French L&U was the first SE site to use a language other than English as its official/preferred language for questions and answers. According to at least one of the mods over at FL&U, this has lead to higher quality questions being asked. In other words, it has gone a long way to attract experts.

In comments on another question on our own site, it @JoulSauron suggested we might benefit from using Spanish in place of English, as well.

How would the community feel about moving toward Spanish as our preferred language?

Some things to consider:

  1. This is probably necessary to truly attract Spanish-language experts, like the English-language experts we have on EL&U (notice how the majority of good questions on EL&U come from native English speakers).

  2. It will probably reduce our question and answer rate, at least in the short term.

  3. The UI will still be in English for the foreseeable future. SE has talked about doing translations, but to my knowledge, there isn't even a 6-8 week time line yet. This means that even Spanish-language experts who visit will need at least a very basic understanding of English to get around the site.

  4. This would not exclude questions or answers in English--but it would probably mean we'd make a much stronger effort to translate as many posts as possible into Spanish. The finer details can be discussed later if we want to move this direction.

  • 1
    We should change the FAQ so it's clear we prefer Spanish than English but it's also accepted.
    – JoulSauron
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 7:41
  • 2
    @JoulSauron: Done. (I also put the Spanish translation in front of the English one this time). If someone wants to check my Spanish version of the changes, I'd be grateful. I know my translation is a bit sub-par. :)
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 16:22

4 Answers 4


Here are my general thoughts on this:

  1. Spanish-language experts are experts in Spanish, so we must expect even they can't read basic English. Native speakers experts may know some English in few cases. Non-Spanish and non-English native speakers who are Spanish experts might find English a barrier to this site. I can think of many people who studied French or German but not English, and might apply the same for Spanish, though nowadays English is being taught in most schools in most countries.
  2. I don't think switching to Spanish should reduce the question rate as long as established users keep asking. We just should make sure to translate every new question and at least the accepted and best answers to Spanish (as suggested in this question).
  3. When the site gets more active is when we should ask for the full translation to give it the final boost.
  4. Totally agree with accepting questions in English as I said, and the making the translations to Spanish. I would add in the FAQ that native Spanish-speakers should make the effort of answering in English and Spanish rather than only in English when the question was made in English.
  • +1 It makes sense to me to cater to the experts, since they will be providing the bulk of the momentum for the community at first.
    – user682
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 21:32

I believe we should encourage all users to both ask and answer in Spanish especially since it is a great practice for people who are learning.

From my own experience in learning French I can tell that because I did not practice my writing skills I can now speak it, understand it, both orally and written, but I cannot write it even if my life depended on it.

That being said I think we should be quite tolerant if a person who is learning writes something that is hard to understand or even does not make sense at all. In this case I would rather see an accompanying English text so we are better equipped to give the best answer. Even in the same tone since we will see this person is in her learning process we should add the Spanish version first but always coupled with its English counterpart.

  • 2
    Totally agree with putting Spanish version before the English.
    – JoulSauron
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 7:22

This exactly came to my mind when I asked a Spanish related question in the site. I wasn't sure on whether to ask it in English or Spanish, so I asked it in both. Now I think there's little point at asking it in English as it's for Spanish experts, but I got confused for the page being in English (and then I read the FAQ).

I agree with all the points made by JoulSauron but have something to add. I'm not sure about the point of view from outside Spain, but here it's NOT normal at all to have a high English level. I don't think this might be a problem if someone gets to the site through Google to see a single question/answer, but this is definitely a setback for making many Spanish experts to stay in the long run and I think that this is what we all want.

  • 2
    If it was entirely up to me, we'd switch the questions, answers, and UI to Spanish. Unfortunately, we don't have the option to change the UI to Spanish (yet).
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 2:27
  • @Filmzy Do you know if there is work going on for this feature already? Commented May 18, 2012 at 12:55

In relation to your third point, I think the UI of StackExchange sites is all actual text (as opposed to images) which makes it a whole lot easier for Google Chrome to automatically translate the UI. In my experience, Latin American countries have a much higher percentage of people using Chrome than the rest of the world (I'm a web developer, so I study these statistics, but I'm not sure about the browser statistics in Spain), so I think it would be fairly easy for a lot of native Spanish speakers to use an English UI.

  • Ah, but it's not all text. There are many graphics involved... which is one of the reasons an early attempt at a JS translator was eventually abandoned. Although it does seem that the new theme(s) have replaced many of those images with text, so it might not be as tricky these days.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 17:33
  • The only interface element (using only the current page as a reference) that uses an image for text is the StackExchange logo. I think the redesign took care of that. I think the important thing would be to add appropriate meta tags to the page so that Google Chrome knows what to translate. Since there's often a mix of both English and Spanish on these pages, auto detection would end up getting confused. I wonder if it's feasible to give users the ability to tag the text in their posts with meta tags as well. To say; this paragraph is Spanish, and this next one is English. Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 20:32
  • That's an interesting idea. Although I'd be less concerned about machine-translating the questions and answers. Hopefully the community can translate the important ones. I don't know much about Chrome's built-in translation, but if proper tags/CSS/etc could make it easier, it would probably be worth bringing up on MSO to see if SE would be willing to support it until an official translation of the UI can be done.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 20:34
  • It's already supported (and probably works great) on most non-bilingual SE sites. See interim.it in Chrome for an example of how Chrome's translation works. Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 20:41

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