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I suggest a (special?) tag every non-native English speaker may use to encourage native speakers to fix the spelling and grammar errors one made1.

1 As long as it's relevant to understanding the question's meaning, and does not consist of UK<->US conversion.

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"does not consist of UK<->US conversion"? But those American heathens aren't really native speakers of English! –  Pops Jun 15 '10 at 15:36

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

I think (spelling and grammar) errors should be fixed without any special tag or invitation since it improves the quality of the whole site.
Just for non-native speakers, correct English will increase the readability and help learning a better English (IMO).
If needed, such a tag or flag should go in the User Profile...
Please note: English is not my first nor my second language; any help would be appreciated

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(+1) I like your note :) –  devinb Jun 15 '10 at 12:41
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Your note would be improved if the comma was changed to a semi-colon. –  TRiG Oct 18 '10 at 17:42
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Besides, sometimes native English speakers write more poorly than those who learned it as a second language! –  Chris Frederick Sep 13 '11 at 15:44

I think the need for editing is obvious, and if someone is able to 'help' the question without changing the intent of its author they will. In some cases, that is not always easy.

I would caution against this tag, as someone could ignore it, thus shutting out any question that might not be worded perfectly. And while the 'rules' may say that only the OP can apply that tag, in practice, anyone can and will apply it. Similar to 'homework'. Additionally, as ccomet points out in comments, tags should describe the content and topic of a question, not the quality.

I've fixed dozens of similar questions, and even helped to translate others that were posted entirely in Spanish just by normal browsing of my favorite tags.

It would be 'neat' to have a way for editors to get a bird's eye view of posts that need work, however I'd be more in favor of an additional flag mechanism (e.g. "Needs Editing") rather than a tag.

Unfortunately, that would restrict the view to only 10k+ users or moderators, however 10K + users already can see a list of questions that need help, just by looking at the top down-voted questions. In many situations, a question made its way to that list (at least partly) due to a language barrier.

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I agree very much with the sentiments here, but want to throw in one more thing. One other downside with using a tag for this is that it uses up a tag slot for a purpose not related to the question matter. It is a useful thing to be able to check for, but I would suggest always prioritizing tags that actually get the people who will answer your question, not the ones to fix it. –  Grace Note Jun 15 '10 at 10:54
    
@ccomet - I also agree that tags should describe the content, not the quality of a question. Edited to reflect that. –  Tim Post Jun 15 '10 at 11:05

Tags should pertain to the content of the question itself, and should not be "meta".

However, a good practice would be to add a

"Please note: English is not my first language, any help would be appreciated"

to the end of your post. This polite sentence means that people who are inclined to help may be more likely to go into the question an edit it. Sometimes I have seen questions where it is possible that the OP is asking a certain question in very particular English, or alternately possible that they are asking a different question in more unpracticed English. The note would clarify that the user is asking for help.

Any sort of tag, or checkbox (ESL [y/n]) would be prone to abuse, and would (could) encourage laziness in people. It is never acceptable to post something in your native language, and just wait for other people to fix it. It is also not acceptable to churn broken English out and hope that someone understands you. The goal of the site is to be understanding and encouraging to people who are non-native speakers, but we want to encourage them to improve on their own. As with most questions, if they have not attempted to help themselves, then it is less likely that I'll attempt to help them.

So, adding that note indicates that the users has attempted to the best of their ability to use English, and their effort goes a long way.

Also see We need to help non-english speakers somehow for my tutorial on how to decipher a barely English question into understandable English.

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It might be helpful for people to be able to list in their profiles their first language, and other languages that they speak fluently; this way if they are having a hard time expressing concepts, someone who is fluent in one of those languages would be able to interact with the poster to help them state their question more clearly in English. The interaction need not even be done in another language; often it's enough to know what language someone is "thinking" in to get a better picture of what they want to express.

This could perhaps be indicated by flags or text in the little 'mini profile box' that shows name, points, medals, image, etc. Though it would perhaps be necessary to reiterate that posting should be done in English, and that this tool is only being provided as a means to facilitate that.

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