MetaFilter: Multilingual Edition? October 2, 2015 1:38 PM   Subscribe

This post (and the previouslies mentioned in-thread by veggieboy) made me wonder whether posts and comments in languages other than English could/would be a welcome part of MetaFilter.

I'm not specifically thinking of this as a way to help beginners learn, but to allow folks who speak languages other than English to use those languages, and possibly, to attract new paying users. I can guess at barriers both technical (does MetaFilter have full UTF-8 support?) and personnel (the mods here are fab, but can't moderate languages they don't speak). I'm less interested in discussing purely logistical barriers, though, and more interested in hearing whether folks think implementing an idea like this, either full-time or perhaps as a theme for a month, would add to or detract from the MeFi community.
posted by zebra to MetaFilter-Related at 1:38 PM (61 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

As a person who can only speak and read English I think this is an awesome idea and also one that will surely attract comment after comment from jerkfaces who are saddlesore about not being able to read the post.

The jerkfaces are not my personal problem to solve so obviously I still think this is a great idea.
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on October 2, 2015

Aside from the logistical stuff you noted, our general mod-side take on non-English language stuff has been that it's totally okay as an occasional thing but (for posts in particular) works best if it's possible to incorporate some English-language content as well, even if just as secondary links, so a broader group of folks are able to engage with it a little.

I certainly like in general the idea of a broader variety of people participating on the site, in any case, so I'm curious what sorts of thoughts folks here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on October 2, 2015

This has been discussed some previously - here's the thread I vaguely remember. There may be others.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

אין לעצטע ! מיין פּלאַנז פֿאַר ייִדיש וועלט קאָנקוועסט נעמען!
posted by maxsparber at 1:50 PM on October 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

oui on en parle de temps en temps

cela dit, quand mon chat veut faire un commentaire sur MeFi, je traduis quand même depuis la Félingue pour que tout le monde puisse profiter de sa sagesse, sinon le "miaou aouuuu mrarr" ça fait vraiment langue étrangère, si vous voyez ce que je veux dire
posted by fraula at 1:53 PM on October 2, 2015 [18 favorites]

The only real problem I see is that Metafilter is great in part because of strong moderation and if posts/comments are composed in a language at least one mod doesn't understand moderation fails in those cases. Also self posting and double detection.
posted by Mitheral at 1:58 PM on October 2, 2015 [34 favorites]

Ca serait sympa c'est sûr mais dans le cas du français c'est fraula qui devra assurer 90% des commentaires (je ferai les 10% restant si les mômes me foutent la paix)
posted by elgilito at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

The only real problem I see is that Metafilter is great in part because of strong moderation and if posts/comments are composed in a language at least one mod doesn't understand moderation fails in those cases. Also self posting and double detection.

posted by Going To Maine at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe there already exists a Chinese metafilter, we just haven't yet heard of it because language barrier
posted by polymodus at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

vaj mughmeH HeghDI' ghel wej DuHIvDI' SoH, vaj QochQo'chuqlaw' MetaFilter quvHa'.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Ik vind het wel lief als ik Nederlands mag schrijven op Metafilter, maar ik heb er zelf niet zo'n behoefte aan om mijn publiek zo klein te maken. [wuift hartelijk naar MartinWisse en neushoorn]
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:04 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

In other words, what's the point of limiting my audience like that?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:05 PM on October 2, 2015

ignoring the barriers, at your request, i think it could add to the site. you mention doing it for, say, a month, and there was a first post month. are months things now (i've been away a few years)? if so, maybe there could be months dedicated to particular cultures, countries, or similar, with the possibility of posting in whatever language is appropriate.

not as a compulsory subject, though, and perhaps not for a month - perhaps a week would be enough, if it was pre-announced so people had time to prepare posts, if they cared.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:06 PM on October 2, 2015

i can't resist one technical comment - how hard would it be to inline some kind of link to google translate?
posted by andrewcooke at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mitheral beat me to it.

I was going to say: unless and until there are multi-lingual mods, I vote no. But it's not a xenophobic snarl of a "NOO!" and more of a slightly disappointed, "Ah, well. Nope."
posted by Xavier Xavier at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

In other words, what's the point of limiting my audience like that?

Zebra provides a rationale in the post.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:08 PM on October 2, 2015

In the past when this was discussed, reception has been cautiously lukewarm. When it actually happened the threads in question are mostly empty, and I recall mods deleting a lot of "What's the point of this?" type comments.

I don't think it's a bad idea at all, just be aware it's been tried before.
posted by smoke at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

To attract more paying users? I don't really believe I'm quite that attractive. And the idea is not something I'm yearning for myself, for the reason I mentioned above.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:14 PM on October 2, 2015

In other words, what's the point of limiting my audience like that?
Nou er zijn er hier wel meer die Nederlands verstaan hoor...

But indeed. Keine so gute Idee.

Or in other words (and understanding the risk that I one day may end up at the bottom of a pileon because I messed up my English by accident) I'd rather see that everyone understands what I'm trying to say, as opposed to trying to understand what I'm saying.
posted by Namlit at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here's the thing. I grew up in a mainly English-speaking household. But my Mom was of French-Canadian descent, and my Dad was a language major in college, so he also spoke French. French was offered in my high school, so I took it. That French was Parisien French, and nothing like what we spoke at home.

So it was fun to say, "Vas coucher!" to the dog (go to bed), or "ferme la bouche!" to our siblings. Or Merde! Because back then, swearing was definitely not allowed, so to get away with it in French was a sweet, sweet victory.

However, that was in the region I grew up in, and I quickly found out that other people didn't get it, only my family members (and the old ladies at St. Vincent dePaul, who will give you a designer suit for 2 dollah or 1 dollah, depending on how you greet them, Bonjour, comment ce va? Oui, ce vas? (How are you? Good, and you?).

I certainly don't expect that regionalism from anyone here, let alone the greater population. I am happy that I grew up speaking a bit of French, and learned a little more in school, so I know how to say "fromage" or "poulet" but I even had to translate the French comments here, despite being married to someone who spend 12 years in France and taking 3 years in high school.

I would, however, vote for more posts geared toward other countries. I feel like we could benefit a great deal from learning from another point of view, but I think doing those posts in foreign languages is stretching it a bit, for what we are. I would love to see more European and Scandinavian posts, or Russian or Thai or African, etc. I read books based on those cultures all the time and would love it if more people would post from their countries and their point of view. I get sick of American-centric posts, but hey, that's what we are. Americans. Pardon.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

Jeg har meget Salt!


Hvem anviste Dem at komme ind her for Smaasager?

I love this idea, I loved it for years.
posted by clavdivs at 5:43 PM on October 2, 2015

I would love a greater diversity of perspectives and experiences on this site, but others have made the point that it's going to be very hard to get off the ground. The notion that this could attract users seems to be backwards; it won't be until this site has a much larger user base that there will be enough speakers of other languages to really engage in these threads on a level approaching what we see in English. I like the idea of accepting all languages, but I can't see why someone would be especially attracted to a site that let them communicate in their native language with a very tiny, tiny percentage of the community.
posted by teponaztli at 6:19 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

ولكن كيف ستعمل الاعتدال؟
posted by standardasparagus at 6:26 PM on October 2, 2015

Follow up question, for the mods (or anyone, I guess): do we have any data on how many speakers of other languages are registered and/or active on MetaFilter? Perhaps in the forthcoming results of The Big MetaFilter Survey? I didn't make it all the way through the survey so I'm not sure whether any relevant questions were on there.
posted by zebra at 7:18 PM on October 2, 2015

i can't resist one technical comment - how hard would it be to inline some kind of link to google translate?

How dare you say that about my mother
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 8:04 PM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Well I just tried to hack together a pertinent sentence in Sumerian cuneiform (there are fonts! and it's in the Unicode standard) and I didn't get anywhere but holy crap there are lots of crazy people on the internet trying to say stuff in Sumerian
posted by XMLicious at 11:18 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Magari! (Schön wär's...)

From time to time I look for similar places in my other languages, and always come up empty. (Not sure if calls for "competing sites" are allowed, but I'd love if anyone had pointers to any comparable forum/community in Cenral European.) Imagined here - as a co-presence, or even as an off-shoot, there's an issue of critical mass, to be sure, but also one of an anglophone cultural specificity that makes MeFi possible, which might keep an other-language subset from ever really taking off. (I've seen other - somewhat more content-specific -community forums not survive recasting in a different idiom.)

If this were to become a thing, I'd make time to enroll in MeFi mod-school. (Do let us know when it's founded and taking applications, cortex - it's only a matter of time, right?)
posted by progosk at 2:02 AM on October 3, 2015

Mod Academy
Mod Academy 2: Their First Assignment
Mod Academy 3: Back in Training
Mod Academy 4: Members on Patrol
Mod Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
Mod Academy 6: Mefi Under Siege
Mod Academy: Mission to Moscow
posted by XMLicious at 2:55 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Marie Mon Dieu we aren't all Americans! Although what I really wanted to say was, since it's an American site, perhaps a Spanish language subsite would make sense, with potential cross posting to and from the blue (and I'm sure there's at least one Spanish-speaking mod).
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:29 AM on October 3, 2015

another reason why people my want this is that for some of us, english is really "just" the language that we use for arguing on the internet. much of our real lives, our friends, our daily living, is done in another language, to some extent. so, for me, for example, spanish feels much more like the "language i use with friends" or "the language i used when i am relaxed and happy". and it's also associated with a different culture - although that again raises the mod issue....
posted by andrewcooke at 5:18 AM on October 3, 2015

je traduis quand même depuis la Félingue pour que tout le monde puisse profiter de sa sagesse

posted by homunculus at 9:44 AM on October 3, 2015

Rather than some posts and comments being unreadable, I think it'd be better to use a universal translator like what clash of clans uses so everyone can participate in the same discussions - but I don't think that technology is ready for the kind of discussion that happens here or affordable/maintainable for a small website.
posted by michaelh at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

"As a person who can only speak and read English I think this is an awesome idea and also one that will surely attract comment after comment from jerkfaces who are saddlesore about not being able to read the post."

Since the point of Metafilter is to read posts and its overwhelmingly English speaking, complaining about not being able to read a post seems perfectly natural.

Until there's built in translation tools, or a multi lingual mod or two, this seems pointless.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have scrapped a couple of posts whose main links would have been in Spanish or Portuguese because I could not find any English language links with enough depth, which I think a pity because the subjects themself were interesting ( at least I thought so). Maybe this is a way to bring more obscure but still interesting stuff in from the cold so to speak especially as more inside or the first comment could be used to elucidate a bit in the English language.
posted by adamvasco at 12:25 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I could see this working as a one language, one post per month trial, perhaps with the "same" subject for each language, say whatever the top local news item is, or a discussion of how. Metafilter compares to the local board or whatever. I am sure we could come up with subject suggestions or whatever. I would be fine with letting the flag system and mod with google translate take care of moderation. So basically just decide that Ocotober will be Spanish, November the Scandinavian languages, December will have the Korean speaking members, or whatever.
posted by Iteki at 1:00 PM on October 3, 2015

If speaking American was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:56 PM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I guess the problem is, actually, I wouldn't be able to really understand posts that weren't in English, and I would ignore them... and when the majority of posts are in another language, I guess I would ignore Metafilter. (this is just my attempt at a realistic perspective from an old guy who doesn't have time to learn Spanish, or any other language)....

It feels like it's an odd trend that fails if it's successful..
posted by HuronBob at 2:36 PM on October 3, 2015

What do you all think of bilingual posts -- e.g. English and Spanish -- that contain the same text?

¿Qué piensan ustedes de "posts" bilingües -- por ejemplo, inglés y español -- que contienen el mismo texto?
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:17 PM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

This would be pretty cool. I would be super interested in seeing posts in languages other than English, although an in-line translation tool would be...sorely appreciated. If that's not feasible, Google Translate. Although it has a tendency to hack endlessly away at nuance.

And also, I support this because despite the altered level of post accessibility that such a change would bring, not every post on Metafilter has to be something that I can (or should) jump into. This extends to posts in other languages. Simply bearing witness and observing (if that's okay with y'all) would be a learning experience enough for me.
posted by Ashen at 5:26 PM on October 3, 2015

As long as the poster, in say Spanish, is not obligated to post a literal translation. A agreed upon link to translate text yes but machines don't do the greatest job in translating.

I'm pretty sure about that in as far as commenting in a language I don't know, especially my own. It could also create a lot of cross talk. For example, if a mefi who is conversing in a Spanish thread shouldn't have to answer to someone who may say "what did that mean, Languagehat?"

Oh shoo I dun dang dug a do doe Dunt did a do do.
posted by clavdivs at 6:02 PM on October 3, 2015

I still think comments should be in English otherwise members of the community are being excluded. Those who understand the foreign language links can easily comment on them in this language and this in turn would help engage others and explain to a greater depth.
posted by adamvasco at 7:44 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Stick with what we've got. After all, English is the Esperanto of languages.
posted by flabdablet at 9:14 PM on October 3, 2015

esperanto estas la esperanto de lingvoj
posted by maxsparber at 9:22 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Are there any substantial, successful, multilingual blogs?

On Mefi it would come down to a few people talking about Donald Trump in French. For a week.
posted by Segundus at 12:51 AM on October 4, 2015

Jeg lærer dansk nu. Hvis der var en Metafilter på dansk, jeg ville være meget glad..
Même en français. J'ai oublié beacoup!

But I don't think Metafilter itself can be Metafilter in another language. Some link content, yes, but comments, generally no.
posted by nat at 2:28 AM on October 4, 2015

Ite ad radices postulare ut post omnes doctos latine - omnia aequalia inaequalibus de

Yeah, beat to the punch yet again, what MartinWisse said.
posted by sammyo at 7:46 AM on October 4, 2015

It's late in the thread, but I wanted to say I don't like how some of the earliest posters poisoned the well by framing criticism of this idea as xenophobia. There are legitimate arguments for not doing this, as articulated by some here, that don't involve the critic being a "jerkface".
posted by Sangermaine at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2015

English only speaker here...

I like the idea of some posts having largely non-english material, with some english language supporting links if possible. More than anything, the idea that there are subjects that don't have english language material not being covered seems, limiting. In Chrome anyways, simply right clicking on a page will have google translate offer an attempt at a translation.

Similarly, sometimes there will be a non-english comment, and google translate can get the point across; nothing wrong with this (and generally there is a contextual reason the comment was made in another language).

That being said, if there are slews of comments in various languages, I might skip translating the various comments; because I'm lazy. I'm not dead set against such a thing, but it will cut off my participation in those threads (which could be seen by some as a net win).
posted by el io at 10:17 AM on October 4, 2015

i really don't think it can work successfully. I am a native speaker of German. I am comfortable enough to comment in English on a lot of topics, and I like answering Asks.
But in the majority of threads in the blue I would never comment simply because I lack the nuanced knowledge of what terminology might be offensive. I read most of the posts and comments on gender issues, LGBT etc in the blue and in metatalk but commenting requires more cultural backgorund than simply language skills.

I am and have been for many, many years a member of a multilingual forum (
Why I mostly spend my time now in Metafilter and not there anymore is here the moderation is much tighter and stronger, and this would be impossible to keep up if other langauges were added. At, aside from the language sub fora, there are several subfora for general (life) questions, eg. Land und Leute, not unlike Ask in some ways. But the language angle adds a complication I don't miss here. The level of intercultural agression tends to be very very high, with one language group accusing the other relentlessly and a high level of cultural bias ("this is not how it is done in our country" type of stuff). the mods would have to rely on a user to point out subtleties a machine translation simply cannot deliver. And interpreting subleties and nuances is tricky and personal ...
I guess my point is, if the mods cannot read it in the original but rely on some machine translations this opens the flood gates for lots of fights. And I simply enjoy the level of moderation available here. I f I want to read German, I look for it elsewhere.
posted by 15L06 at 1:48 PM on October 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

Posting non-English-based FPPs is not really a problem: it's done on a regular basis, usually with additional links in English. It's not the most rewarding thing, since such posts tend to fly below the radar (like many non-anglospherical centered posts, with the extra burden of the language) but there's always people who like them: fellow countrypeople, MeFites with a direct interest in the cited culture such as expats and former expats etc.
Commenting, on the other hand... Not only the critical mass is not there (even Reddit seems seems to have this problem, and it's much larger and culturally diverse than MeFi), but as 15L06 explains above, it's already difficult for non-native English speakers to comment in English here due to the specific sensitivities of the (mostly) US culture of the site. There's no way this could work if other languages were used.
posted by elgilito at 2:42 PM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

If comments started to become prevalent in other languages, I could see that being an issue in terms of coherent communication and significant difficulties for moderators.

But I am strongly in favor of there being a norm that FPPs are fine with some or even all links not in English (which is what I am reading from the moderator responses above). My experience is that people generally don't read the links even when they are all in standard English, so most people can continue commenting unimpeded.

I know I am not the only person here whose household and extended family are not 100 percent in English, so it would feel very natural to have some multilingual FPPs.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:48 PM on October 4, 2015

Are there any substantial, successful, multilingual blogs?

"Blogalization is an international, multilingual community blog, much more ambitious than the recently launched (relaunched) (founded by and using software called MetaPhilter), itself a clone of"

David Mattison in his "The Thousand Year Blog", at, May 12th 2003.

("ambitious" being the operative word, there.)
posted by progosk at 11:18 PM on October 4, 2015

posted by RolandOfEld at 7:18 AM on October 5, 2015

I like this idea on its face, but in practice there's just no way to have Metafilter-level conversations without a common language. There's a reason people tend to settle on a common denominator language - often English - in multilingual situations.
From experience, I find unilingual people get deeply uncomfortable when there's a conversation happening in a language they don't know. Often, that discomfort is expressed through scare-quote comedy. I have a feeling if I were to post something in French, regardless of topic, the majority of comments would be about people's level of French fluency, full of "I took High School French once..." and "ouioui honhonhon" and other "voulez-vous coucher..."s. It would be impossible to have substantial exchanges through the fog of everyone's best Pepe Le Pew impressions.
posted by Freyja at 7:45 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think there are two different situations here:

- Multilingual FPPs: Posts with some/most of the content in languages other than English.
Sometimes, especially when dealing with non-American/European topics, there just isn't enough content in English. If it's something that can be explained by the op in a few short sentences, or if there are a few English sources and more detailed links in other language, then why not put it up. It's always great to come across new, interesting, topics - doubly so if they aren't what I'd normally come across in my random browsing since they aren't in English.

- Multilingual discussions: Comment threads that aren't English.
This feels way too exclusionary, English is the lingua-franca of MeFi, if you want to include everyone in your discussion then that's what it should be in. [Or provide a translation so everyone can join the discussion].
posted by xqwzts at 10:51 PM on October 5, 2015

it feels exclusionary because english is currently the linua-franca of metafilter. if metafilter changed to include more people with more languages then, yes, the english part would be just one part of a larger whole. but calling that - including more people - exclusionary kind of boggles my mind a bit. is this what people call privilege?
posted by andrewcooke at 5:40 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

As a lazy American English reader, I just scroll on by comments I can't read. There are lots of comments I can read that I scroll on by, too.
posted by jillithd at 7:39 AM on October 6, 2015

I'd been thinking about starting FanFare discussions on Radio Ambulante (it's a kind of This Latin American Life), but the English-language podcast threads I engage in already have pretty anemic participation, so.
posted by psoas at 1:03 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

but calling that - including more people - exclusionary kind of boggles my mind a bit.

We're looking at it from different angles I guess, where you see including more people as the outcome, I see excluding current members of the community. FWIW I'd love to have discussions in different languages, especially when it's the language of the topic being discussed, I just don't feel like it's doable at MeFi without losing a chunk of the community that can't participate, and the community is what makes this place what it is.

is this what people call privilege?

What on Earth are you on about?
posted by xqwzts at 4:08 AM on October 7, 2015

So, I posted this FPP today, about a Dutch band who sing in Dutch/Jiddish. But the post and comments are still in English.
That's about as multilingual as makes sense for MetaFilter, in my view.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:01 AM on October 12, 2015

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