Does a question (and by extension its answers) have to be posed in English, or are purely Japanese conversations acceptable? What about other languages?

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+1 Great question! –  makdad May 31 '11 at 23:52
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I don't think having questions in any language besides Japanese and English makes sense, at least not to me. –  Peter Jun 1 '11 at 0:07
    
@Patricker Any sort of translation question may well make sense from languages other than English. Chinese <-> Japanese or Korean <-> Japanese easily come to mind; it just wouldn't make sense to go through English for those questions. The problem is, are those within the scope of this site? –  deceze Jun 1 '11 at 1:10
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@deceze - Might make sense depending upon the level of the asker then. A beginner level question might imply that the asker is not comfortable with even hiragana enough to read an answer where as a native level question might imply that any translations would be as a courtesy to others reading the question. –  rob Jun 1 '11 at 1:13
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@Rob I like the idea of "level tagging"! Japanese is one of those languages where it makes sense. –  deceze Jun 1 '11 at 1:30
    
@deceze - I started a new question to see if we can flesh out a system - meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/35/… - I think it is a good idea as well as it could also be a bit help when it comes to filtering questions you are interested in (or can understand!). –  rob Jun 1 '11 at 1:40
    
I would come up with Japanese->Korean and Japanese->Turkish questions if I thought they would be answered. These languages are to various contentious degrees claimed to be related to Japanese but there are no doubt grammatical similarities. –  hippietrail Jun 25 '11 at 9:43

7 Answers 7

I'm all for encouraging more native speakers to use the site as well, most of the time native speakers are the best ones to answer questions about the finer nuances of the use of various terms or even the regional differences between how things are said. That said through, I do think that we should encourage people to translate questions and answers that are purely in Japanese (to a reasonable extent) so they are approachable by beginners.

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I'm not sure it will be practical to enforce translation of all questions, but if beginners would obviously benefit from it on a given q then we should definitely chime in and ask for it. –  Ali Jun 2 '11 at 13:30
    
Well, if my question, in Japanese, is "what is the difference between ○ and □?", where both are technical/formal words (say, written on your insurance documents or house lease) and that they both translate to the same English word (as it often happens), I doubt that translating the question would be useful. It would be a waste of time, considering there is little chance that a beginner find himself in a situation where he needs to know either of these words before soon, and he'll be as unlikely to be able to answer… This is quite related to the target audience question… –  Axioplase Jun 21 '11 at 8:37
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@Axioplase - You never know, when I was in Japan I had a couple pretty technical phrases scribbled in the back of a book in case there was a medical emergency. Likewise, it is possible for someone to travel on business and need to know a couple of advanced phrases while still just having a rudimentary command of the language. –  rob Jun 21 '11 at 12:11
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English should be encouraged as much as possible. It is not possible for anyone to say whether or not anyone else can benefit. Everyone learns at their own pace, and so some learners who need English might benefit from any learning. We should therefor try to be as inclusive as possible, which means as much English, and as much kana, as possible. –  Questioner Aug 22 '11 at 0:42

I think this will tend to sort itself out.

Beginner questions will tend to be in mostly english. This is fine, since a native Japanese person's knowledge of the language will be less useful for these than other gaijin's perspectives from learning the language.

More advanced questions will be the ones that tend to be written in all Japanese. This will inherently limit the users who can answer them, but probably won't cut out any users who could have answered the question anyway. I could even see lower-intermediate(and beyond) users posting questions that link to all-japanese questions with statements like "I don't understand how 'ni' is being used in the second sentence of this question. Can someone explain this usage?".

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I definitely wouldn't want to limit the usefulness of the site to any particular group, but as someone who is just starting out on the path to learning Japanese I'm already lost with some of the half-english/half-japanese questions.

If the question can be reasonably translated(or partially translated) I think the English translation should be encouraged. If the question only makes sense in japanese, then may a specific tag should be added.

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(1) I agree that we should always encourage askers to include the English version. (2) I am not sure if the “specific tag” you proposed will work effectively. Tagging is a loose classification system, and applying a specific tag consistently is not easy. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 18 '11 at 3:28

The search engine seems to be optimized for English searches.

While a question in full Japanese is entirely appropriate for the site, people searching for that topic will have a harder time finding it. From a searching perspective, including both a Japanese version and an English version would give us the best exposure to all audiences.

Even for Google, having both the Japanese and English content seems like it would help the question appear in more searches - for those searching in Japanese and those searching that topic in English.

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+1 for the search issue. I would add this is even broader, as 1) people might search for their issue using English and/or Japanese... ideally we should have both for important keywords in each question 2) SE does a pretty poor job at optimising pages in Japanese for SEO (been mentioned here for example)... which is theirs to solve, but still affect us in the meantime. And pleads in favour or English content. –  Dave Jun 29 '11 at 5:30
    
Searchability plays a role in dupe prevention too. When I posted a question in full Japanese, I wasn't too sure if the question is clear of duplicates or not. In this case, the area that shows "questions with similar titles" won't be of much help unless (1) we write question titles in both languages, or (2) that area can be changed to search for both title and body, provided that the body always contain keywords in both langs. –  ento Jun 30 '11 at 13:40

By posting questions in Japanese, we also encourage Japanese native speakers to contribute, so I like the idea. However, I don't like the idea of a rift between questions that beginners can, and cannot, understand.

At least, I reckon that the question should get a specific tag for its posted language - e.g. "question-in-japanese" or something.

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There will always be topics that beginners can and cannot understand. I'd make the opposite argument that it's good to have purely Japanese questions for the purpose of learning. You can't really learn to read Japanese from single words or short sentences interspersed into English alone. –  deceze May 31 '11 at 23:58
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@deceze, sorry - I guess I didn't make my position clear. I don't oppose Japanese questions. I oppose mixing them in with no specific tagging. That allows beginner uses to add "question-in-japanese" to their disinterested tag list and thus filter out those questions. –  makdad Jun 1 '11 at 0:21
    
I'd like then to have "question-in-proper-japanese" and "question-in-tentative-japanese" tags too… –  Axioplase Jun 21 '11 at 8:38

I’ve had a look at how this is handled at the French and German stack exchange sites. The norm seems to be:

  • We officially support English and Japanese.
  • Our favorite questions are asked in both English and Japanese. The format is:

    question in English


    question in Japanese

    or vice versa.

  • If you want to ask a question in another language, you can, but please include a translation into English or Japanese.
  • If you don’t include a translation, anything can happen. If you are lucky, somebody will translate your question for you, or somebody will answer your question in your native language. If you are unlucky, a moderator will delete your question. We make no promises.

I think those are good principles. I would add one more:

  • If you are asking an advanced question — i.e. one that only makes sense to people who already understand Japanese well — then you have no excuse for not using Japanese.
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When you said "If you want to ask a question in another language...", I don't think you can. I mean, I can't ask in Italian, but only in Japanese and/or English. –  Alenanno Feb 27 '12 at 14:42

Do questions have to be in English?

A short answer: Yes.

All the answers posted so far agree in that questions do not have to be in English in principle, although some point out the limitation of the system which might cause glitches when questions are not in English. But I beg to differ. The primary language of this website is and should be English, and we should not try to optimize the website for those who do not at all speak English. Questions have to be English, or at least the English version of questions should be included.

There are two reasons. First, we cannot optimize the website for everyone and, like it or not, we have to focus on some group of people. There are many, many websites out there in Japanese about the Japanese language. Setting English as the primary language is a distinguishing feature of this website from those websites, and it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Second, as I understand it, this website was intended to be in English from the beginning, and changing it without going through that painful process of Area 51 seems unfair.

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