The post in nutshell:
   Needs of intermediate-English users are currently ignored.
   The proposed solution should encourage their integration to English sites,
    instead of creating more weak language-based communities.
   See here for more details, better typesetting, and
    some touchable dummies of web forms.


Obviously, since Stack Exchange ceased to be an English-only web site, not any of its users are expected to know enough English. This is addressed by Stack Exchange with creation of separate language-specific sites, like in Wikimedia projects. But this solution has two shortcomings.

First and obvious, it encourages building communities that are not strong enough.

Second, it ignores interests of intermediate-English users. It doesn’t help them to break from their ghettos and effectively enforces their isolation.

Along users whose English is poor, there is a sizeable populace of users with intermediate English. They are skilled enough to read English documentation and understand information correctly in most instances. But they might experience difficulting in writing questions and conducting chat-like communications. As stated above, their needs are currently ignored by Stack Exchange.

Proposed solution

This draft proposes a way of integration of users, who know English at an intermediate level, to existing English-language sites (stackoverflow.com for programming-related questions, etc.). Users in question presumedly know some other language, that has some speakers around, and these speakers (presumedly) are willing to help.

Special ask-question form

A special version of the ask-question form can be designed, with two textareas, namely:

   Title (placeholder)    Enter the body text in English:    textarea for English

   Enter the body text in Saurian:    textarea for Saurian

The upper edit form is for the English version of the question. Some effort beyong automatic translation is expected in writing it, although it could miss details.

The lower edit form is for a foreign version of the question (in the poster’s native language, or any language of greater fluency). Two textareas will permit for independent spell checking of two language versions.

Some modifications of the engine

The engine should render text, which the current user isn’t expected to understand, as invisible. Either with display:none or with some placeholders containing Ajax loaders (like implemented for long sequences of comments). So, there will be little disruption of English discussions.

As seen by most readers:

       Question’s title

How do you do?                Saurian text [show] (some hidden element)

It is expected that bilingual users would fix defects of the upper (English) version based on the lower version.

Other considerations

For each supported foreign language one new tag should be introduced (essentially, a meta tag). Its name could be (bilingual-languagename) or, probably better, native name of the language, i.e. (español) for Spanish, (français) for French, (русский) for Russian, etc.

Bodies of answers should be written in English only. If the original poster experiences some difficulties with the answer, s/he can request assistance in comments and other users would help.

Each site, after enabling support of some language, should advertise it targeting users fluent in some language.

       See here for the full version of the proposal.

  • See meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1888/… for a similar discussion
    – PolyGeo
    Sep 2, 2015 at 22:32
  • 2
    Which version would you consider authoritative? Have you ever tried translating thousands of illiterate, poorly written posts from one language to another? What makes you think people will help in translation? Sep 3, 2015 at 0:09
  • @Deer Hunter: On a direct contradiction between versions, or an unintelligible non-English version, the question is about to be on hold. Otherwise non-English version takes precedence (i.e. if English is incomplete and/or ambiguous, an editor has to fix it using non-English one). When an expert spends time trying to understand some question, it would be reasonable to express some important pieces of it in better words. Sometimes questions are edited in their original language, English or else. Why won’t questions be edited in their (incomplete or poorly written) English mirrors? Sep 3, 2015 at 0:36
  • @Deer Hunter: The problem is only waiting for a person interested in the question and capable to understand the second language enough. Translating thousands of illiterate, poorly written posts? No, of course, although translation of posts isn’t an unseen job for me. Again, reasonable attempt on making an English version must be a requisite for a question at an English site. Bilingual helpers will do no translations from a blank sheet of paper. Only fixes and additions. Sep 3, 2015 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


Your proposal sets up a lot of expectations... Chief among them is the expectation that there are other non-English speakers willing and able to help translate. This is not guaranteed to happen, and once a question sits unedited (assuming imperfect English) for a while... does it even need answering? (And what language would it be answered in, for that matter?)

Setting that aside for a moment, I think we need to step back and challenge your initial premise:

First and obvious, it encourages building communities that are not strong enough.

What do you mean by "not strong enough"? Our current international communities (Portuguese, Japanese, and Russian) are doing fairly well. They are active and thriving.


Obviously, since StackExchange ceased to be an English-only web site, not any its user is expected to know enough English.

This is incorrect. Sites that aren't explicitly translated into other languages are expected to be English-only still.

The engine should render text, which the current user isn’t expected to understand, as invisible.

How do you propose we know that a user (or, better yet, a visitor from Google) doesn't understand a particular language? This is non-trivial.

If there's one thing we learned from launching localized version of Stack Overflow, it's that those sites are as much about culture as they are about language. Translations aren't enough. We need communities, and you can't build that with a mish-mash of languages in any given question.

  • The Russian community, seriously? Because of their translation efforts, Ī̲ suppose. But this doesn’t indicate the community strength. Do you understand Russian to assess how many actual IT experts are present there? IMHO most Russian-speaking IT people use English sites and do not bother to read miserable “Russian Stack Overflow”. Dispatch an investigator to learn what’s going about Russian. And read my proposal carefully, please, using formal logics when needed, e.g. (there are English-only sites) ⇏ (any user of the network speaks English). Sep 3, 2015 at 9:17
  • And yet another time, to clarify. “A question sits untranslated for a while” stems from misreading (possibly lack of actual reading at all) of the proposal and discussion below it. An English version must be a requisite, for an English site, again. And all these “-9” / “+1” IMHO stem from animally-social structure, common in Homo Sapiens along other mammals. The herd rushed in the direction of (fill in the blank). αβ take part in it to demonstrate they are in control. All others need just to follow the common path, not to think. Sep 3, 2015 at 9:44
  • How do you propose we know that a user (or, better yet, a visitor from Google) doesn't understand a particular language? Just risible. User profiles and Accept-Language information from the browser. A commonplace in modern web sites. Sep 3, 2015 at 9:56
  • The only serious Anna’s piece is about communities. Yes, translation from English to Russian isn’t enough to transplant Stack Overflow (or, say, Wikipedia) to Russian. Results become different from originals. Ī̲ won’t work, currently, with all these “Russian communities”. Namely because of cultural reasons. And Ī̲’m willing to help other people, having a misfortune with the native language, to avoid dysfunctional “cultural communities” and to build one, world-wide community. Sep 3, 2015 at 10:44
  • @IncnisMrsi Sorry, I meant "unedited" and said "untranslated" by mistake. To your other points... I do, in fact, understand Russian. SOru is not targeting Russian IT people who already speak English. That makes it a smaller site than Stack Overflow, but not necessarily a weak one.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 3, 2015 at 16:45
  • If a question sits unedited for a while, with poor English, and without calls to clarify that poorness, then the question failed to attract attention. It’s the fate of many unilingual questions. Are you serious debunking my proposed system on the grounds it will sometimes fail? Your famous SO flagship also fails… somewhere. Sep 3, 2015 at 17:11
  • 4
    @IncnisMrsi No, I dispute your premise that the way we're doing localized communities right now is inferior.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 3, 2015 at 17:34
  • Ī̲ should better explain it, possibly. It’s not universally “inferior”. It favours one part of users (monolingual Portuguese, Japanese and Russian speakers) over another (bilingual something – English users). It creates ghettos without essential supervision by the whole community, due to language barriers. Sep 3, 2015 at 17:47

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