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I ran into a question that was originally written in Indonesian: Windows 7 not starting correctly on Toshiba Satellite L640

I successfully attempted to salvage the question by using Google Translate and rewriting the question from the translation. I also took steps to ensure that the question author could read the answer by including a Google translation as part of my answer as well as posting a comment in the user's native language on using Google Translate.

However, should we attempt to support non-English users this way? I'm not sure about the long-term impact of doing this.

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    Love the sentiment, but at least the first step of the process (Google Translate) they could have done themselves. Also, you could have asked this on Super User Meta, the Super User community may have different answers, although I don't think so, it's still up to them to decide since the question was asked there. – yannis May 3 '12 at 4:07
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    @YahooAnswersenthusiast: This question is relevant network-wide, so I decided to post it here instead of Super User Meta. The same would apply had this occur in Photography. – bwDraco May 3 '12 at 4:15
  • Every question that could be asked on a site Meta is potentially relevant network wide, that wasn't my point, my point is that since the question in question was asked on Super User, you should be asking the Super User community about it. We don't get to decide for them, and we don't get to decide for Photography either. – yannis May 3 '12 at 4:18
  • Had the output of the machine translator been unintelligible or nonsensical, I would have let the question stand and voted to close as "not a real question" (I did vote to close despite rewriting the question). – bwDraco May 3 '12 at 4:25
  • Yesterday, I also tried salvaging a question posed in Spanish. Used Google. I thought the question was sufficiently interesting to be worth a little work. Maybe the 'tour' ought to mention to potential OP's who aren't comfortable writing English that they can use Google translate to help check their own questions. – BruceET Mar 28 at 10:13
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No. Let them put that effort in themselves. Vote for close as Needs details or clarity.

Your intent is good, no doubt, but that just won't work on long term. We are not a translation service. We do not want to invite foreign users to post questions in their native tongue and expect someone else to translate it for them. It will also not work if the OP does after all not understand English in comments and answers at all.

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This resurfaced again here: GIS-SE - Answer to XY points not displaying – now deleted after this discussion.

I want to point out another issue with these kind of edits, and more importantly encouraging them, besides the fact that it contradicts with the community's purpose which is asking/answering on-topic posts and not translating them.

When dealing with questions, as stated in other answers, closing is the best approach as we may not be able to get feedback from the OP if they are not familiar with English (they may not even be able to accept a correct answer, if they don't understand it).

In case of answers, there are some examples of non-English posts that will be salvageable through minimal edits. Like when OP says (in a non-English language) "Try the following" and then the rest is code or something that does not need translating. In these cases, I am fine with the edit to make it in English, while still not advocating for/encouraging them.

But in the link above and many other threads, we probably need to use a translating service and edit aggressively. That causes two problems:

  • Mostly, these services does not translate technical terms correctly and translation needs proof reading which should be done by someone who not only knows that language and English but also understands the subject and the answer completely. If the user who edits lacks any of the aforementioned skills, their edit can potentially misguide other users. Please bear in mind that these answers are mostly posted by users who are not regulars of the community (that's why they are posting in another language in the first place) and so they probably won't circle back to check whether the translation is accurate or not.

  • Second issue here is the nature of that edit (refer to What guidance should be given when edits are rejected? for more details). That edit is an aggressive edit and it conflicts with author's intent (or at least, we cannot be sure if it does not). Let's say one is familiar with the language and knows the subject, so the prior problem does not apply to them. Then, in my opinion, their edit can be categorized as an attempt to reply and should be posted as another thread.

All in all, I don't think it's a good idea to edit these kind of posts.

N.B. As I mentioned a post on GIS community, I want to also point out that it seems in that community there's a will toward translating rather than closing/deleting (reference: MetaGIS-SE - Handling questions posed in a Language Other Than English (LOTE)?).

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I partially agree with M--'s answer on this.

If it's a question, don't translate it and close it as unclear. If the OP doesn't know how to speak English, they won't be able to read the answers or respond to requests for clarification.

If it's an answer and something simple like what M-- mentioned ("Try this"), then that's OK. But that's not a quality answer, and I would downvote.

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