Not intending to change its current "declined" status, just to facilitate the understanding of the suggestion

The request is to allow content in languages other than English.

This is how it would work:

  • The user selects desired languages in preference tab ( default is English )

  • The systems shows content to that user in its preferred language(s)

  • When posting a question the system will mark the content with the user preferred language:

    • If there is only one language that would be used.

    • If there is more that one, the language will be prompted ( with the first language preselected )

  • If nobody change its preferences everything will remain the same as of today ( because English would be the default language )

No engine localization is needed, no gui translation is needed, no content translation is needed, no different domains nor auto-translate, nor volunteer translate is needed.

Only the ability of the system to filter non-interesting languages ( I don't understand a clue of Chinese or Finnish, but I could answer Spanish and English questions )

I understand and agree, English is a must have for good programmers, but StackOverflow is not only for "good programmers" but also for those who get NullPointerException in a Hello World program.

Programming beginners may also be English beginners and they should not spend 2+ years learning English to start learning to program.

  • What about translations, should they all be separate questions? Jul 9, 2009 at 2:47
  • They are indeed. There is no way to know somebody asked the same in a language I don't know.
    – OscarRyz
    Jul 9, 2009 at 3:16
  • This was asked today: stackoverflow.com/questions/1146446 I'm not sure if it was a valid question though but it was quickly closed. I agree, I don't like to see it either because I don't understand it, but if it was a valid question nobody would be able to answer it now. Probably not very appropiated for SO, SF or SU, but stackexchange.com would benefit from it.
    – OscarRyz
    Jul 18, 2009 at 1:59
  • 1
    After reading blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/04/stack-overflow-around-the-world, I have the exactly same design on mind. To those who concern with the tag-for-all disaster: we are talking about meta-tag.
    – an0
    Apr 11, 2011 at 0:04

6 Answers 6


This is "put everything in the universe on one site, we'll just use tags to tell everything apart!" in sheep's clothing.

I believe programmers who speak only Mandarin, or French, or Spanish, are better off forming their own communities and centers of gravity. Shared language is one of the fundamental aspects of community.

Just visit Chinatown in nearby San Francisco to see what I mean..

(now for Stack Exchange, it's a totally different story. That's why I encourage them to fork the code and make massive underlying changes, like ripping out OpenID with extreme prejudice, and dropping in full-blown localization with every string in a lookup table.)

  • There is no need to localize the whole platform but let the community create content in any language ( by don't disrupting those from others communities ). I don't think the only reason why I would go to Y!A is because it support my language. With this approach english speaker won't even notice there are questions in other languages. :) Peace!
    – OscarRyz
    Jul 24, 2009 at 22:59
  • I agree with both. It would be nice to have support for multi language and translations, and @Oscar's idea is actually nice. But it is too much for a single website to handle. At least with our current technology. Wikipedia's approach would be better, but it's not really needed because each question has its own life and nature in language that can't just be translated a lot of the times. In the end, it's probably better just go with the "each language forming their own community" indeed.
    – cregox
    Mar 13, 2010 at 3:11
  • Jeff, you should revisit this proposal now that you are looking around the world: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/04/stack-overflow-around-the-world. Splitting by language is not as good and effective as filtering by language meta-tag, because bilingual programmers are more willing to see questions in both languages in one site(and it is much more efficient for them to do so) than to switch between two sites to see questions in different languages.
    – an0
    Apr 11, 2011 at 0:12

I know this opinion may be dismissed because I'm an American (and in Texas, for shame!), but here it goes, anyway:

A few topics have been brought up about localization (or localisation as they say across the pond), but nothing's gained too much traction. The reason is that this is all user-generated content. We have no control over whether or not somebody posts something in Chinese or Arabic or Telugu. However, English is the de facto standard of the programming world--our world. As Anglo-centric as this sounds, it doesn't exclude anybody by having English as the de facto language of StackOverflow. Because our (programming) languages are based on English, it is a necessary skill as a programmer to know it. Therefore, English is the closest thing we have to a universal language (excluding math).

Moreover, problems are universal, and I should be able to help somebody in Italy or India (both on my checklist today!). If done in their native languages, only those language speakers could help, severely limiting the potential for help to arrive.

In short: We remain a strong community by being able to communicate throughout it. By sectioning it off for arbitrary regionalization when we have a universal language, you only hurt the user experience. Also, I might lose it if I ever saw a Quebecois tag. Only kidding. Sort of.

  • They didn't gain too much traction because none of them shown a feasible solution to the "babel tower problem". I agree I don't understand a single chinese glyph either, and I DON'T want to see them!! By using tags this is pretty much solved. About the role of the english in programming mmhh I'm not sure. It doesn't matter how good your english is, you can't tell C to "loop" you have to use the word "while/for" and you have to know its grammar. It happened to me. I didn't knew a word of english but I knew some C: stackoverflow.com/questions/202723/202851#202851
    – OscarRyz
    Jul 9, 2009 at 2:48
  • Why would you go out of your way to purposefully marginalize a question? By putting it in another language, you immediately lop your answering community down to a tiny fraction of its size. And the point is that learning C forced you to learn English, which thereby helped you learn more C. You didn't truly understand what C meant (or why it was the way it was) until you understood English. The thing is, I want to see all questions. If they're in other languages, I can't, so then I can't help.
    – Eric
    Jul 9, 2009 at 4:30
  • But what if they don't speak English, or don't speak it well? See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5747/… if you haven't already. Maybe this could be part of that. I wonder how many volunteers we'd have per language, to be translators. Jul 18, 2009 at 2:45
  • @Eric Learning C has not forced anyone to learn English. It forced them to learn about a dozen English words, some of which don't even mean the same thing as they do in English (take "static", which can mean about 4 different things in C, only one of which really corresponds to the vernacular meaning of "static"). I'm sure there are plenty of talented C programmers who don't speak English.
    – Kip
    Jul 18, 2009 at 3:35
  • @Kip: The language is just one bit that you have to know. Most of the documentation and literature is only found in English. I know folks buy English technical books in lieu of their native language due to the amount that gets lost in translation.
    – Eric
    Jul 18, 2009 at 3:47

I know this has been beaten to death, but I think the claim that English is the lingua franca of programming is fundamentally wrong. In particular, there is a huge number of programmers out there who speak only Japanese or Chinese Mandarin.

But your suggestion of having a language meta-tag is flawed in one respect: you would have a hard time gaining "critical mass" of users who could even understand and answer the question.

  • Mandarin. Still valid arguments.
    – akarnokd
    Jul 19, 2009 at 7:53

I do not support the tagging of questions with a language. However, the alternative is also cumbersome. Having multiple SO sites (one-day) in multiple languages means a user must pick a favorite and stick to it, mostly. Being multi-lingual, I would love to be able to have one account and subscribe to, say, en.stackoverflow.com, fr.stackoverflow.com, de.stackoverflow.com. Now, those are country, not language codes, so I'd probably also subscribe to ch.stackoverflow.com if it existed, except that there's 4 national languages there, 2 of which I do not understand exactly.


Maybe not a tagging solution, but my proposal about region folding could help things out. The problem I face sometimes as a non-native-English speaker with tags, that you'd expect synonyms to be available if you are looking for something (concurrency - parallelism). Especially, you learned your terminology from different books than the others.

Of course, to keep the balance, you'd need international moderator crew, one for each language, to avoid foul language and hatred answers written in other languages, especially for my people :)


I support this wholeheartedly. Having a dozen sites that are the exact same thing in different languages is much more unwieldy than having 1 site per topic that lets users choose questions in which languages to see.

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