As per this discussion, users are allowed to ask questions in another language. Would it help to have two tags - "foreign language" (for questions when they are posted) and "translated" (the person who adds the translation can change the tag in the edit)?

This would ensure people don't waste time opening untranslated questions, if questions in foreign languages become common in the future (which they might).

P.S. By foreign, I mean non-English


3 Answers 3


We already have , which I recall to have been mentioned as a potential tag for this sort of thing.

Unfortunately, there is a large majority of people who will probably downvote any question posted in a foreign language (closure is not a problem, a question can be reopened once someone translates it).

But there is a foreseeable difficulty here, even if you use a different tag. If I'm willing to spend some time sometimes in translating questions from Hebrew to English, I am not as willing to actively search for them. If there is a large mass of people posting in various languages trying to have their problems translated, and everything is under the same tag, this means that Hebrew questions are not immediately accessible to me. It means that I have to search amongst a mass of questions in various languages. Surely my time can be better spent, e.g. by answering questions.

There is also the issue that the original writer may have different intentions, and some things can be lost in translation; and who's to promise they can fully understand the answer if it is written in English?

And what are the criteria for when questions in a foreign language is removed? If it wasn't translated in three days? Who's going to maintain this? I don't want this site to become multilingual in the sense that I have to actively search for questions I can even read. And I'm sure I'm not the only person with this opinion.

So before we start proposing tags for "to be translated questions", maybe we should lay out some basic ground rules for how questions in foreign languages should be handled at all.


I oppose this idea. IMHO the last thing we need is to open the floodgates to questions posted by high school students world wide, and this suggestion might make that easier. (IMVHO it would be better to shut the door to all high school level material - possibly with the exception of contest math - as they usually don't inspire answers of permanent value either. I am aware that there is no agreement like that, so I will not use my moderator powers to enforce this point of view.)

The questions asked in a Sami language (for example) may eventually start getting answered in Sami as well. Then sooner rather than later Sami speakers will have created their own private subforum inaccessible to most of the users.

And all proposals for versions of Math.SE in languages other than English have been shot down: e.g. Portuguese or Chinese. If you want to use language other than English it is better to have a separate site. Such proposals exist, but, as just stated, have not won enough support in the past.

I'm not opposed to translation requests and/or an occasional question in another language. Originally they were used/intended for translating passages of scientific texts. The cited thread, AFAICT, was about questions at or near research level.

If we try this inspite of me, I would like at least that

  • the answers should be in English only,
  • answers should not be posted until a translation has been provided.

Otherwise we will create separate markets for Q&As in any language. But managing/enforcing of such rules is a nightmare, so I vote to nip this in the bud.

Another problem with getting several questions in another language is that the community then loses the ability for immediate quality control.

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    $\begingroup$ "it would be better to shut the door to all high school level material" The target audience to me suggests this was the plan at some point. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 13:40

When I open a question and cannot understand what is being asked, I vote to close as "unclear what you're asking". This applies, in particular, to non-English questions*.

This site is in English. The discussion from 2011 (those kinder, gentler times...) does not take into account the scale to which the site has grown in 2015.

Of course, a reviewer may happen to know the language in which the question is written. I think the reason still applies: the post is unclear to the vast majority of the site's users.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think closure is an issue. If anything, such question should begin by being closed if within a short period of time it wasn't translated to English. It's easy to reopen closed questions if they have any merits to them. I do agree, in any case, with the second paragraph. 2011 was a gentler time. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 22:14

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