Non-English Question Policy

by Jeff Atwood

on July 23, 2009

Since this came up on meta, here's our official policy towards non-English questions on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User.

(note that I say "programming" below, but this policy is the same across all the sites -- when reading, you should substitute the actual topic of the site you use, e.g. "sysadmin topics" for Server Fault, etc.)

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.

Thus:

  • Direct programmers to native language resources. Users who post non-English questions should be gently directed to programming forums in their own language. Community should form around the gravity of native human languages. (see: Chinatown, Little Italy, etc.) Feel free to post links to appropriate human language-specific resources.

  • It is not our goal to teach English. It is our goal to teach programming. If the post has salvageable English and makes some modicum of sense, it should be edited and improved just like any other post. If it does not, it should be closed.

  • The asker has to put effort into the question. Barging into an obviously English dominated forum and insisting on posting a question in another language is no different than the "do my work for me" sort of programming questions -- the worst possible sin on Stack Overflow in my humble opinion. You want us to give you answers? Then prove that you've put some effort into the question, and you can begin by politely asking it in the language this community is formed around.

Now, if askers try to use English and put in "sorry, my English isn't very good", that's fine. Heck, a lot of native English speakers aren't very good at it, either! The reason we have collaborative editing is to learn and improve together. This is totally fine and even encouraged. (Please do try to make sense, as our users are often brilliant, but not telepathic as far as I know.)

But the idea that we should be forced to accommodate random human languages in our community is completely unsustainable. Now if you want to form an any-human-language-goes community like that, be my guest. I fully support your effort and we'll be more than happy to direct any non-English questions your way.