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What questions may languages be in? It's a given that questions in French are acceptable, and we're currently debating English in other threads. What about languages other than French and English — if we allow English, why not German and other languages?


Dans quelle langue les questions peuvent-elles être ? Il est clair que les questions en français sont acceptables, et le débat sur les questions en anglais fait actuellement rage dans d'autres fils de discussion. Quid des langues autres que le français et l'anglais : si l'anglais est autorisé, pourquoi pas l'allemand ou toute autre langue ?

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    "Say NO to Smörgåsbord" :) – Benjol Aug 22 '11 at 9:27
  • @Benjol - but Lutfisk is so tasty :) – Flexo Aug 23 '11 at 22:02
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French or English should be allowed only

We had a similar discussion on German Language and Usage (here, and here) where I found Robert Cartaino's answer most helpful.

I understand that this site too is meant for people that are either native French or have at least some experience in French language. As it may therefore be fine to limit questions and answer to French only, I feel that native English people may be more comfortable to ask their question in their mother tongue.

For people (like me) that are neither native English nor French we can expect a level of knowledge in English or French that is sufficient enough to formulate questions and answers in at least one if not in both languages.

As we do want clear and understandable questions and answers for all I vote for the allowance of both, English and French and let the poster choose their preferred language for a given question.

I do not recommend to allow any other languages as these would have to be translated immediately. Who would be able to do so?

  • Agreed. Questions on the other sites in the network [are expected to be in English]. Obviously, French is perfectly fine here, but I'm not sure why it would open us up to other languages here. – Rebecca Chernoff Aug 19 '11 at 23:41
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I know this is probably not going to change people's minds but my personal position on this much debated topic is that there is no real reason for inanimate rules to limit the freedom of the people.

If a given user posts a question in say, Amharic, the odds are that he will net fewer answers (and harvest more downvotes) than if the question had been submitted in English or French. So that there already is an intrinsic mechanism limiting "eccentricities".

One could do it the "German-speed-limit-way" (as in 130km/h is recommended but not mandatory):

  • Questions formulated in English or French do not need to be accompanied by translations.
  • Questions in other languages are expected to be accompanied by a translation in either of these two standard languages.
  • If none of the two previous conditions are met, the OP will possibly self restrict his audience.
  • Moderators are expected to rely on their own abilities or automatic translators to estimate the correctness and relevance of questions submitted in neither French nor English. When in doubt they can close the questions to their own discretion.

Let me just add a few bullet points:

  1. Every now and then a post or a comment in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian appears in SO. Most of the times, some good soul just adds a translation and off we go...
  2. Most Google web apps are multilingual and they are ubiquitous. The same applies to other giants of the web. Why would SE limit itself to a fraction of the Global Village's population?
  3. If linguistics.SE is ever to take off, then we will need serious unicode/multilingual support (e.g. beyond the unicode BMP) so that any limitation can not be based on pure technical grounds. Will linguistics.SE be limited to English?
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    OK, so we could resume by saying that our policy is that the only "officially supported" languages are French and English. Post the rest at your peril :) – Benjol Aug 21 '11 at 15:29
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In my opinion, there shouldn't be any difference in the way any language other then French (which is the focus of the site) is treated.

If I'm ready to accept questions in English (which I am), then I feel I should be ready to accept questions in other languages as well. Maybe I can't understand them, but that doesn't mean they are off-topic (they could be for other reasons, of course). Im my opinion, the question asked by Gilles is a very legitimate question. Even if it may not be of interest for a lot of beta users, and even if it won't attract much answers yet.

That said, we should also consider ways to help these questions mesh with the rest of the site; but in my opinion downvoting or voting to close is certainly not a solution. As with posts in English, one way could be to edit a French translation in the question.

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    Questions are here to be answered, and so need to be understood. So accept questions in any language is a really bad idea, because it will split the audience into those who understand the question, and those who don't. I would say: only french and english, if english is a must. – Alexis Dufrenoy Aug 19 '11 at 12:49
  • Les questions sont là pour être répondues, et il faut donc que les participants puissent les comprendre. Et donc, accepter des questions dans toutes les langues est une très mauvaise idée, puisque ça va diviser l'audience entre ceux qui sont en mesure de comprendre et les autres. Je propose de limiter les langues acceptables au français et à l'anglais, si vraiment l'anglais est nécessaire. – Alexis Dufrenoy Aug 19 '11 at 12:50
  • I don't agree. I can understand that FL&U gives the chance to pose questions only in French (and I actually agree with it and support it). But other languages other than English and the language of the SE taken into consideration should not be allowed. Consider that if people committed to a certain language SE, they did because they want to speak and talk about that language, not others. In that case, simply commit to that other language proposal. That's my opinion... :) – Alenanno Sep 4 '11 at 12:11
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One possible solution would be to say questions should be in French, or a combination of French and any other language, even if the French isn't perfect. That is to say questions should be asked in at least French, rather than any more proscriptive rules.

That would ensure that everyone who visits the site has at least one way to understand and answer the question, whilst simultaneously allowing people to express finer details of questions and concepts in an alternative language.

The problem as I see it is that a non-native speaker may be trying to ask how to express something they don't know how to express. Asking that sort of issue without knowing the answer already seems needlessly difficult. It's possible to have a good go at it and the "at least French" policy would encourage this, whilst still allowing alternatives.

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