There's a long list of languages proposal on Area 51, varying from an all encompassing language site to a focus one language site like the successful English Language & Usage.

When I say they vary, I do mean that.

As I just said, there's a site to contain all the languages question, whether they are grammar or translation questions, under one unique roof:

Proposed Q&A site for anyone learning a new language or wanting to have a quick translation of a sentence/idea. This site is focused on people looking for resources to learn new languages, translating phrases or questions, as well as grammar related questions.

Needless to say, this site would completely swallow the existing and successful English Language & Usage site since all questions on EL&U would be on-topic on this site as well.

Of course, there's also a generic translation site:

Proposed Q&A site for people trying to translate difficult words or expressions.

It's limited to expression and phrases though, no grammar questions, though. All questions on this site would be on-topic on the generic Languages site, though.

Then, we users who believe languages would benefit from being divided into smaller, more specific sites. However, aside from reaching that conclusion, many of those sites' creators have nothing in common. Their approach and strategy vary greatly.

First, there are proposals who want to copy the model used by English Language & Usage. The Russian Language & Usage proposal, for example, will only accept questions in Russian and excludes translation questions in their definition:

Proposed Q&A site for everyone who wants to improve their Russian: grammar, spelling, pronunciation. Linguists and students are welcome.

Even if this is the model used by an already-launched site, some users disagree with that approach and think that questions asked in English should be allowed:

According to the definition of this proposal, the questions and answers must be in Russian. I believe that is a completely unnecessary rule, which would greatly reduce the number of people who could use this site. It is quite likely that a person learning Russian may not have sufficient vocabulary to formulate his or her question in Russian.

Users who agree with the above user also got to create their own proposals, such as the Le bon usage du fran├žais proposal, permitting question in English:

Proposed Q&A site for people who have questions regarding the correct use of the French language, whether spoken or written. It is not about translating. Questions can be submitted in English or in French.

Obviously, there are people who disagree, preferring the approach used by English Language & Usage or believing that it should be merged with the English/French Translation proposal since it allows questions asked in English.

Then, there are users who believe in another approach: they want to allow questions about the language and all translation to that language, such as the French language proposal:

Proposed Q&A site for students having questions about French, expert speakers of French wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation questions from any language to French.

Finally, there are sites whose description is simply unclear.

The Chinese Language proposal is so unclear that it prompted an user to ask whether questions written in Chinese would be allowed! It's hard to blame him, really. None of the questions with on-topic votes are written in Chinese! It's impossible to tell, from the description, which languages are allowed.

See for yourself:

Proposed Q&A site for native speakers and learners alike about the Chinese language, written and spoken

The Chinese Language proposal isn't the only proposal suffering from this problem. The Japanese proposal has an equally confusing and unclear description:

Proposed Q&A site for speakers, students, learners and teachers of the Japanese language

I've been an active poster on an anime torrent site's forums for the past two years. As a result, I have many friends and acquaintances who speak Japanese. Some are still learning the basics; others speak it at fluent or conversational levels. However, I can't tell from the description nor from the questions what the proposal is about, and who it is meant to appeal to.

In other words, I don't know how to pitch the proposal!

Similarly, Portuguese Language proposal which is cutely contradictory:

Proposed Q&A site for teachers and students of the Portuguese language, and those looking for translations between English and Portuguese. A Portuguese-language version of http://english.stackexchange.com.

Meanwhile, the users who prefer the English Language & Usage model want to translate stuff too! As such, they create language-to-language proposals such as English/Russian Exchange and English/French Translation. However, even that space isn't without its debates: should we only allow translation of phrases and expressions, or should be also allow questions about grammar?

As should be obvious, this has been discussed many times on Area 51 Discussion:

However, nothing that even remotely resemble a consensus has been reached.

I bring the discussion over here because, with German language and Japanese both far in the commitment phase, it's becoming increasingly important to make a decision. If we allow sites to grow any way we want them, we'll end up with huge overlaps between language sites or with people who committed to sites that are different than the one they'll get by private beta. Moreover, sites with different approaches, but on the same topic are being opened for reasonable reasons.

So, how does the SOIS team want us to sort this out?

  • Reach a consensus on MSO/Area 51 Discussion?
  • Create competing sites and the first one to private beta wins?
  • "I like Frankenstein's monster. Let the madness begin!"?

TL;DR version: The language proposals on Area 51 are a mess. What does the SOIS team believe is the right approach to clean that mess and avoid the birth of Frankenstein's monster?

  • 18
    We have an English site. Let's complete the circle and have a Not English site, which will contain everything else. Problem solved!
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 17, 2011 at 19:30
  • 9
    @Polly, to be really safe, let's make the new site Not English Language & Usage, shutter A51 and close all existing SE sites as dupes of NELU.
    – Pops
    Feb 17, 2011 at 19:43
  • 2
    @Popular We could simplify it a bit more, though. Each site should consist of one page, the content of which can be found here. Everything's going to be closed as a dupe of it eventually anyway.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 17, 2011 at 19:47
  • It belongs on A51 Discussion Zone.
    – user153011
    Feb 17, 2011 at 19:47
  • 3
    @Ustice Lol at the correction! This is very fitting for this question.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 17, 2011 at 19:48
  • @Borror0, thanks for bringing the debate here.
    – Benjol
    Feb 22, 2011 at 7:54
  • 1
    Most of the discussion links are broken (34, 133, 272, 494, 661, and 795) - only 550 and 791 work. Dec 2, 2018 at 10:52

3 Answers 3


There are really two generic approaches, each with good reason to follow them:

  1. The concept (Stack Exchange 2.0/Area 51) is still in formative stages. Let it grow and develop, and let's see what people make of it. We can always cull, reorganize, and shift things later.
  2. Without careful cultivation in the early stages, things can go off track irreparably, so some decisions must be made early on, even though we don't have enough information.

In general, Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky have taken the first path. Sometimes they've had to make course corrections, and in some cases they've had to give in to the users once behavior has settled in one direction, even if they disagree with the choice.

It's tempting to stop everything, form a committee, and come up with a consensus. It's frustrating watching 30 trains head for the same station and knowing some of them will collide violently.

However, I believe that in the long run the first choice is still the best choice. The users as a whole generally make choices that will benefit themselves, and as the whole point is to make a place inhabited and inhabitable by users, then letting them carve their own paths makes sense.

So: relax. Let the proposals that survive open, and see how it works out.

  • 1
    In effect, we have have chosen to follow the suggestion in this answer, as the issue has remained open for the past six months. It doesn't seem to be getting any closer to resolution. I think it is very important to remember that much of StackExchange's value is the user experience. That means getting answers to new questions, as well as a well-organized ontology of answered questions, without duplicates or clutter. The language situation remains messy i.e. cluttering up Area 51. It is worth regrouping, sooner rather later, to consider the original question asked by @borro0 (in my opinion). Jul 24, 2011 at 12:43

If it would be possible to make the favorite and ignored tags more prominent, or to provide a better way of selecting them, I would propose that all language and translation sites be combined, with tags being used to separation. Then if a user speaks Chinese and Arabic, they can select them, and see questions and answers related to one or both. It will give the best chance of getting a good translation with rare combinations.


I think that much of what these sites are trying to do would be massively supported if they were integrated with appropriate dictionaries. For the translation sites, translation Q&As will be much less worthwhile stopping points than the fora at http://dict.leo.org/forum/index.php?lang=de&lp=ende, despite the far greater amount of thought and development effort that has gone into SX's Q&A model.

I'd rather not see these sites succeed before serious thought has been given to what, if any, specialist infrastructure they should have. On the present course and for this reason, I think that the German language Area 51 proposal, for example, will not be an asset to the internet.

In brief, I'm against Polyanna's suggestion that we see how these things work on their current course and hope to figure things out later, in the absence of some sort of statement from the SX team about what kind of bespoke treatment they are willing to invest in particular sites or groups of sites.

  • what @Pollyanna is implying is that most likely means neither of these proposals will get into beta, so it's like letting natural selection do its job
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 22, 2011 at 8:42

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