I want to discuss with you, that whether Chinese SE questions should be written in English.

I now claim to reason that it is best to write in all-English, even for language learning sites --- Except perhaps language examples themselves and related terminologies, though I suggest even they had better be followed by a parenthesis with English equivalent in it.

Why? First, we have the danger of fragmentation: some of the information are visible to English Google users only, some to (in my instance) Chinese users. There might be duplicates as well, because a beginner asker cannot even read an already existent question written in all-Chinese.

Second, for a language learner, say in Chinese, he or she cannot yet write Chinese well, so he is likely search in English. And then he won't be able to find the relevant question written in Chinese. Isn't this kind of lose the point of SE? As a native Mandarin speaker, I am willing to answer question in Chinese. But if it is available to all but a small number of already-fluent Chinese speakers, then I might be less willing to answer....or it might be just me?

Third, language discussion in original language is usually already abundant in the original country. Isn't there already many all-Chinese Q&A sites, like 百度 or 知乎, popular among native Chinese? Then what is the point of SE, if they largely overlap?

Let me take a look in other language learning sites. English SE are unanimously in English, and too is Japanese SE basically all-English. While German SE questions are often in German, and Spanish SE often in Spanish. There is an all-Russian beta SE which I guess to be about Russian language, and as you can see I don't even know what it is. Though among the language-learning SEs I mentioned above, neither of their site tours stress this point particularly (i.e. what language should posts be in), as I have just examined.

Since Chinese SE is new, unlike, say, Japanese SE which has established their norm, who then can decide this? As my understanding goes, it depends on a discussion on Meta site, but there is none. This chosen answer urges that English is required in all SE sites, But in this Area 51 discussion, some show a more tolerant attitude towards all-Chinese questions; on the other hand, There, several points I just made was remarked. And there is a discussion in Meta Chinese SE about this, but almost no one participated that thread. And both are written very long ago, before Chinese SE was established as beta phase. What do you think?


3 Answers 3

  1. It's wrong to assume that Chinese SE is new compared with Japanese SE. The first question of Japanese SE was asked on May 31, 2011 and that of Chinese SE was on Dec. 13, 2011. Only about six-month difference.

  2. I wonder why you think all questions should be asked in English. How about those who can't speak English more fluently than Chinese? Let's say a Russian user speaks only Russian and Chinese and doesn't know a word in English. Can't he ask a question using Chinese on Chinese SE? I think he should be allowed to ask in Chinese.

  3. There could be linguists and etymologists of the Chinese language who'd like to discuss some very profound and linguistic aspects of the language. Can't they ask in Chinese? I think they should be allowed.

It would be very nice for askers to translate their questions in Chinese to English, but it should not be mandatory.

Related post on Japanese SE: Do questions have to be in English?

I have been a member on Japanese SE for 10 months, but I haven't seen any question asked only in Japanese. Some comments are made in Japanese, but Stack Exchange is a Q&A site and comments are not as important as Q&As.

As @jkerian answered, this issue will sort itself out.

  • Sir, how can we make this a community wiki to draw more people to discuss; it is futile that whether I agree with you or you agree with me, but it is the consensus that matters. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 5:23
  • It is best that this question be well-discussed, and becomes kind of authority case or Chinese SE. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 5:25
  • Also, I want to add more opinion, but cannot add an answer, and it is cumbersome to type many words in the comment box >< Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 5:26
  • @Aminopterin You need 5 reputation to participate in Meta. I think you can earn some reputation on the main board by asking and answering some questions or editing some posts and come back.
    – Rathony
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:09

Meta has a stricter rule of being in English, but the main sites can have both. And I think they should have both. If you personally don't like your answer in Chinese to be off-limits for non-Chinese speakers, then feel free to add a small translation below it. That would be very nice of you.

However this doesn't mean that everybody should be forced to use English only. I find that to be extremely limiting for such a site. There might be users who like this duality because that way they can try practicing it by answering or commenting in Mandarin. Your proposal, while having good intentions, would greatly reduce the utility of the site and I don't find that to be a good thing.


(I want to make the original question community wiki but I don't know how, or may be I am not allowed to.)

I know @Rathony and @Alenanno's points, but I am afraid the readers are not quite aware the strangeness I felt. Indeed, in Stack overflow, people knowing only Russian cannot read nor answer, but people don't complain. In Math stack exchange, people knowing only Japanese cannot read nor answer, but people don't complain. But when it comes to language, we allow Chinese questions to be asked and answered in Chinese. Apart from whether it is best to do so, it does seem less obvious to me why it is so.

The original spirit for answering in English in Stack overflow, is no more than a means of enhancing visibility. English is the lingua franca of the modern world; you can criticize, but cannot change.

The only reason that seems valid to me to communicate in Chinese, is to provide additional chance for language learners to practice --- which is peculiar to language sites. But that seems marginal to me. And there is a trade off that people face, that whether we are to encourage native Chinese users' discussion, or make them more visible to English users and Google by writing in English. It seems more fruitful to choose English, but it maybe just me, thinking that if one is already fluent in Chinese, he or she is less likely to have questions regarding Chinese.

In the past three months I have answered a few questions, but I never translated other's Chinese answer into English. I write in English, and I respect others' answer. It is just that I want to raise the awareness what we wish the site to become of.

Sorry that I claimed that Chinese SE is new. However it seems to me fair to say here it is still less well established compared to major sites Math or Physics. Following SE spirit, the matter will be settled by future community in the days to come.

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