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I have followed SOs tendency/tenacious inclination to only offer SO in English with interest - especially given all the controversy surrounding questions written in bad English by non-English speakers getting closed, deleted, etc. I have also noted with no small amount of smug delight that many of the best answers I have encountered come from people in non-English countries. The best software package I have encountered? The entire thing was rock solid, beautiful to behold, my every user whim anticipated - developed by Russians.

My personal interest is in promoting coding in developing (ie read non-English countries). There you have it. I have an agenda. In the pursuit of my agenda, I would like to politely and meekly request that SO only consider ways of making SO multi-lingual, using English as a common base.

Why this should seriously be considered:

  • Soapbox: Knowledge is freedom and power, particularly knowledge about technology in this day and age. SO is the accumulation of many peoples' knowledge. It doesn't belong to English. SO is arguably one of the greatest resources on the internet when it comes to programming. This is a position of great power. And with great power?
  • Money, money, money: It is unfortunately stupid to think only English-speaking people are the most expert-experts in stuff. It is even more obstinately stupid to think the expert-experts speak fluent English (offense completely intended ^_^).

    It makes more cents to all concerned that the knowledge offered on SO be of the highest quality, sourced from the best possible experts (I have that on the highest authority from another question I asked).

Briefly, those are two of the many compelling ethical and financial reasons.

What I am not suggesting:

  • A free for all posting of questions and answers in any and all languages. I am English speaking. My Russian is, sadly, deplorable. Like everyone else here I want a site that I can use in a meaningful way.
  • Offering the whole site in a set of different languages.

I'm thinking something along the lines of...

No. I don't have a clear cut solution but I have some ideas to add:

  • The Google can handle the translation of the overall site links, navigation and what-whats.

  • I am a user. I Google to a question. I see a drop-down with a label saying this question has been translated into a number of different languages by other kind SO users. I click the drop-down. "German, Zulu, Spanish, Uzbek!" Hooray. I am an Uzbekistani user. I read the translated question and see that it is indeed what I am looking for. Happily, the accepted answer and a few of the other highly voted answers have also been translated (they each have translation drop-downs, but because I selected "Uzbek" on the OP, the translated answers have been shown and highlighted - swish!). This answer solves my problem exactly. Thanks SO community :). And, look at that. The advertising on the page is also now translated into Uzbek. That banner looks interesting! Click.

  • I am a fluent Uzbek/English speaker. It is a slow day at work and I've only earned 37 SO points this week. Shocking. Hmmm. Here is a question with 3726483 views and it hasn't been translated yet! Score. SO offers me humungerous amounts of SO points for quality translations that get accepted by at least three other Uzbek/English translation mod/users (who also get points). My translation is only available once it has been accepted. I'm going to do a jolly good job of this translation because, if I don't, future Uzbek users will downvote my translation (not what I translated) as being - well - poo and then I (and the mods) will lose lots and lots of points for every downvote and don't nobody want that!

  • I am an Uzbekistani genius. I have the answer to this question because I can read English well enough (but writing it is a whole other story). I know the answer and it is earth shattering and remarkable. I write the answer in Uzbek because I am able to fluently articulate my brilliant thoughts in my mother tongue. I check a box saying "Requires translation", select the language (because if I don't my untranslated answer will get savagely downvoted/deleted) and click "post". I know that my answer is now awaiting translation into English before becoming available (in both Uzbek and English). It may be that it never becomes available due to a lack of translators, but hey... I tried. More importantly, SO tried. My genius and I will be back here because I was treated with consideration and not scorned for my "cannot be hassing the speeling and granmas".

What I propose is not an entirely new system. Merely an addition to the existing system, using processes we are all familiar with, to achieve a highly desirable outcome - more people actively contributing to and browsing the site.


DISCLAIMERS:

  1. I really wish SO would have a suggestion box where I could just pop an anonymous (make me validate my email, not open an account SO :/ ) idea in and run - not because I'm scared, but because I'm busy and always running. I know I could slap it in the "contact us" page but I'm not sure how that calculates in terms of time spent formulating the idea vs impact. That leaves Meta and, alas, Meta is like a suggestion box shark pool where the sharks have lasers and a steely keen Interest; very demanding sharks who get bleak when OP doesn't respond to every comment and answer. With love in my heart... I'm busy. I may not come back this way again. In fact, I am trying to convince SO to delete my account and have been doing so for some time ("please delete me" o.O). This post is just an idea to maybe start a discussion around an issue that is important to me and hopefully others.
  2. I know there is a lot of debate about languages in Meta. I am reasonably certain this is not a duplicate.
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When automatic translation becomes near perfect, this would be an option. But right now, we better stick to the "primary" language of the internet and that is English. By the way, I am not a native english speaker. But when I read anything that is auto translated from english to dutch, I go for the original, unless I like to laugh. By the way, there are several SO sites with another language as communication protocol. –  Toon Krijthe Mar 24 at 7:27
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@ToonKrijthe I don't see how quality of automatic translation has any bearing on OP's request. He's talking about manual translation, with manual verification. My problem with this is realistically what fraction of SO could be manually translated? A negligible amount, and if 99.9% of the site isn't translated into uzbekistani, why would a non-english-speaking uzbek bother checking? –  OGHaza Mar 24 at 9:16
    
Manual translation is a nice ideal, but with the volume of posts on this site alone, it is next to impossible. –  Toon Krijthe Mar 24 at 9:20
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What would happen when a post is edited, does all the translation have to be done again. It doesn't seem feasible. The current system of entirely seperate sites for each language seems more plausible (hopefully the portugese one will go well and then the others will start to be launched) –  Richard Tingle Mar 24 at 12:49

1 Answer 1

It is unfortunately stupid to think only English-speaking people are the most expert-experts in stuff. It is even more obstinately stupid to think the expert-experts speak fluent English (offense completely intended ^_^).

Offending the people you are trying to convince that your idea is one worthy of their efforts is not a good strategy. However, even if we ignore this diplomatic faux pas, your argument still suffers from a rhetorical one, for there is no evidence that the people who decide the language policy on SO or any of the Stack Exchange sites hold the opinions you mention here.

As for the rest, there's already a solution for non-English sites: Area 51 takes proposals for such sites. For instance, here is a proposal for a Turkish SO.

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