As many of you may be aware, there are two sites for English on Stack Exchange: English Language & Usage, and English Language Learners.

There is some interesting discussion on ELU meta on what the difference is:

ELU is a site intended for "serious linguists." Over time, many non-native speakers stumbled across ELU, and would ask questions that native speakers considered very basic. This caused mixed feelings: on one hand, as the board became flooded with more and more basic and trivial questions, some users got discouraged or bored. On the other hand, no one really wanted to tell these English language learners, who were asking legitimate questions for a non-native speaker, that their questions were either not valid or not welcome.

On JLSE, I feel we certainly have both types of questions. Ones that more-or-less any fluent speaker could answer, and ones which even well-read native speakers would have a hard time answering without significant research.

If we are interested in attracting more native & fluent Japanese speakers to the site, I think it is highly worth our time to try and organize our questions so that they can easily find ones that are interesting to them.

Of course, the major complication is that this would be a completely subjective tag, unlike pretty much all of our other tags. But I think it can work — ELU and ELL seem to be functioning, after all, despite the same subjective call needing to be made — and I see very little downside risk in trying it out. At worst, the tag becomes useless and we remove it.

What do folks think about this? Is a tag the right technology for this? Are there any hidden downsides?

  • Interesting. Is this meant to be some complement set of learning? Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:00
  • @broccoliforest Hmm. (The actual learning tag seems to be mostly used on questions about learning Japanese, not questions for people who are learning Japanese -- but putting that aside...) I think beginners can ask questions interesting to fluent speakers -- that is, not every question asked by a beginner/leaner is a beginner-level question. So I don't think this tag would exactly be the complement of a "learning"/"beginner" tag. I haven't quite figured out what the exact tag name should be for what I'm suggesting yet... Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:43
  • Some tags (e.g. 'etymology' or 'old-japanese') are no walk in the park even for native speakers. Some others (perhaps 'anime') correspond to fairly easy questions. The problem is that the broader tags are... broad: 'grammar' can be 'is this sentence correct?' or what was the exact rule for passive causative keigo in early middle Japanese (on a full moon). People who learn Japanese have some idea of their command of the language and should be able to handle more precise tags, such as 'grammar-N5-N4' or 'grammar-N3-N2' based on JLPT. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


(This was too long for a comment.)

I would like to see such an organization. However, your current proposal seems to suggest the introduction of a meta tag.

Even though it's difficult to define what a meta tag is, it's easy to know it when you see one:

  1. If the tag can't work as the only tag on a question, it's probably a meta-tag.
  2. If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it's probably a meta-tag.

This is taken from The Death of Meta Tags (2010), which aptly describes their presence throughout the network.

I think that fits both these criteria perfectly and frankly, I don't see how we could tag questions to reflect "interesting to some group of users".

The only step I see toward solving this would be a sophisticated "Recommended for you" algorithm, similarly what Amazon has to suggest related products, i.e. products that people with "similar interests" looked at or bought. Here on the Stack Exchange network, we need something that takes in parameters like

  • voted up (or answered) by one (or several) user that you upvoted frequently, or
  • in a tag that you upvote frequently, or
  • voted up or answered by someone that upvotes the same users/tags as you
  • etc.

The current "Related posts" are mostly a joke. They have the same "keywords" or tags, but they seem to ignore Japanese, so here two questions are related if they both ask "How to tell the difference between エックス and ワイ?" but not related to a question titled "What is the difference between えっくす and わい?", even though えっくす and エックス might be very much related.

Anyway, "Suggested posts" should help to navigate familiar tags or users, but also should suggest to discover new ones.

  • "... frankly, I don't see how we could tag questions to reflect 'interesting to some group of users'." The same way ELL/ELU does it. The questioner chooses, and if they are wrong, it gets fixed. There are more objective formulations of the tag, like "interesting to at least one native speaker" -- does that make it better? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 18:12
  • The algorithm-based solution seems like it would be nice, but I don't think there's any chance of us being able to influence its development schedule. Can we do something in the meantime? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 18:13
  • On ELU/ELL users post questions on either site. The users vote on policies deciding when to migrate a question and if a question is utterly inappropriate on either site by these policies, users vote again to migrate. Both seem difficult for the tags you suggest: finding criteria for what makes a question interesting to native speakers and having some sort of voting system for users before applying a tag. (I don't think upvoted comments of the form "Let's apply the [interesting-to-native-speakers] tag" would be a good solution.)
    – Earthliŋ Mod
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 12:21

I don't see a need to create an artificial gap between natives and non-natives:

  • As you know, many natives make mistakes. Some use incorrect forms as a convenient shortcut, but others don't even realize they are not correct. Just read a few threads at http://texashuntingforum.com and you will see what I mean.
  • Many natives use the language correctly, but without knowing the underlying rules.
  • Some of my Japanese friends often talk about their non-native professor who masters the Japanese language way better than them. Even if it is an exception, that happens.

So, I don't think that native/non-native is a correct way to split people into groups here.

Splitting into two sites (like ELU/ELL) might become an idea when we receive 10 times more questions per day than now. By the way, the ELU/ELL difference is officially: ELU is a site intended for "serious linguists." Until we reach that heavy traffic, a tag could be an idea, but tags are not intended for this (see Earthliŋ's answer and the concept of meta-tags). "interesting to at least one native speaker" would include 90% of the questions here. "interesting to a linguist" would probably be at around 50%, which is still too much for a tag.

  • My goal is to increase participation from people who have mastered the language, to improve answer accuracy & quality, as well as to encourage more discussions about finer points of the languages. I propose accomplishing this by making it easy for such people to find questions which are interesting to them. The only practical way I see to do this is with a tag, even if Jeff Atwood seems to think such "meta" tags are a bad idea. Do you have an alternate suggestion? Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 20:22

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