We welcome questions from anyone, so long as they are posted in English, but I have encountered many questioners whose native language is not English and whose questions have common problems.

Can SO create a FAQ for "How to write a question in English" written in several human languages like Hindi, Farsi, Russian, et al.? It should include advice like:

  • All questions and answers must be written in English.

  • Saying "Excuse my poor English" does not make your question easier to understand. If you don't know the English word for something, make an attempt to discover it before posting your question.

  • If you are uncertain of your grammar, or if someone says they don't understand what you wrote, try rephrasing it using different words. Do not simply repeat something others have said they do not understand.

  • Avoid local jargon, colloquialisms, quotes, metaphors, or honorifics.

  • 7
    @Bart We have a "How to ask" page that's shown to new users right now (and is linked from the Ask Question page's sidebar). I think this request is to translate that page to other languages and offer additional tips. If I'm reading this right.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Aug 1, 2012 at 21:20
  • 4
    I can see how this might be beneficial. It certainly wouldn't hurt to link to some translations on the current How To Ask page. It's at least worth experimenting with to see if people even click a link in their own language. Aug 1, 2012 at 21:22
  • 4
    Gotta love your totally random choice of languages :)
    – Benjol
    Aug 2, 2012 at 9:53
  • Oh sure, discriminate against the Elvish languages. That's just great.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 8, 2012 at 19:05

2 Answers 2


Oh, I like this idea! I don’t think the current text is hard to understand for anyone able to participate. But … I could be wrong, and instructional text in the reader’s native language is surely more friendly.

As part of my contribution to the Summer Of Love, here is my first attempt for a German translation:

Willkommen auf %site_name%! 

Wir möchten dir gerne helfen. Aber nicht jede Frage auf %site_name% wird 
beantwortet. Hier sind einige Tipps, die deine Chancen verbessern: 

## Mach deine Hausaufgaben 

Hast du [gründlich nach einer Antwort gesucht](%search%), *bevor* du 
gefragt hast? Deine Recherche hilft allen – teile sie mit. Sag uns, was 
du herausgefunden hast und warum es dir nicht geholfen hat. Das zeigt 
uns, dass du dir die Zeit genommen hast, das Problem selbst zu lösen; es 
bewahrt uns davor, dir unnütze Antworten zu geben; und es hilft dir, 
spezifische und relevante Antworten zu bekommen. 


Probiere auch unsere [erweiterte Suche](%search%)! 

## Sei spezifisch 

Wenn du vage fragst, bekommst du vage Antworten. Gibst du uns aber 
Details und Kontext, können wir nützliche Antworten geben. 

## Mache es relevant für andere 

Wir möchten so vielen Leuten auf einmal helfen wie möglich. Zeige 
deutlich, wie deine Frage für mehr Leute relevant ist als nur für dich, 
und mehr von uns werden sich für die Frage interessieren und bereit 
sein, sich darum zu kümmern. 

## Halte dich ans Thema unserer Seite 

Unsere Community definiert sich über ein bestimmtes Set fester Themen in 
den [FAQ](%faq%); bitte halte dich daran. Ist deine Frage über die Seite 
selbst, frage in der [Meta-Seite](%meta%). Suchst du nach einem anderen 
Thema, dann wird es vielleicht von einer anderen Seite des 
[Stack-Exchange-Netzwerkes](%se_sites%) abgedeckt. 

## Sei offen 

Die Antwort auf deine Frage mag vielleicht nicht dem entsprechen, 
was du wolltest, aber das heißt nicht, dass sie falsch ist. Eine 
abschließende Antwort ist nicht immer möglich. Im Zweifel bitte die 
Leute darum, ihre Quellen zu nennen oder zu erklären, wo und wie sie 
etwas gelernt haben. Auch wenn wir nicht deiner Meinung sind oder dir 
nicht sagen, was du hören willst, bedenke: wir versuchen nur zu helfen.

## Schreib Englisch

Dieser Text ist in Deutsch verfasst; wir benutzen aber überall sonst
Englisch. Dein Englisch muss nicht perfekt sein, eine 
Rechtschreibkorrektur solltest du aber benutzen. Wenn du dir nicht ganz 
sicher bist, ob du deine Frage richtig formuliert hast, wiederhole sie 
mit anderen Worten im selben Text. 

I tried to translate the text not word by word but to let it sounds more … natural. There is still room for improvements.

The last part translates to:

## Write in English

This text is written in German; but we use English everywhere else. 
Your English doesn’t have to be perfect, but please use a spell checker.
If you are not sure you said what you wanted to say repeat the 
question with different words.
  • Thanks toscho, but could you make it clear the site is in English, and that questions and answers must be in English? Aug 1, 2012 at 22:46
  • Good point. This should be added to the translated texts.
    – fuxia
    Aug 1, 2012 at 22:50
  • 5
    Really the only part you need is the German text that says the site is in English.
    – user102937
    Aug 1, 2012 at 23:26
  • 1
    If you believe that some direction should be given in Italian for those who want to write a question but have a limited knowledge of English, I volunteer to translate a text (not too long, please!). Just let me know.
    – Paola
    Aug 1, 2012 at 23:52
  • I disagree with @Robert, what you really need is a gr.StackOverflow.com site which allows users to post questions and answers in German, a it.StackOverflow.com site wich allows users to do it in Italian and the like for some other languages. It is natural for anyone capable to recognize not everyone in the world speaks English, but still is a developer with answers and questions!
    – jachguate
    Aug 2, 2012 at 5:18
  • 5
    @jachguate That would lead to thousands of duplicate questions and a fragmented community. Localizing first instructions is useful, localizing everything just a waste of time and resources.
    – fuxia
    Aug 2, 2012 at 5:29
  • 2
    @toscho the world is already fragmented into Languages. If one is capable to speak english, even the basics, one can go to StackOverflow and ask or respond, but I know a lot of people who just can't. Learning a second language is not that easy, so, why not open the opportunity to that people to help each other? The duplicate thing really doesn't matter, because a question/answer in Turkish, Russian or Spanish doesn't help you, like the thousands of questions/answers already here doesn't help people not speaking English right now.
    – jachguate
    Aug 2, 2012 at 5:45

As non-native speaker in two languages (English being one of them), I have to say that I find much more difficult writing than reading in a language different than your native one(s). Being said that:

  • What are the chances that someone who cannot read an english "How to ask a question?" can ask something intelligible in English?
  • What are the chances that they can understand the potential answers?
  • Moreover, if someone does not take the time to read and understand those instructions, what are the chances that she take the time to write a proper question, and take the time to understand the answers?

I'm afraid this would only add confusion, as there sure will be users who

  1. will skim through some "How to ask ...." in their native language,
  2. obviously will skip the "must be written in English" requirement,
  3. and will end up writing in their native language.
  • I don't know about you, but I end up seeing a lot of questions posted by people with a very limited understanding of English, with varying degrees of readability. Clearly all of the people who don't speak English fluently don't all just post in their own language.
    – Servy
    Aug 8, 2012 at 18:58
  • 1
    We could just write "must be written in English" in bold. Aug 8, 2012 at 18:59
  • @Servy My point is not that this will result in more non-English entries (this could be an unintended side-effect), but that this suggestion will not add much value. On the other hand, I have never come across such a non-English post in StackOverflow (well done, moderators!), so I don't have a clue if this side-effect is even realistic.
    – Alberto
    Aug 8, 2012 at 19:16

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