposal on Area 51.

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The reason I added the translation was because a reputable (>20K rep) user added a comment > that gained four upvotes.

As the user who suggested a translation, I did so because the question had detail and a sizable code sample. I ran it through Google translate and I could tell that it probably was a decent question.

I place many down/close/delete votes, but I try to give people a chance when there is a salvageable question. The poster might very well be multi-lingual, see my comment, and translate it themselves (I've had that happen before). Or, they may at least understand the translated question and corresponding English answers.

I would argue that a properly asked/answered question (in English, of course) still has value to the community overall even if the poster gains no benefit.

FWIW, I kept the question open in a browser window for quite some time until I saw that it had been translated. Otherwise, I would have voted to close.

However—good arguments/intentions aside—I try my best to abide by the rules the community decides. Based on Bill's answer I was in the wrong and should simply have voted to close. I certainly don't think that we can/should try to serve as a translation service of any sort. Things would get out of control if we started translating even a small fraction of the questions posted; we have enough work to do just cleaning up the English ones!

I apologize for causing confusion. I've removed my comment as it is no longer relevant and was potentially misleading.

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As Bill said, the appropriate action would be to close it, however, there is currently an area 51 suggestion which is a little over 50% of the way to beta. If there are migration paths between them, questions such as the one in your example could be migrated to stack overflow in spanish:

http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/42810/stack-overflow-in-spanish

For the meantime however, the appropriate action would be to vote to close it.

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I'm thinking two policies apply here:

  • SO is English only
  • Answers are not only for the OP but anyone who has the same problem

If the poster's English skills are not good enough to understand the answer they can use Google Translate or ask a colleague for help. If the answer is good, translating the question to English was not for nothing because it will later help other people with the same problem.

If the question is such that it would help only the OP, it should be closed as too localized.

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