The Metafiler Official Language Request June 12, 2001 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Is it appropriate to post non-English links to the front page? For the majority of MeFites, it's equivalent to a linkless post, no? Or worse: In this case, at least there was no warning until the very end of the comment, so I'm sure many wasted their time clicking a useless link. But hey, maybe everyone here speaks French but me.
posted by mw to Etiquette/Policy at 6:10 PM (26 comments total)

There should've been a comma after "at least."
posted by mw at 6:19 PM on June 12, 2001

A more important question....should people correct spelling or grammar in a second post? I'm not kidding. It drives me insane. I'm probably the worst person to talk, because I have so many spelling errors in my posts I make W look articulate (that ones for the conservatives!), but it just seems silly. We all work from the assumption, I think, that people who post know the english language decently well, and have merely made a mistake.
This isn't just aimed at you, MW, but everyone.
posted by Doug at 6:27 PM on June 12, 2001

I did that only because I thought the sentence could be read to mean something else without the comma. But feel free to start your own grammar correction thread if you like. I do see your point.
posted by mw at 6:31 PM on June 12, 2001

I'm actually just lazy enough not to do that, mw.
But to give my opinion on YOUR question, I don't think it was appropriate. If a piece of news was mindshatteringly new and interesting, but only available in Swahili, I can see it, but this link wasn't all that interesting at all. There's no point in posting a link if 99% of MeFi can't read it.
posted by Doug at 6:39 PM on June 12, 2001

I hate spelling and grammar errors, but spellcheck just crashed my browser. Waaah. Plus I'm having preview problems, tested, lost and am typing this all over again. My comment hardly justifies the effort.

What I was going to say was that when I first read the post I assumed the first link was in English because the the last parenthetical comment "(Also second article. All in French.)" If it is clear that the original link is in French, I would certainly have no problem. We are always free to click or not to click. So the question then becomes what is the presumption?

And Doug, perhaps this wasn't mindshattering and frontpage worthy, but I think it is interesting to address the issue in general. What if here had been a really timely interesting post not yet available in English?

posted by noether at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2001

Still two typos: "the the = of the" and "here=there". Can't really blame those on spellcheck. J'ai something.
posted by noether at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2001

I think it's totally appropriate; like every thread, it would find its audience. If the audience is small, well, that's OK.

This thread seems representative of the asymmetrical way English speakers percieve the world. If non-English speakers are shut out, oh well. They can find their own space. If English speakers are shut out, well, HEY! But really, what have you lost by being exposed briefly to a French language page?

That's not to say that a little warning isn't nice. I'm not unaware that MeFi's a majority-English, and it's good to flag the unexpected somehow. But I don't see that anyone is harmed by it.
posted by rodii at 7:47 PM on June 12, 2001

rodii: I don't get the asymmetrical argument. If MeFi billed itself as a multilingual service you would have a point, but like most places where discussion takes place, we seem ro have agreed on a common language for practical reasons. That language happens to be English. So my compaint has nothing to do with any perception of English as superior.
posted by mw at 8:00 PM on June 12, 2001

true. The slang and disjointed foo-foo i comment with must burn out spellcheckers. But is this not part of our language. to craft a response to make it spellchecker friendly would be tedious. It does tell me clean up my logopoeia though. I thought a language translator would pop up on the posted site, felt dumb for dropping out of french. perhaps this is a good example why english is the hardest language to learn.
posted by clavdivs at 8:07 PM on June 12, 2001

MeFi billed itself as a multilingual service

OK. But what *does* MeFi bill itself as?

we seem to have agreed on a common language

It's that "seem to" I dispute. In fact, there's been no discussion and no agreement, even if it seems that way to some people. The numerical fact of English-speaker dominance doesn't translate into some quasi-legal legitimacy, any more than, say, the US being a numerically English-speaking society means English is the offically enforced language there.

So my compaint has nothing to do with any perception of English as superior.

Sorry, didn't mean to imply you had. It's not a question of superiority. It's simply that every language is inconvenient for someone, but no one ever complains but English speakers. Again, I don't see the harm, except for your "wasted clicks," which doesn't seem to be much of a cost.

posted by rodii at 9:21 PM on June 12, 2001

If one of the mandates of MeFi, one of the only rules, is that the post has to be linked to something on the web, then isn't linking to a site that the vast majority of users can't read the same as not linking to anything at all?
Did the link, in this case, add anything to the post? Not really. The poster had to explain what the article said.
It clearly isn't a problem now, but it could, theoretically become a problem.
Rodii, I see what you're saying, but I think the fact that every aspect of metafilter is written out in English should lead us to believe that this is an English oriented website. If tomorrow half the posts were in different languages, it would diminish the quality of the site, especially for those people who matter most. English speakers.
posted by Doug at 9:45 PM on June 12, 2001

Cutting and pasting text into a translator is such a relatively painless process, that I can't believe this is really such a horrible problem for people.

If you restrict what can be linked to, you lose possible great content.
posted by dong_resin at 10:30 PM on June 12, 2001

you don't even have to cut+paste ... if you use babelfish, you can submit a url.
posted by moz at 11:39 PM on June 12, 2001

I find Bablefish, etc., good for humor value sometimes and to help me get some meaning from something I think is important, but I can't see using it to read articles like the one posted. Aside from the difficulty in deciphering the output, I'd worry the meaning had been altered.

But my issue is more one of ettiquette than anything else. If the post had warned about the non-English content right up-front rather than in a non-apologetic parenthetical comment at the very end of the post, and had included a translation link (which, I've just discovered you can't do directly to the article with Babelfish, 'cause you get an "invalid referrer" error), I'm pretty sure this thread wouldn't exist. It would have acknowledged the difficulties 99% of us were about to experience with those links.
posted by mw at 3:31 AM on June 13, 2001

I don't think this link is a good example, but I like the idea of the occasional link in French, Spanish or another language. Out of 9,000 members, there ought to be enough of a critical mass in a few languages to pull it off.
posted by rcade at 5:42 AM on June 13, 2001

As someone who can read French, I did appreciate the link though I agree with the comments that it should have been made more apparent that all links were to pages in French.

However, in this particular case, I think joeclark could have located articles in English, at least giving the background on the case, as this incident was well-reported in the English-Canada media as well. Perhaps there were details in some of the articles linked that weren't in English reports (I didn't read each one in detail) but one article in English could have given some context to the MeFi post.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 6:15 AM on June 13, 2001

I think I could see this, coupled with the PHPfi attempts, creating a few different MetaFilter sites for various languages. Like, ich weiss nicht, Das MetaFilter - deine Deutsche Links, zum Beispiel. And what's nice is that MetaFilter in German is, "MetaFilter". No messy translations! (although I don't know what gender MeFi would be.)

Insofar as on this site goes, I'm personally not against foreign language links, but until translation utilities really help overcome language barriers, it's going to be tough going for those who don't speak the language.
posted by hijinx at 6:58 AM on June 13, 2001

fwiw, I read the linktext to mean that only the second link was in french.

fwiw2: joeclark is known for pushing boundaries at mefi. it's what he does.

as for non-english links - why not? if no one posts to the thread, so what?

I enjoyed the fact that the brits discussed the election here the other day; no way could I take part in that, but there are enough of them that there could be a good discussion on it. I thought that was great. if there are enough people to discuss any non-US-centered link, I think that discussion should happen. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2001

I agree that all non-English links should be stopped. Also, that all non-Americans should be banned.

But seriously folks, it's a great big web and every day more and more of it is in languages other than English. It'd be nice if there were a technological solution like hijinx mentions (FrenchFi! SwahiliFi! CajunPatoisFi!) but in the meanwhile, you know, scroll down.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:01 PM on June 13, 2001

the articles in english that i was able to find didn't cover the point that joeclark was trying to bring up...and so weren't as valuable for the discussion. I had no problem finding a canadian news site that had an article. Yahoo Canada even had one, but it didn't mention the fact that the families wanted to not press charges.

i thought it was cool to have french links...i only need a direction to go, not hand-holding. I usually try to find other articles on any subject posted before i make comments anyway.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:19 PM on June 13, 2001

Sapphireblue is correct, and indeed, a translation of the page via babelfish isn't pretty but certainly gives you the information you need. Whining about non-english pages in relatively common languages that use the same character set as english is more or less just that.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 1:26 PM on June 13, 2001

Correct me if I am wrong, but I did not know that communication was an English only thing. I do not speak or read other languages myself, but certainly others do.
posted by bjgeiger at 12:13 AM on June 14, 2001


It is appropriate to post non-English links to the front page. It is appropriate to post to the front page. I think it's appropriate to post anything short of screaming fire in a movie theater to the front page in MeFi, and it is this extremism which I hope will at least help keep MeFi somewhere between conservative censorship and anarchistic wanton abandon.

Please remember that though MeFi's server may be located in the states, it is accessible worldwide, and a large percentage of participants have rarely if ever stepped foot on American soil, nor would some of them desire to do so. Why? Cuz we're generally a bunch of ethnocentric Yank buttheads over here. (sorry y'all non-English types.)

If you personally don't like anything posted to MeFi, you can whine and moan in MeTa of course, or you can scroll on. This system seems to be working very well.

Quel est votre défaut de fonctionnement principal, Pyle privé?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:51 AM on June 14, 2001

I like non-English links - provided they use a character set that I don't have to download in order to read. That's my own laziness though.

Links to non-English sites or articles remind me that the web is a global place, and make me feel lucky that I still live in an era where people even SPEAK different languages, and have different cultures. I dread the time when we are all so homogenized by our instant-access media that people will no longer feel it necessary to preserve their local culture instead of the global.

I am also lucky, in that I have a bit of a knack for languages and I actively seek out opportunities to use my knowledge, so I can see why my preferences would be entirely different than 90% of the users on MeFi, particularly the American ones. But still - you guys have to ask yourselves, do you want to limit your opportunities to discover perspectives from other cultures? I think using Babelfish for articles is acceptable, even though the results are occasionally more humourous than informative. But really, would you want to only read English perspectives on global events? Knowing that the English bias could be keeping you from truly understanding how the people involved are experiencing things?

posted by annathea at 12:10 PM on June 14, 2001

How come no one ever complains when the link is in Japanese or Chinese?

Is there really that strong an anti-French bias on Mefi?
posted by lagado at 7:43 PM on June 17, 2001

Many things on MeFi have happened just by accretion and inertia. I say throw all the non-English links up there that you want, and let God sort 'em out.
posted by rschram at 4:50 PM on June 22, 2001

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