I'm not sure of how this would be accomplished, so I won't offer any concrete designs tagged with , but I was thinking...

...We have many international users who come here and ask questions. Many of them have a very hard time expressing their issue in English. A recent example which got me to thinking about this again being

how to commit data updation in Microsoft SQL sever?

(Edited by now)

We already have the ability to edit to improve, and people are happy to (sometimes) guess at what the OP was asking in order to clarify. Sometimes these edits are correct, sometimes not. Sometimes these questions are closed because it just is not clear what the OP meant and they cannot find the way to correctly translate their original question, which leads to the point of this discussion...

StackOverflow is a very large community, and for every language we have users that have very good english language skills. What if we could make it easier for these users to help translate and improve the questions of their fellow native speakers?

Okay, I'll throw out a hypothetical design. You've shamed me into it.

A non-native english speaker joins StackOverflow. They already know they have a hard time translating; perhaps they even have to rely on some automated translation service.

In their profile they have the option of checking a box which says "Please tell speakers of my language [combobox] I need help writing in english."

When this user asks a question, a link is provided at the bottom of the question which says something to the effect "[language] speaker". When clicked on, this creates a chat room for the question. Anyone clicking the link can join. The OP is notified of its creation, and any translation questions can be hashed out in the chat room.

Users who share this language can easily find these questions in the "Language review queue". They can filter the queue by language, go read these questions, edit (with required rep) when they recognize the original intent, or converse with the OP in the chat room in their native tongue in order to flesh out what the OP was trying to say.

Badges will be created for translators, awarded on X edits of questions where the OP requested help, awarded on a per-language basis.

Unfortunately, while this sounds great and egalitarian, there are probably more downsides than up. First, it's a big feature to add, and would take a fair amount of time to code. It would also probably encourage foreign speakers to drop untranslated questions at a greater rate, burdening those who would offer their help to the point where they might stop editing altogether. And shit questions are shit, no matter what language they originally came from. Spending time trying to help someone translate only to find out their original question sucked would be a PITA.

On the flip side, we might see the numbers of bad questions go down, reduce the number of international users who, because of poor translations, hit the question ban, and increase the overall quality of questions on the site.

Whaddya think?

Slight clarification and modifications... A user indicates they have poor english skills on their account. When they ask a question, they could be given the option (instead of by default) to ask for the help of a volunteer translator. That would add the translation help link on the question. So, for more complex questions where the user is having issues translate some of the more technical concepts they could ask for help and forego this when they are confident that their question is simple.

The queue may grow to the point where it becomes off-putting. So, there should be an algorithm to cull questions from the queue. For example, questions with answers (one selected, or maybe two or more questions without any selected) are considered clear enough to forego translation help. Older questions (by last bump date) may age out as well. Questions where someone has already attempted to help may also be removed from the queue.

Other ideas may include the ability for a user to "sponsor" another, and by doing so be notified of questions/answers by that user. They can then optionally view them and help if needed...

  • I love the idea ! I think it's the only "Add a queue" that I like. But that could be done via the edit section of the post directly no? I haven't been on SO for a little while but are there really enough of these post to require a queue ? Dec 18, 2013 at 14:45
  • 4
    Also what is the limit of this queue ? I'm French so I make a lot of basic English spelling mistakes (your-you're/their-there/is-his) so am I allowed to send all my posts to this queue? If we're not careful, this could become the "Please auto-correct my posts" queue. Dec 18, 2013 at 14:48
  • @insertcleverxmasname: Well, obviously you don't need help translating; you're doing a pretty good job. So you can forego setting, in your profile, that you need help translating. If you only have some spelling errors but are otherwise clear, the normal edit process can handle it.
    – user1228
    Dec 18, 2013 at 16:34
  • I like parts of this, I want to chew on it a bit.
    – user50049
    Dec 18, 2013 at 17:38
  • @TinyTim I can tell you from experience on French Language: nobody wants to translate. Answering is a lot more attractive. I predict you'd find a few answers-in-comments, some bad, hurried translations, and a heap of answers that the askers would be unable to understand. Dec 18, 2013 at 18:27
  • @Gilles: Direct translating, no. I'd VTC on those straight up. But my idea was that, within a chat, two users could communicate in their native language more effectively, thus allowing the better english speaker to help clarify the question via edits.
    – user1228
    Dec 18, 2013 at 19:21
  • -1 for suggesting chat. Also, there are 4 projects (Portuguese, Russian, and I forgot the other two) on Area51 aiming (private beta) to offer SO to different languages. Only translate when it is worth it. Dec 18, 2013 at 21:44
  • @DoktoroReichard: The -1 for chat is, frankly, stupid. Protracted discussion in comments written not in english would be disruptive and cause mods no end in headaches as people would flag them. So the conversation has to be held somewhere else... If only there was some system on SE where users can have long discussions on a topic that isn't restricted solely to english and doesn't clutter up a question... where could that be? Can you suggest somewhere? Perhaps it needs to be a brand new space rather than not in chat? Seriously. Stupid.
    – user1228
    Dec 19, 2013 at 14:47
  • If that's the way you see it, fine. My opinion is that, as stated by others, if you need to actually have a talk with the user in order to write the question, chances are that the user will also need to talk with someone to explain the answers. As SE was made as a Q&A site and not a support forum (or, god forbid, a social network), chat is, in a way, detrimental to the pure flow of answers. It's a high quantity of noise we let in just to possibly help a single person. Dec 19, 2013 at 16:25
  • @DoktoroReichard: Your issue, then, is not "-1 for suggesting chat", but "-1 because it won't work," which makes much more sense, and might be right.
    – user1228
    Dec 19, 2013 at 16:49

4 Answers 4


The whole idea

This whole thing is pretty genius when you first look at it. I agree we could use a queue like this here since a lot of posts barely understandable. As a non-native English speaker myself, I can understand how hard it can be sometimes to find the words to express exactly what you mean when writing a post. Let's take Stack Overflow for example, you need to prove you tried before asking, explain where you failed, explain what search you made and why you are stuck. Trying to fit a properly formatted and readable English text with these constraints can be hard and I'm sure it turns some users away from the site.

The thing is this idea needs to be turned upside down again and again to make sure we don't forget anything because it could cause another problem that we don't need. I know some of these issues are covered in your question but I want to regroup all the possible issues/fixes in a single post so I can elaborate on them.

Possible issues

  • Abuses
  • Queue overflowing
  • Undefined limits
  • Lack of translators
  • Stack Overflow's biggest problem

1- Abuses

How can we prevent users from abusing of this feature? Anybody can ask for his posts to show up in the queue by saying they do not speak english. Yes, the majority won't do this because it would simply cause more problems but in a 2,600,000+ users community, we have to imply that people would abuse this system for no reason. You could ask for a user to get At least x reputation before using this queue but then new users wouldn't be able to use that feature. Maybe it's a viable solution though...

2- Queue overflowing

How may of these users are having difficulties with the English language to the point where peer-reviewing is mandatory? Because letting people write in whichever language they want (because even veryyyyyy bad English can end up looking like another language) could show users they don't have to at least try to write in English and I'm sure this could fill the queue rapidly. (Will come back in point 4 and 5)

3- Undefined limits

I think this is the worst part. In a world without rules, there is chaos. What are the limits of this queue. Let's look at this before trying to consider adding this queue:

With the currently implement rules on SO who exactly falls within that range:

| Speaks so-so English | Bad enough to use the queue | Doesn't speak English at all |
| Please correct your  | You're good to go in the    |  Sorry please try formulating|
| post you have a lot  | translate queue !           | this question in English     |
| of error but you     |                             | before posting on SO...      |
| speak english well   |                             |                              |
| enough.              |                             |                              | 

Only the middle tier would be allowed in the queue because they are the ones who have valid posts and that really need the queue. Who or what can be used to decide who falls in which category? Moderation? I don't see this happening any time soon.

4- Lack of translators

Will we have enough translators to do the job? Or will some Russian words filled posts that no users understands be left there waiting forever in the queue?

5- Stack Overflow's biggest problem

You've seen it coming. It is discussed here everyday. It is feared by many and could possibly be the reason why such a queue wouldn't be implemented on the site.

(dramatic voice) The Close Votes Queue!

Now with over 100K pending reviews I don't think users or specially regular reviewers want to see another queue that might be causing problems appearing any time soon.

Possible Solutions

For every problem there is always (almost) a solution.

The abuses could be fixed by the fixed proposed above. Let only "x rep and higher" users use this queue. It is bad for new users that try their best at formulating a good question but it is the only way to prevent queue spamming because let's face it, it would be the only queue in which you could ask to appear in.

The Queue Overflowing could be fixed by making sure there are some strict defined limits. This way there wouldn't be to much unwanted posts in the review queue.

The limits themselves could be discussed for months in posts here because everybody would have different opinions. Mine is that users shouldn't be able to nominate themselves as non-good English speaker. When we see such an unreadable post, we should be able to vote as a community and permanently tag this user as a Non-English user. From there, his posts would be sent to the queue for translation and formatting.

The lack of translators is another big deal. How could we possibly prevent posts from showing up in there. Maybe users could assign themselves as translators. Let's say I speak French and Spanish, then the system knows that there is at least a French and a Spanish translator. Of course, to keep your translator status, you would need to do some translating job once in a while, otherwise you shouldn't be considered a translator anymore.

For every problem there is always (almost) a solution.

The close vote queue is the "almost" part. Because it is discussed here everyday, I don't see myself comming with the solution here and now.

Conclusion (tl;dr)

This idea is very good but it would require a whole lot of effort from the development team, from the team that is planning the whole thing, from the community to work with it as they should and from the moderation team to make sure it stays on track. Is it really worth all that trouble?

  • I like your approach. The idea of a correction queue sounds good, but as others may have thought, that would be a lot of work that no more than a few would be wanting to do. Dec 18, 2013 at 18:55
  • A quick commentary on the Close Votes queue interjection. It is only the Close Votes queue that remains filled with 100k reviews. The other review queues are emptied almost instantly. Just a counter-point. Good post overall.
    – crush
    Jan 24, 2014 at 16:11

I think this is the TL,DR for insert clever xmas name's answer:

If they need help translating their question, to the extent that they cannot write an intelligible question in English, they won't understand the answers.

If they can write semi-decent English, the normal edit process can take care of things.

People who cannot interact in English should not try to use an English-only medium, but instead support a site proposal in their language. These sites will enable askers and answerers to understand each other in the language of their choice (provided a large enough community gathers). Various proposals exist, mainly for programming sites for the time being:

(Please edit in any proposal that I've missed, I went quickly through the list. The Arabic script is currently blacklisted due to a nasty bug in a browser triggered by some Arabic content.)

  • I would like to add that the main reason those proposals exist in Area51 is that there exists interest in making those places. SO is the place to collect all the world's programming knowledge, but it isn't to collect it in all languages. Dec 18, 2013 at 22:00
  • Site's specific to a language demographic would limit the pool of knowledge from which answers can be given. This seems like it could potentially handicap users of other languages - segregation. I also do not agree with your opening sentiment. Simply because a user cannot effectively translate their question into English does NOT mean they can't understand English. For example, I understand Spanish fairly well, but I could never begin to write it.
    – crush
    Jan 24, 2014 at 16:00

I love the idea. I have spanish as a native language, but I do pretty well on english. Anyway, I have realized the web overally offers more content in english than spanish (imagine other less-spoken languages) about software development, and almost all of the searches I make drive me to StackOverflow site.

If this community is this huge and important just in one language, imagine expanding this to other ones!

In any case, I'm sure a better and more direct solution to this, would be to translate the site (not the questions and answers, obviously, but the structure, menus, profiles, etc.) and allow us users to specify which language we do manage, so we can "join" different languages-driven communities.

I.E., I'd join english and spanish one, and thus get info from both sides, and even be able to translate from one side to another if necessary.

  • 1
    Requiring Spanish speakers to have someone translate every post for them would be a nightmare. (Multiply by the number of languages, too.) Stack Exchange is now starting to expand to other languages, by creating communities in different languages. You can join the site proposal for Stack Overflow in Spanish. The Portuguese site started out last week as a beta test, hopefully others will follow in a few months. Dec 18, 2013 at 18:22
  • Thanks for the link, Guilles. I'll check it out. Anyway, my idea wasn't to translate every post, haha, that would be nuts. The idea was to have the chance to do it if requested, in "some-other-language" section. Dec 18, 2013 at 18:43

I think a queue is perhaps going a bit overboard. We certainly don't want to have a stack of "someone please translate this for me" posts with a demoralizing, ever-increasing number. Instead, I'd suggest a sort of not-quite-tag, that people could search on. People who like the idea of translating run a search on their language of choice (or all languages) and get a page full of responses. They pick one that looks good to them, and if they like, they can edit it for English legibility and clear the language indicator. At that point, indicating that you're a poor English speaker isn't so much "someone needs to vet everything I write" as "I might need help. If you're looking for someone to help, perhaps you could help me." Further, give people the option of opting out of "poor English" posts in general - meaning that the people who are good enough at English that they don't really need the help will have reason not to check that box, and those who are admitting they need help will be less likely to get blasted for having the poor English that they're openly acknowledging.

  • Demoralizingly-growing queue is definitely a problem. Could be reduced by 1) aging questions from the queue or 2) culling answered questions, whether open or closed out.
    – user1228
    Dec 18, 2013 at 19:18
  • 1
    @Won't Sure - but there's also a matter of intent and appearance. Making it a queue means that you're saying "this is a problem. It needs to be fixed. We are taking steps to fix it." Making it a searchable tag-like thing means that you're saying "hey - sometimes there are people who could use help with this stuff. You can go here to help them if you want." An expiring queue basically says "in a perfect world, all of these would be addressed, but resources are limited, so after a while, we're just going to give up on them." Different messages lead to different effects on the community.
    – Ben Barden
    Dec 18, 2013 at 20:22
  • :/ Review queues are know entities, so using them in this context doesn't seem an issue to me. We understand that things in the queue may or may not need action. You can cast anti-close votes in the close vote queue, and reject edits in the edit review queue. So, in the translation help queue, you could have the same concept (skip, help, or indicate you don't think it needs help). All queues have the notion of expiration as well. Close votes expire over time, so the questions fall out of the close vote queue...
    – user1228
    Dec 18, 2013 at 21:29

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