I see many borderline questions being asked by speakers of English as a second language. Sometimes they are legitimate questions that, due to improper english, come through as non-questions. Often these will get closed WHILE trying to edit them for poor word choice that usually fixes the question.

I'm not asking for the same kind of flagging as discussed here: I think we need a flag for non-English speakers

I try to take the time to read behind the lines and get at the question they're asking, but more often than not five guys with like 92,000 points take it upon themselves to close the question within 3 minutes.

So, I understand the importance of closing questions that suck. What are possible ways to allow time to work with the user to improve their question a bit? Often, it is just a simple word choice problem that can easily salvage the question. Grace period? No closing when discussion is actively going on? Any other ideas?

From my experience trying to work on the Renren APIs, with all code comments in Chinese and all API documentation in Chinese, it can be the most frustrating experience, ever. I can't imagine if I went on a renren forum to ask for help and then get all my valid questions shot down in a minute because my Chinese is lacking.

Haha, maybe I'm just too used to reading broken English and can understand it. Is it really a bad question just because it uses different idiom?

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    Any other ideas? I dunno.... edit and improve?
    – user1228
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:04
  • 2
    Yeah, often it will get closed WHILE editing it! Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:07
  • 4
    @FlavorScape you can always flag for reopening. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:11
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    @FlavorScape: that is the correct behavior. Very low quality questions, for whatever reason, should be closed until they are fixed.
    – user7116
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:14
  • Alright, maybe i'm just being soft. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:21
  • @Sathya Did a quick peek at the FAQ/doc, but I'm at work-- is the way to do it by flagging, and checking 'other' and writing the reason to reopen, or is there a better way? Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:23
  • @FlavorScape that's one. People with 3k+ rep can also vote to re open same way they can vote to close. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:26
  • @sixlettervariables I'm talking about quality questions that use idiom that westerners, specifically US English speakers are not accustomed to. I've seen plenty of questions get closed as "not a question" even though I had very specific answers. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 15:43
  • possible duplicate of Is English required on Stack Overflow? Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 3:16

1 Answer 1


According to the FAQ regarding closed questions,

Closed questions can and should be edited to improve them and address the reasons why they were closed in the first place. Once this is done you might need to either flag the question for moderator attention or raise a meta question to bring it to everyone's attention so it can get the necessary views that might translate into reopen votes.

One of the purposes of closing questions is to allow them time to improve before being deleted.

Regarding your proposed timeout to allow users to improve the post before closing - there really isn't much point for 2 reasons.

  1. Closure is a timeout to improve the question before it gets deleted.
  2. The user has all the time in the world to improve the question before actually posting it (complete with a free preview of how it will look!).

If users are posting questions, and then immediately going in to fix the quality, then they probably should not have posted already. Secondly, if they are already working to improve it while it is getting closed, then once they are done, they can vote to reopen (if they have 250+ rep) and/or flag it/bring it up on meta to attract re-open votes.

  • I mean, I guess this is an answer, but I'm wondering about how this leads to higher discouragement rates for non-native speakers versus US english speakers. Is this a type of American/UK code-culture imperialism? Is this a more deeply rooted problem with programming in general? Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 16:29
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    @FlavorScape: it's a site hosted in an English-speaking country, run by English-speaking people, for the benefit of others who can and do communicate using English. There are other sites in other places for other languages. By and large, we're pretty tolerant of folks who struggle a bit when communicating in a language that's not their first - but expecting the site or its users to go out of their way to allow for questions that are difficult or impossible to understand - for any reason - is unrealistic.
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 16:36
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    @Flavor - A lot of us here are not from the US or UK, but have no problems with the language. We are not the least discouraged!
    – Bo Persson
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 16:58
  • @BoPersson well, i'm talking about people who do have an issue. English is really difficult if you speak Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian or any other non roman character based language. Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 23:12
  • @Rosinante I work with plenty who don't... Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 23:27
  • Now that i found this thread... meh. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/468/… just a tough one because SO got so much goin for it. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 1:32

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