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I would appreciate if someone could clarify what the policy and etiquette are about using languages other than English on MSE, or point me to an authoritative resource on the subject.

What prompted the question is that I recently flagged a non-English answer to an English question with a comment "thought answers were supposed to be in English", but the flag was declined by reason of "no such requirement exists on Math SE, though English is preferred as a *lingua franca*".


[ EDIT ] $\;$ Thanks to all who commented. Below is a summary of the main points made.

  • MSE does not have an official policy on questions and answers in languages other than English. Previous discussions on this subject indicated openness to consider other languages and help with addressing and/or translating such posts in English (1, 2), but opinions were divided, with no clear consensus.

  • SE does have the policy of not allowing posts in other languages, posted under the heading "official policy" in a single-answer faq: "unless you're posting on a language-related site (e.g. French Language) or a site where all questions are expected to be in a different language (e.g. Stack Overflow in Spanish), yes, all posts are expected to be in English".

    Moreover, a comment under the answer clarifies that "yes, all SE sites are English-only by default, with the exception of language sites [...] and localized sites".

    The "what should I do if someone else makes a post that is not in English" paragraph makes no mention of moderator intervention for such policy violations, but rather advises users to do the policing via downvotes and/or VLQ flags.

  • The only MSE mod who engaged in the conversation confirmed that MSE does not have a language policy of its own, yet questions "the assumption that the global policy applies here (which is not entirely clear...", and is of the opinion that, regardless, violations of the language policy do not fall under mod's radar, citing the "what should I do if" part from the SE post.

For the record, my position is that SE policies which are not specifically overridden by a local MSE policy should be binding for MSE, that resolving policy violations is an attribution of mods, not users, and that using downvotes and/or VLQ flags for purposes other than those they were meant for is a misuse. That said, I consider the question closed and have no intention to pursue it further.

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    $\begingroup$ I would much rather that someone post a clear and intelligent question in a language I don't understand than an incoherent or unintelligible question in English. $\endgroup$
    – MJD
    Apr 4, 2023 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ @MJD I understand your point, but I am not convinced that's fair to either side. Not to the foreign language asker or answerer, since their audience would be more limited, perhaps by a lot, and they would not experience the same MSE as other users. Not to MSE, since the whole community-driven concept breaks down (votes, moderation etc) if large parts of the community can't read what's been posted. $\endgroup$
    – dxiv
    Apr 4, 2023 at 3:49
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    $\begingroup$ If this question is mainly about answers (as the title suggests), probably the tag (answers) would be suitable here. (Regarding the age of the linked post - yes, I am aware of that. But still, I considered it worth linking.) $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2023 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ Related FAQ on Meta SE: Do posts have to be in English on Stack Exchange? Quoting from the answer there, "Unless you're posting on a language-related site (e.g. French Language) or a site where all questions are expected to be in a different language (e.g. Stack Overflow in Spanish), yes, all posts are expected to be in English." $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2023 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ That flag-decline was incorrect, as Meta SE makes clear: English only on English sites, other languages on those languages' sites. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Apr 4, 2023 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @TheAmplitwist The community here seems to believe that the official policy is incorrect. With respect to enforcing language requirements, I see this answer as being the most relevant: "Anyone who posts answers in other languages has to expect that most members here can't read the answer to vote it up." I see no reason for a moderator to step in here. Others are free to downvote or vote to delete---this is a community moderated site, after all. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Apr 4, 2023 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ @JakeMirra Machine translation can be a decent starting point, but there are sometimes usages of words or idioms that aren't always handled well. For instance, in mathematical French, 'variété' can be a manifold or an algebraic variety, and a machine translation might guess wrong. $\endgroup$
    – KReiser
    Apr 4, 2023 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson According to an answer by SE staff member KyleMit to the post "Reject question titles with no English letters in them, warn about titles with too few a-z compared to other letters" on Meta SO, there is a filter in place to block questions that don't have at least one character from the English alphabet. You may want to review with the moderator team whether the filter should be active on this site, based on the policy you mentioned regarding non-English posts. $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2023 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson I would have thought the SE policy applies that "yes, all posts are expected to be in English", lacking a local MSE policy override, which I do not find, and you appear to confirm does not exist. Anyway, I am surprised that you, as a champion of strong moderation and a mod yourself, do not see a problem with posts in a language you cannot read. In some cases you may not even be able to tell whether the post is math, or GPT blabber, or worse. Suggesting that regular users close/delete posts they do not understand is basically asking them to do the moderation that you reject. $\endgroup$
    – dxiv
    Apr 4, 2023 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @dxiv You are, essentially, asking me to take permanent, unilateral action in order to enforce a policy which doesn't exist. I am already being criticized for taking action to enforce policies which do exist. I am not going to enforce non-existent policies. If you would like there to be a policy, I would suggest that one of the roles of meta is to achieve policy consensus, and that this topic might be worth a new meta discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Apr 4, 2023 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson I suggest you bring it up with the SE mods next time you chat. They seem to be under the impression that "all SE sites are English-only by default, with the exception of language sites ... and localized sites". That's a comment under the official answer to the SE language question, upvoted 350+ times. I find nothing close to an official override of this SE policy on MSE so, yes, I would say that the policy does exist after all. $\endgroup$
    – dxiv
    Apr 4, 2023 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @dxiv From the answer there: "If someone makes a non-English post on a site other than one in the above two lists, or in a language different from the site's accepted languages, first, check to see if it's spam. A small portion of wrong-language posts are actually spam, so be sure to check for that. If it's not spam, vote or flag to close it as "Needs details or clarity" (or a community-specific reason about wrong-language questions if one exists on the site) if it's a question, or flag as "very low quality" if it's an answer." Moderator intervention is not required. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Apr 4, 2023 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson I find it odd that you conclude "moderator intervention is not required" from a policy advising users to flag the content. Are you saying the policy is that users should flag the posts and then moderators should ignore the flags? What would be the purpose of that? $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Apr 6, 2023 at 3:10
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    $\begingroup$ @N.Virgo I believe Xander means that the regular flags like "VLQ", "NAA", "unclear...", etc. are to be used instead of flagging as "needs moderator attention" with a custom description. $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2023 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ @N.Virgo "Very low quality, "Not an answer", and other standard flags send a post to the review queues, where they can be reviewed by the community as a whole. No moderator intervention is required. Raising a custom "needs moderator attention" flag requires the manual intervention of one of the ten elected moderators on this site. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Apr 6, 2023 at 13:29

1 Answer 1

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Gratias omnibus qui annotavit. [...] Pro recordo, mea positio est, SE consilia quae a locali MSE consilio specialiter non opprimuntur, MSE obligare debere, consilium solutionis violationes esse attributionis modorum, non utentium, et suffragia vel VLQ ad proposita utentes. praeter eos abusus significati sunt. Quod dixit, expendo quaestionem clausam, et nullam intentionem ulterius prosequi.

$\color{darkgray}{\tiny\text{Pardon the French ;-) that's one reason why automatic translation cannot be trusted, yet. }}$

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome the Tower of Babel. $\endgroup$
    – kludg
    Apr 5, 2023 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ I understand this better than most algebraic geometry questions. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Apr 5, 2023 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ I accepted my own "responsum" not because it settles the matter, but because it will now require a mod to delete, so that will be an indication when/if language policies ever get enforced on MSE. $\endgroup$
    – dxiv
    Apr 6, 2023 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt that the answer will be deleted. According the site rules and policies, it is OK. $\endgroup$
    – kludg
    Apr 6, 2023 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ "Expendo quaestionem clausam, et nullam intentionem ulterius prosequi." Words to live by. $\endgroup$
    – Brian Tung
    Apr 7, 2023 at 6:48
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    $\begingroup$ this is Latin! I was wondering why the French translation did not return anything(I don't know both languages)! For anyone interested, the translation is: Thanks to everyone who commented. [...] For the record, my position is that the SE policies that are not specifically suppressed by the local MSE policy should oblige the MSE, that the payment policy is violations of the attribution methods, not the users, and the votes or VLQ for the purposes of the users. In addition to those abuses are meant. That said, I consider the question closed and have no intention of pursuing it further. $\endgroup$
    – D S
    Apr 7, 2023 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ which is the last paragraph of the question $\endgroup$
    – D S
    Apr 7, 2023 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ I only know two french phrases, one of them "je ne comprends pas le français" applies here. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2023 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ Joke is on you I can read Latin just fine. $\endgroup$
    – Servaes
    Apr 9, 2023 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ French hasn't looked like that for at least 1500 years. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2023 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ While ostensibly about Italian rather than Latin, this old Meta Math.SE Question has commentary that covered much the same ground as here. If we are reluctant to spawn non-English versions of Math.SE, the universal applicability of mathematics urges us to tolerate and facilitate translations here as needed. I believe I once translated a Tagalog post and facilitated communication with a textbook author to resolve the problem presented. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    May 24, 2023 at 1:55

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