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Joel asked this question on this blog post. I've looked through the questions in this area here, and seen the official policy, but I don't see anything related to that blog post, so this is asking that question (and I'm going to give my suggestion below).

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There is a lot related to that blog post already there. Joel needs to start digging through Meta instead of asking for new "ideas". Most has already been suggested, and declined or not followed up on. –  Pëkka Apr 8 '11 at 8:58
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@Pekka's trolling account - why not link to those good suggestions in an answer here? Maybe now they won't be declined. –  paulmorriss Apr 8 '11 at 9:19

3 Answers 3

I think the way to do this is to change the stackexchange software so that you can have multiple languages on one site, not a site per language (per subject).

It would look like this: If you wanted to translate a question, then you could do so. Then, like wikipedia, you could see "this question is also available in these languages". The aim would be that the most upvoted, or community wiki questions would be translated. There would need to be a separate voting system so that speakers of the second language can rate the quality of translation. Similarly with answers.

You could select the language you wanted to see questions/answers in. If there is a question or answer in that language then you would see that, otherwise you'd see it in English (if available). (At a future date we could let you configure a second preferred non-English language.) If you don't configure yourself as a speaker of another language you would probably see no change at all in the site.

If you ask a question in a non-English language then it could be answered in English. If you have English configured as your main language and another as a secondary language, and the question was asked in that secondary language, then you'd see it. Maybe you'd even translate it into English if you're kind (and want reputation points). Of course it could always be answered in the original language.

Although this is a lot of work to implement it gets around the fragmentation of sites and helps those who have some knowledge of English to take a great part in the sites.

(Update: I'm not the first person to have thought of this: Wikipedia Style Localization)

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This is certainly an interesting idea. –  ChrisF Apr 8 '11 at 9:03
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It definitely is. Translating would get points; it would allow for the same content in every language. I like this. –  Pëkka Apr 8 '11 at 9:38
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I like this; I've seen many posts in such bad English they'd be more intelligible in the native language, no matter what that is. I'd suggest one addition: a "site policy" requesting those with a reasonable command of English to also write the English version. This would be preemptive: think of the larger non-English communities on the site (Spanish, Chinese, French, etc). Do those users write in English, making themselves look like smart-asses for there peers, or do they write in the native language, limiting themselves to the native communities? Don't count on people writing posts twice. –  Cosmin Prund Apr 8 '11 at 11:45
    
+1 for Wikipedia style, simple and interesting idea :) –  Tien Do Apr 9 '11 at 14:59

As Pekka says, please take the time to read existing questions and discussions on this. There's been quite a lot of discussion over on Area51:

http://discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/search?q=language

And here on meta

http://meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=non-english

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If local versions of Stack Overflow are to thrive, they must have all-original content. They cannot survive as merely translations of English Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow is a community and depends extensively on the community nature of the endeavor to succeed. By simply translating some questions to another language, speakers of that language will forever be second-class citizens on their own community, forced to watch the site through the muddy lens of translators, never actually participating in conversations. As an English speaker, I can't imagine being a part of a community in, say, Hindi, where some (probably small) percentage of the content has been (probably poorly) translated to English. I would never feel like I belonged and I would lose interest right away.

There are enough developers who are very strong in languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese to create independent, separate sites that cover common problems. And by letting them have their own sites they can develop their own communities.

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s/Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange sites/g and I'm mostly there, but honestly for Stack Overflow itself, translation isn't nearly as necessary because like it or not English is the lingua franca (ha) of programming. However, physics.SE, gaming.SE, android.SE - all could do well with standalone versions of their own site localized to their own community (not translated) –  Daniel DiPaolo Apr 15 '11 at 1:41
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I have seen this claim about "English as the lingua franca of programming" repeatedly, but I have rarely seen it from anyone who has ever met programmers in Japan, China, or Korea, where English is, in fact, NOT the "lingua franca of programming." If English really were good enough for programmers from Japan, why do we only have 3 Japanese visitors per 1000 population from that country (when we have 42 per 1000 in the US?) –  Joel Spolsky Apr 15 '11 at 1:42
    
I agree with all this a lot, I've been saying the same thing for years. There are huge audiences that simply won't participate in an english-language site, period. Germany belongs on that list, too, Russia, France.... However, I think it would be very unwise not to leverage SO's currently existing huge repository of knowledge on the on-english sites somehow. Maybe an "international duplicates" feature would make sense that could point to existing english versions of a question (just for information) - I'll flesh it out as a feature suggestion when I get around to it. –  Pëkka Apr 15 '11 at 9:22
    
@JoelSpolsky I really like this answer! I'm proposing the Spanish Stack Overflow in Area51, wondering how the heads of the Stack Exchange network see this kind of proposal. Now, I know we think the same in this regard and I'll push this proposal more and more... I really want to hear from you about this and get your support in any form. For example, I'm not allowed to communicate (in Spanish) to the people visiting the proposal there's a Spanish translation of the Area51 FAQ in my blog. I want to do this in Spanish because some of them don't speak English at all. –  jachguate Oct 25 '12 at 5:16
    
Seven months after my last comment... the state of the nation is the same: no one knows when this will be done. Is there a way to get any update? if the dev team says: ok guys, it will take three more years to be done, well, we'll know how long to wait, but it's really frustrating to be here just waiting... :( –  jachguate May 30 '13 at 20:59
    
The good news is that Stack Overflow em Português is thriving. @jachguate, pues si, it's taking too long, hopefuly the SOPT experience will unleash all localized versions that are ready to roll in Area 51. –  brasofilo May 13 at 10:17
    
@brasofilo sure it is trhiving. I'm now sure we will see the spanish site in the near future. For some reason outside of my understanding things here moves slowly, but it finally moves. –  jachguate May 15 at 15:20

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