This question is inspired by an answer to What is biggest problem facing Genealogy & Family History Stack Exchange? where @lejonet says:
Focus on English language and thereby no user base for curating questions from an international multilingual community. This is a huge problem, even for regular users, because e.g. Americans won't find help with their European, non-British ancestors.
The Stack Exchange network certainly has a Non-English Question Policy but it states its scope at the outset:
here’s our official policy towards non-English questions on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and Super User.
However, I do not read anything in the above links that says Genealogy and Family History has to be "English only".
I would like to propose that here we try a policy where a question can be asked and answered in multiple languages but with an aim that one of them is always English. How I think it could work is as follows:
- Question is asked in any language, preferably a well known one, and preferably (but not necessarily) with at least some form of English translation. The title should preferably be written in English. Tags should preferably be in English.
- When Question is seen by anyone that recognises the language that it is written in, they check for whether that language has been included as a tag. I suggest this because with my high school French I could recognise and crudely translate a question but it would be far better to tag it so someone with far superior French-English translation skills than mine could look for it and do much better.
- When anyone translates a question into English (and theoretically they might translate a question from English too - to try and attract a wider audience) they use the Horizontal Rule button below the original text and write "Translation (via Google Translate)", or "Translation (by @user1234 with high school French)", etc, and then the translated text.
- Part of the translation should be to provide an English title to the question
- Part of the translation should be to provide English tags to the question
- Part of the translation should be to double-check that the question has been tagged for the language it is originally written in (unless that is English)
- For answers we likewise be supportive of everybody's translation efforts by using a Horizontal Rule to separate original from translated text.
The above policy could I think have these advantages:
- engage more genealogists world-wide than we do now because Google searches in their own language will find some Q&As that they can more easily read
- have a big benefit to those of us keen to understand records in languages other than our own
- keep close enough to any Stack Exchange policy that is bent towards English, but open our doors to non-English speakers
- make G&FH SE more attractive to non-English speakers without making it hard for the majority of our current users which I suspect is English only speaking.
- taking advantage of our wiki style editing capabilities to curate those Q&As which become multilingual will help separate the value we offer from that of regular Q&A, message/bulletin board, and discussion forum sites.
Playing Devil's Advocate, what happens if a question is asked in a language with very few speakers and that no one here (or Google Translate) has the faintest idea how to translate? My answer would be that we could leave it open for a while, but that the option to close it as "Unclear what you are asking" remains valid to do, and if it is stumbled upon by someone who does have the skills to translate it then it should be possible to simply re-open it.