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TL;DR : there are people who can translate foreign posts , ask them ; don't just close vote all the things

N.B.: The main goal is to edit questions and provide them with clarity. I am not asking to refrain from closing posts in foreign languages ; I am asking community to give links to those posts to those who can appropriately edit them.

Dear AskUbuntu community ,

Although the de-facto language of the Stack Exchange network is English, please take a moment to reflect on this topic: Ubuntu has users from around the world, and not all of them speak fluent English. It is not fair to a user who due to that limitation , has to have their question closed as unclear what you are asking. At the same time, we do have users who are capable of translating such posts , and in some cases, they can tackle multiple languages.

A few of our community members , myself included, have created a list of multi-lingual users who can assist you in clarifying and translating non-English posts. I realise that close-votes probably won't cease , but at least leave a message in chat to those users with a link to the original question.

In defence of this topic consider the following points:

  • Ubuntu has officially-supported Kylin flavour , which is distro tailored for Chinese users. Not all of the Chinese users have fluent English skills.

  • Consider the list of Ubuntu partners . Not all of the companies on that list are based in English-speaking countries.

  • Some users voiced such opinion : " OP can do some effort and at least try Google Translate " . Google Translate does a fair job, but it is still software and does not fully convert meaning of words. In addition, it frequently does more bad than good to original text's meaning. I myself have been using it for assisting my Chinese friends in translating various documents,and know for a fact that it's insufficient and resulting translation doesn't make sense.

  • It is frequent to collaborate between networks. We have users who participate on both Unix and Linux as well as other sites. Consider collaborating with users-moderators of language-related sites of Stack Exchange network.

  • There is no official restriction on posts in other languages. Consider the Ask Question page as well as tour - there is no explicit restriction.

  • We are officially mentioned in the Ubuntu installer , as well as on ubuntu.com site. It has been mentioned, "Well, just send them to forums in their language". Over my time on AskUbuntu I have not seen this put to practice.

  • There are people who are voluntarily willing to translate. Just like there are people who are willing to edit posts that are very poorly formatted and make no sense. There are people who are willing to spend the time to ask questions in comments. Does it not make sense to ask those people who are willing to put in the time to help a person instead of closing it because you ( and you specifically ) didn't understand the post ?

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    I fully agree with that. A comment should be posted before a question is closed. But I do not agree that we should start translating each non-English post. The site will be flooded with questions in all different languages. – Pilot6 Jul 23 '16 at 10:08
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    @Pilot6 Like I mentioned in my last point, people are not required to translate. There are users who are willing to put in time to do that. It is equivalent to asking a person who knows something about ssh to look into question that makes no sense and OP is blabbering about something aboutssh . Or asking perl expert to look into perl script for administering Ubuntu system. AS for flooding, I do not see how this is valid argument - we are not flooded with them right now , even after all the years of Ubuntu's existence – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 23 '16 at 10:14
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    I also agree that if someone does a translation, it is not bad at all. But I suspect that we are not flooded with non-English questions because most of them have been closed ;-) – Pilot6 Jul 23 '16 at 10:16
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    Idea: Make a bot that pings (fluent) users whenever a non-English post is detected? – UniversallyUniqueID Jul 23 '16 at 10:45
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    This translator list would be more useful and especially easier to find if you make a meta post here about it. Either the question could be community-wiki and everybody can edit themselves in, or everybody who wants can post an answer with their name and language skills. That would be better than a google doc. – Byte Commander Jul 23 '16 at 18:16
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    Appropriate communication between OP and the answerer is a (major) issue already as it is ( EN only). How do you picture the mess if you allow multiple languages. Another list to translate the answers into the language of OP? – Jacob Vlijm Jul 23 '16 at 21:29
  • @JacobVlijm should you be added to the list ... I thought you could speak/read dutch – fosslinux Jul 23 '16 at 21:30
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    @ubashu I would be the first to flag a Dutch question, I actually did. :) – Jacob Vlijm Jul 23 '16 at 21:35
  • Appropriate communication between OP and the answerer is a (major) issue That's my main point - have people who can resolve that communication. do you picture the mess I don't picture and don't imagine - I deal with facts, so unless there is empirical proof of why this is a bad idea, I don't see how there can be mess @JacobVlijm – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:10
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    @Serg common sense, including imagination, based on experience and reasoning, is always an important tool to decide. Again, are you going to adopt a question, to make sure translation on both q and a's is done properly? I hope the answer is no, it is due to turn into Babylon and discussion on how things were meant both ways. Are you also going to translate issues you (think you) encounter in possible answers? – Jacob Vlijm Jul 24 '16 at 9:19
  • @JacobVlijm the answer is yes . I would be willing to adopt a question . In fact I already do that. I edit my scripts and keep supporting them until OP is happy – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:28
  • @Serg I've seen you discuss with OP in the past, in another language (Russian if I remember well). A discussian in which we couldn't take part. I rest my case. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 24 '16 at 9:31
  • @JacobVlijm sure , this has been a case in the past. My goals now are different . – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:39
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    @Serg we have the close and reopen functions for a reason. If we left a non-English question open and just asked someone to translate it, that translation could take a while, and non-English answers are going to be posted. As soon as a closed question is edited, it gets a reopen vote, and there are so few of those, anyone who can review will want to take a look. – TheWanderer Jul 25 '16 at 16:02
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Questions posted in a language other than English on an English language site are unclear by definition and should be closed. However, closing a question as unclear does in no way stop anyone from translating it and voting to reopen. If you feel so strongly about this, and if you know that other users are willing to translate, sure, let them know. But first close the question because in its current state it is unclear.

We expect users to put the minimal amount of effort into their questions. That's one of the main reasons for downvoting and is what makes Stack Exchange so much better than the noise-filled forums that abound everywhere else on the internet. A user who simply posts their question in another language on an English-language site and can't even be bothered to i) attempt to write in English or, if they speak no English at all, ii) pass their question through Google Translate is failing to put any effort at all into the question.

I speak 5 languages and understand a few more. This means I am unfortunate enough to be able to understand many of the non-English questions posted on the site. Sadly, in almost all cases, the different language is the least of the post's problems. As can be expected, if a user can't even be bothered to notice that they're on an English language site, they also can't be bothered to write anything resembling a clear, on topic question.

As far as I can recall, every time I translated a post, I also had to leave a comment requesting basic information from the OP. Frankly, posting non-English questions on an English language site is usually a good indication that the question itself is a poor fit for the site, irrespective of the language it happened to have been posted in.

That said, let's imagine you find a question whose only problem is the language and translate it. Now what? If the OP can't ask in English, chances are they also can't understand the answer. Conversely, if they can understand the answer, then they should have asked in English in the first place.

Ask Ubuntu isn't the one and only stop for Ubuntu related support and information on the internet. It is one of the top spots for English support and information, but there are dozens if not hundreds of helpful sites in other languages. Our target audience is not the world, but the portion of the world that uses Ubuntu and can understand English well enough to ask questions in that language. It would never occur to me to go to an Urdu Ubuntu forum and post a question in English. I would consider that to be inconsiderate (I don't care what language y'all speak, I'll just ignore that and post in mine) and rude.

So, if you feel that translating is somehow better, feel very free to do so. If you know of other people who also want to translate, again feel absolutely free to get together, let each other know and translate.

However, asking the community to refrain from closing patently unclear questions as unclear is not reasonable. Questions that can't be understood are unclear and, on an English site, questions that are not in English are precisely that. The community has every right and, indeed, an obligation to close them as unclear. As I said in the beginning, if they are later edited to make them clear, they can be reopened. I don't see why a lack of clarity based on language should be treated any different than any other reason for a question being unclear.

  • It seems that my post has been misinterpreted over and over : I am not asking community to refrain from closing. I am merely asking people to find those who can edit the question properly , as Google Translate edits do no good . And I strongly agree with your last sentence – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 12:37
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    @Serg in that case, you might want to edit your question and make it clearer. Even the title recommends editing instead of closing. I just don't see any reason to treat non-English questions any different than any other unclear ones. If they're unclear, they should be put on hold until they've been fixed. Whether that fixing involves a translation or not is irrelevant. – terdon Jul 24 '16 at 12:38
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    I agree that a comment like "Questions at this site should be asked in English. Please translate" is good to be posted before the question is closed. It can be done with a close vote. If OP translates the question, it will not be closed. Nothing more than that. – Pilot6 Jul 24 '16 at 14:50
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    @Pilot6 sure, I just don't see any benefit in not putting the question on hold until it is fixed. Just like we would with any other unclear question. – terdon Jul 24 '16 at 14:51
  • If OP is fast enough to fix it. it will not be placed on hold. Just in case OP did not "notice" they are on an English language site.)) Otherwise it is their problem and not a big one since it can be always re-opened. I see no big problem at all. But there may be a real problem if many people will find out that they can ask questions in any language here. – Pilot6 Jul 24 '16 at 14:57
  • @Pilot6 yep, precisely. That's what I don't want. I think it would be horrible if we give the impression to people that they can just post in any language and it's our job to translate. – terdon Jul 24 '16 at 15:13
  • I agree with your A and I upvoted it, however just a small detail: «chances are they also can't understand the answer»... who cares? :) The site is not only for the OP, but for other people who might reach the Q in the future. If a Q is translated, it will help other people. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jul 27 '16 at 13:04
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Although the de-facto language of the Stack Exchange network is English, please take a moment to reflect on this topic: Ubuntu has users from around the world, and not all of them speak fluent English. It is not fair to a user who due to that limitation, has to have their question closed as unclear what you are asking. At the same time, we do have users who are capable of translating such posts, and in some cases, they can tackle multiple languages.

This is not about "fair" or us discriminating - this is an English only site. That's just the rules. Just like we close low quality, we close non-English.

A few of our community members , myself included, have created a list of multi-lingual users who can assist you in clarifying and translating non-English posts. I realise that close-votes probably won't cease , but at least leave a message in chat to those users with a link to the original question.

Sure, but we still vote to close untill it is clear what is being asked. Just like we vote to close even if they will edit it later. It can be reopened of course.

In defence of this topic consider the following points:

  • Ubuntu has officially-supported Kylin flavour , which is distro tailored for Chinese users. Not all of the Chinese users have fluent English skills.

And this site does not officially support questions asked in Chinese. We support all official distros, but the questions have to be English.

  • Consider the list of Ubuntu partners . Not all of the companies on that list are based in English-speaking countries.

So? We're not Ubuntu. We're Stack Exchange, and this site is an English site.

  • Some users voiced such opinion : "OP can do some effort and at least try Google Translate". Google Translate does a fair job, but it is still software and does not fully convert meaning of words. In addition, it frequently does more bad than good to original text's meaning. I myself have been using it for assisting my Chinese friends in translating various documents, and know for a fact that it's insufficient and resulting translation doesn't make sense.

So don't use it, vote to close instead. Wait for a human to translate it better.

  • It is frequent to collaborate between networks. We have users who participate on both Unix and Linux as well as other sites. Consider collaborating with users-moderators of language-related sites of Stack Exchange network.

I'm not sure I understand.

  • There is no official restriction on posts in other languages. Consider the Ask Question page as well as tour - there is no explicit restriction.

Yes, there is. The help centre says "Correct use of English spelling and grammar to the best of your ability."

  • We are officially mentioned in the Ubuntu installer , as well as on ubuntu.com site. It has been mentioned, "Well, just send them to forums in their language". Over my time on Ask Ubuntu, I have not seen this put to practice.

We are officially mentioned in the installer. That does not give people permission to break our rules, not meet our standards or to abuse our site. Just because we are mentioned doesn't mean we will support everyone and everything!

  • There are people who are voluntarily willing to translate. Just like there are people who are willing to edit posts that are very poorly formatted and make no sense. There are people who are willing to spend the time to ask questions in comments. Does it not make sense to ask those people who are willing to put in the time to help a person instead of closing it because you ( and you specifically ) didn't understand the post?

Yes. If you understand a closed post, edit it so everyone can. Otherwise, leave it. If you see a closed post you understand, vote to reopen. That's how the system works, and we should not be leaving things open in case they are edited some day.

My pronouns are He / Him

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    Yep. Pretty much this. Translation is nice but that's not what we are here for. – Seth Jul 23 '16 at 15:32
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    Wait for a human to translate it better. That's my whole point - let a human know. I have seen posts translated with google, and left there. It's the same as me editing questions just to fix up a few words, and leave question without following up with trying to figure out what users are talking about. As for I'm not sure I understand part : it's normal for people to drop down into U&L chat and ask if a user knows about this and that question. Can't we do the same and drop into say spanish chat and ask them to translate ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:06
  • @Seth we all are not here for translation. And I'm not asking you , each one, to translate. Just ask someone who can. Like I would ask someone who knows about Apache, because I don't deal with those questions. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:07
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    @Serg we could but I doubt anyone will. And we should still close questions. We can't leave them open in case someone comes along to translate... – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:08
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    @Serg but that doesn't mean leave it open. We close. Then fix. Then reopen. Translation is nothing special here. – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:10
  • @Tim Like I said, i am fine with questions being closed. Just let people who can understand those posts fix them , ping them in chat with link. The close vote privilege is being overused, and even on English posts I have to comment to explain that question is legitimate. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:16
  • @Serg the close it completely not overused it should be used significantly more. Mid used perhaps. Fixing a translation is not helpful - as has been said its even bad. – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:18
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First of all: all communication must be in English. Period. Second, if they don't know enough English to write their question in English, how would you expect them to understand the answer in English? Either way, both answers and questions have to be in English, knowing English is a prerequisite to use the site, if you can't adapt to that maybe this site is not meant for you. There are several venues where you can ask your question or solve your problem.

  • Simply this ^, multi- language seems "nice" , but creates a mess. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 23 '16 at 21:33
  • You mentioned several venues . What are they ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:00
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    @Serg other language forums! Just because we don't provide doesn't mean nobody does – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:11
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    @Tim I've mentioned this already : why nobody points people to those language forums ? We point people to U&L and stackoverflow . why we do not do same with the forums ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:14
  • @Serg we can point to the most obvious like SO etc. We are however not a redirect service for each and every language. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 24 '16 at 11:20
  • I totally agree with the person asking the question. If English is not made compulsory and there is a dedicated something sort of site for translation the reach will be great. – rancho Aug 3 '16 at 0:38
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If a question isn't in English I for one won't be able to answer it regardless of whether it falls into my areas of expertise or not. I will vote to close as unclear. If someone who does understand it translates it to English I will vote to reopen if the content is clear at that point. Just because someone is willing to translate something doesn't mean that their time is best spent doing so.

  • Just because someone is willing to translate something doesn't mean that their time is best spent doing so. People's time who edit posts could use that time to answer questions, too. Yet they still edit. Is that the whole point of editing - making question clear ? Besides, it's reputation points for people who answer. Why loose a question ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 8:54
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    @Serg I'm not sure what part of my answer indicated to you that I was advocating the loss of a coherent, answerable question. I personally have spent a great deal of time on the site editing questions that were understandable to me but might be unclear to others. My point is that I expect others to do the same. I do NOT expect other users to blindly follow my vote to close as unclear simply because it was unclear to me. I certainly don't follow the herd in that regard. By all means edit for clarity if you can and are willing. And answer as well if you can. My apologies if I was unclear to you. – Elder Geek Jul 24 '16 at 18:41
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If it helps, I would say about 40 to 50 questions I have created were from a Spanish Ubuntu user who did not know English at the time. I participate not only in here but several other circles and even offer my services via hangouts to Ubuntu users from around the world that have a problem posting in English (we are talking about 400 to 600 emails/messages per year here. Basically 2 to 3 a day). Add to this a group of Spanish Ubuntu users (around 100) that I help with questions about the system.

So I would be more than happy and honored to join that list of translation members for Spanish users and bring Ubuntu to more users.

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    I have added you to the list ( with your permission of course ) . Thank you for support. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 8:58
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We want to help people, but we are not a help desk. Offering a translation "service" seems nice, but is in contradiction with the basic principle that both the Q & A, as well as the discussion on them should be available to all readers, including OP.

If it is already an issue now for many people to clearly spell out a problem, how would you imagine the mess if there is a translator in the middle, with his or her own interpretation of the question? Who is going to make sure possible answers are translated back to OP's language? Are you going to adopt the question?

Furthermore, people, not speaking English, cannot search the site for existing questions/answers. Most of the non- EN questions already are dupes. Imagine what happens if we encourage that.

Come on, like you, I'd like everyone to be able to participate, but a translation service is not our business, translating back and forth is not our quality. Let's do what we are good at; asking and answering quality questions. In English.

  • imagine the mess . I prefer not to deal with imagination. Unless there is valid data that proves that translating posts negatively impacts the site. By same argument , negative English grammar would make "mess" of the site. And by the link that Tim provided , we'd have no issue close voting those posts who misspell Ubantu. However we edit them, no ? Let me be clear - I am not asking people to start translating themselves. I am asking people to ask those who are willing to translate. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 8:51
  • We're not a help desk. And we are not getting paid for writing scripts , which sometimes get to the level of applications. But we still do , don't we ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 8:53
  • @Serg I don't think poor English is a problem, if it is just about using wrong tense and so on. The question is still readable to all and we may assume OP will be able to understand possible answers. We can then improve grammar without any doubts on the meaning of the question. Writing scripts and so is part of writing answers, which is our core activity. – Jacob Vlijm Jul 24 '16 at 9:02
  • Part of the core activity is editing as well. All I ask is for people to ping people from a list with link to the question , so that they can edit it. – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:13
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    @Serg No. That's not what we are here for. There are close to 0 benefits from translating a question. You want to see data showing its bad - you show data proving its good please – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:15
  • @Tim I repeat this again - I am not asking all users to translate. Just let those who can know that there is a question that needs editing – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:18
  • @Serg It doesn't need editing!!! Editing will not help! Tell me why translation is a good idea. – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:19
  • @Tim 1) It provides possibility of issue affecting other people being solved ( via understanding what the issue is in the first place ) . The whole point of Stack Exchange is asking and answering questions . I don't see what's the issue with having person who translates a question 2) it gives those who answer questions another one to tackle. That's another extra question that brings rep points. Those are two points for starters. Oh, and 3 ) there are multiple copy-cat websites who use askubuntu's name and translate the content without attribution. Translating AU posts helps with that – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:25
  • @Serg 1) great, but most non English questions are dupes. 2) we have no need for more! We have a 66% answer rate, more will not help. 3) report them. That's all you have to do. If they don't attribute report them. – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:36
  • @Tim how do you figure they are dupes, if you don't understand their content without translation ? – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Jul 24 '16 at 9:40
  • @Serg my point is most are. The laws of big numbers say that. – Tim Jul 24 '16 at 9:41

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