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After thinking about the possibilities of workplace questions from different cultures and languages, I searched on the Workplace SE questions, meta, and help, and didn't find a policy on questions in foreign languages. Although SE Meta did have an article, and post.

So I ask, what is the workplace's policy on questions in a foreign language?

After all, problems at the workplace happen all over the world. Why limit it to just English? At the same time, cultural and social differences would weigh heavily on the type of advice and opinions one would offer to a question.


GrayCygnus and I had a rather lengthy discussion in the comments, but we couldn't come to a conclusive end to the question: a clear and explicit policy on the workplace regarding the matter. Although it would appear that the implicit policy is English-Only.

Would it be reasonable to expect people to discern implicit policies? What would be the pros and cons? Would the cost of allowing foreign languages be overwhelming? Would it allow more engagement from a non-English speaking audience?


From the votes, and the commentary below. It would appear that the answer is a resounding "No".

  • 1
    Most sites follow SOFU's policy implicitly if it is not otherwise stated. The posts you linked already give good reasons why English. – DarkCygnus Oct 24 '17 at 5:27
  • So it would appear the Workplace's policy is English. Noted. Shouldn't this be documented in the help center? Also, what is SOFU? Stack Overflow _ _? – Frank FYC Oct 24 '17 at 5:28
  • StackOverflow/ServerFault/SuperUser = SOFU.. or The Trinity Sites (sorry for the jargon). – DarkCygnus Oct 24 '17 at 5:31
  • I see. Well it stands to reason that a person who is in my position wouldn't know that there is an "implicit" policy if it isn't "explicitly" stated. Thus the question! – Frank FYC Oct 24 '17 at 5:32
  • I don't know if it should be documented more. As I said it is usually implicit so no need to specify, unless the preferred language were not English. It is more efficient and non-redundant to specify the sites where English is not oficial (few of them) than specifying those that are (a lot), don't you think? – DarkCygnus Oct 24 '17 at 5:34
  • Also if you go into a site and see all posts in English one can deduce that all posts should be in English. A funny exception is the English Language Learners, where I think I have seen mixed languages (sometimes Questions in English and answers in Spanish), if you care checking. Maybe they got more info on that on their Meta or Help section that can give you a better idea on this. – DarkCygnus Oct 24 '17 at 5:37
  • So a Chinese speaker, who is new to all SE's, would automatically know that asking a question in Chinese would be frowned upon? My claim is that someone who has 0 experience with SE (and in my case with some) may not know of an "implicit" policy if it isn't "explicitly' stated. Like, "We noticed that you are asking a question in [Language], the Workplace is a primarily [English] QA site and it would reach greater audience if you asked in [English]. Don't worry, even if you are not a native speaker, an experienced user will help you." – Frank FYC Oct 24 '17 at 5:38
  • Another way to frame it: in absence of an explicit policy. It is neigh-impossible to know the implicit policies. Having questions in English-only may raise the barrier of engagement for some users whose first language may not be English, or does not know English. At the same time, limit its relevance to foreign countries. Although I would agree with the SOFU policy, a Workplace policy hasn't been established explicitly or implicitly. With the latter being neigh impossible to confirm in absence of a consensus. – Frank FYC Oct 24 '17 at 5:42
  • I see your point. Maybe that notice could help those users when confused. Maybe there are too few cases like that to justify such feature? MetaSE guys tend to go for really needed feature requests. Besides, there is already SO in Chinese lol... however being realistic I see that the Be Nice Post Notice we requested has more chances of being implemented than this one.. – DarkCygnus Oct 24 '17 at 5:43
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    Another thought: If posting on other languages were allowed, then only people who know that language will be able to answer, leaving the vast majority of users unable to post or get any benefit from that post. – DarkCygnus Oct 24 '17 at 5:50
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    closest I found: workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3216/… – Frank FYC Oct 24 '17 at 5:52
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    Why would we set up a policy simply for the sake of having one? I can't recall ever seeing a non-English question even appearing on this site. It's incredibly obvious that English is this site's core language. We have dozens of new people every week who post in English and put in a lot of effort to try and make their question clear even though it might be their third or fourth language. If they understand that their question should be in English what, exactly, is the problem you're trying to address? – Lilienthal Oct 24 '17 at 8:22
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    nein, es würde zu viel Verwirrung verursachen – Retired Codger Oct 24 '17 at 13:05
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    @FrankFYC I edited an explicit statement into that post; thanks for pointing out the omission and for raising the question. SE policy across all sites except the language-specific sites is that the site language is English. Now that's in the Workplace FAQ. – Monica Cellio Oct 26 '17 at 12:52
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    @DarkCygnus A few words at that FAQ were added... recently... But it would appear that the decision has been made. No need to revisit the topic now. – Frank FYC Oct 26 '17 at 17:48
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I'd say No.

The main Meta post here from May is pretty explicit on this

It is not, nor has it ever been, our goal to be the one place in the world for all programming information in every possible human language.
• Direct question posters to native language resources.
• It is not the community's goal to teach English.
• The question asker should put some effort into the question.

It should be fairly obvious to many readers here that the interface, guides, and content of the Workplace stack is all in English. Any non-English person that has little to now English skills is going to have to translate and understand the workings of the site in order to post a valid question here. It goes without saying that if the user is able to translate to their own language, they also have the tools to translate their question into English.

Disadvantages of posting foreign language questions:

  • People may assume that it's spam
  • People who don't know that language will need to use a translation service to read the post (and then trust that the translation is correct and provides the true intent of the question)
  • People won't know whether to respond/comment in English or translate into the other language (and again, without knowing the accuracy of that translation)
  • People may decide not to bother translating the question and the question will go unanswered, or gather potentially bad questions
  • People will have to translate the question and any comments/answers (and trust the translation) in order to effectively vote/VTC/edit/whatever

By and large, anyone posting in a foreign language will most probably have their questions down-voted and VTC'd as being "off topic" and generally won't get the attention they need.

Basically, if people are able to read SE well enough to post a question in the relevant stack, they already have the tools to translate their question into English.

Bonjour, et mange tout.

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    Basically, if people are able to read SE well enough to post a question in the relevant stack, they already have the tools to translate their question into English. <- this. As noble a goal as it would be this site can't be everything to everyone and English acts as something of an unofficial international business language – motosubatsu Oct 24 '17 at 10:59
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    Questions in other languages also won't be moderated by the community, so all of the community-driven stuff we do here will fall down. Not only will we end up with a pile of content we can't use, but the askers will have a bad experience because the community couldn't help them. – Monica Cellio Oct 24 '17 at 18:04
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No, it would make the site much messier and far less useful.

Non English speakers currently wouldn't want to pose a question here because they wouldn't understand the answers. English speakers would be frustrated looking for questions they can answer. At the moment answers come in pretty fast. We could also be inundated with spam posts and at the very least we'd need multi lingual moderators.

Better if a separate site was made eg, Workplace French, Workplace Chinese etc,.

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My original intent was a question meant to clarify something that I quite honestly did not know. Does the Workplace SE allow questions in foreign languages, and if so, should questions in foreign languages be encouraged?

Now, I did not post this question without some thought into figuring it out on my own.

After thinking about the possibilities of workplace questions from different cultures and languages, I searched on the Workplace SE questions, meta, and help, and didn't find a policy on questions in foreign languages. Although SE Meta did have an article, and post.

Throughout the discussion that I had with a number of users (shoutout to GrayCyngus for bearing with me), everything relates back to the idea of an implicit versus explicit policy. In other words, what is the de facto and de jure practice of the Workplace. With the emphasis on a written guideline of foreign languages?

Of the posts mentioned:

One key narrative becomes apparent from each:

  • "Stack Overflow Trilogy has an official policy on non-English questions"
  • "here’s our official policy towards non-English questions on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User."

The authors all relate their statements to policy pertaining to Stack Overflow, Super User, and Server Fault.

I am going to make a fairly bad analogy, but bear with me. Each SE site is a Nation-State, which are free to craft its own practices and policies. But since Stack Overflow (along with Super User and Server Fault) were among the first 'States' many subsequent SE sites adopt their practices and policies; many of which makes sense because they are tried and true.

But nowhere did I read that all SE sites have to adhere to the same policies. The policies of one ring applying to all. To my knowledge, each has freedom to change the underlying framework to suit their own mission objectives.

There is where I introduce two other posts:

In the first, the question and top answer succinctly summarizes the difficulty of allowing questions in foreign languages and the steps needed to take something that is inherently confusing to the point where it can be easily read by users.

In the second, the author, Jay Hanlon, lays out three points on the decision to launch Stack Overflow in Portuguese:

  1. "Not every developer in the world speaks English"
  2. "It’s almost impossible to feel like part of a community if you’re not highly proficient in the language."
  3. "Requiring that all aspiring devs “just go learn English” first isn’t who we want to be."

For each point that Jay lays out in reason for Stack Overflow in Portuguese, would it be so hard think about the Workplace and the people who use it? Does every company and employee in the world speak English? Can a non-native speaker be comfortable asking a question at the Workplace? Would an 55 year old employee at a Korean Chaebol just go and learn English?

My thought is that there should be a written and explicit policy such that people like me don't get confused. I hope it is reasonable to agree with that implicit rules are generally difficult to figure out, unless it is pointed out to you.

With this in mind, "The Workplace is a worldwide site." If there is consideration put into place to assist those whom made the effort of trying (i.e. asking a question that may not be the level of a fluent english speaker), why not make the consideration of assisting those whom made the effort, but just not in English? Why shut out those who are just on the cusp?

Admittedly, I may not be the best person to make this argument. My foreign language skills are subpar at best. But would it be difficult for a question to request for translational assistance when it is formed, are there not those who are fluent in a foreign language, knowledgable of the Workplace, and well-regarded?

Maybe the Workplace can become a melting-pot of cultures and industries, where people from all walks of life can be nice to one another.

But then again, it would appear that a consensus has been made.

  • @GrayCyngus, sorry about the delay, promised myself to finish one gre practice test before I got back on SE. Given the vote pattern (and direction) I am just playing devil's advocate now. – Frank FYC Oct 25 '17 at 6:54
  • To allow this or any other stack to be fully multi-lingual, you're also implicitly asking for multi-lingual translations to be made of the underlying platform, help pages and pretty much everything on the site that throws text at the user. You'll also need a lump of language swapper code. You could raise this idea on the main meta, but without a significant demonstration of need, I don't think it's going to happen. – Snow Oct 25 '17 at 7:00
  • Yeah, figured as much. Again, I've gotten the answer I sought. This was me writing down thoughts as a devil's advocate. On need however, wouldn't this be a situation where demand follows supply? i.e. a foreign language user would go to a site that is in their language? Therefore, from the perspective of the non-foreign-language-site (english-only) there will never be a need for a foreign language translation. Kind of a chicken or the egg problem. – Frank FYC Oct 25 '17 at 7:18
  • @FrankFYC yup seems like it. This whole SE Language subject is one that has already been chewed several times before... Take SO for example. Eventually they opened SO in Spanish, Russian, Chinese... but only because it was worth it and there was a strong user base. I doubt that a multi-language TWP may even exists, but if we keep growing, who knows? maybe we'll eventually have a TWP in Spanish :) (with much effort maybe I can try to be the Joe on that site lol) – DarkCygnus Oct 25 '17 at 15:25
  • The solution for SO wasn't to make SO multi-lingual but to make language-specific sites. The analogue here would be "The Workplace in Chinese", etc. "SO in $language" can attract enough people who know $language to work, because SO is huge to begin with. I doubt a sufficient community exists for other sites, but it's totally ok to start an Area 51 proposal to find out! If there are enough speakers of a language who are interested in asking/answering workplace questions in that language, we can make a site. But mixing fragments a community & makes moderation hard (e.g. handling flags). – Monica Cellio Oct 26 '17 at 12:59
  • What can I say. My answer is biased. – Frank FYC Oct 28 '17 at 6:46

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