Does a question (and by extension its answers) have to be posed in English, or are purely Japanese conversations acceptable? What about other languages?
I'm all for encouraging more native speakers to use the site as well, most of the time native speakers are the best ones to answer questions about the finer nuances of the use of various terms or even the regional differences between how things are said. That said through, I do think that we should encourage people to translate questions and answers that are purely in Japanese (to a reasonable extent) so they are approachable by beginners.
I think this will tend to sort itself out.
Beginner questions will tend to be in mostly english. This is fine, since a native Japanese person's knowledge of the language will be less useful for these than other gaijin's perspectives from learning the language.
More advanced questions will be the ones that tend to be written in all Japanese. This will inherently limit the users who can answer them, but probably won't cut out any users who could have answered the question anyway. I could even see lower-intermediate(and beyond) users posting questions that link to all-japanese questions with statements like "I don't understand how 'ni' is being used in the second sentence of this question. Can someone explain this usage?".
The search engine seems to be optimized for English searches.
While a question in full Japanese is entirely appropriate for the site, people searching for that topic will have a harder time finding it. From a searching perspective, including both a Japanese version and an English version would give us the best exposure to all audiences.
Even for Google, having both the Japanese and English content seems like it would help the question appear in more searches - for those searching in Japanese and those searching that topic in English.
- We officially support English and Japanese.
Our favorite questions are asked in both English and Japanese. The format is:
question in English
question in Japanese
or vice versa.
- If you want to ask a question in another language, you can, but please include a translation into English or Japanese.
- If you don’t include a translation, anything can happen. If you are lucky, somebody will translate your question for you, or somebody will answer your question in your native language. If you are unlucky, a moderator will delete your question. We make no promises.
I think those are good principles. I would add one more:
- If you are asking an advanced question — i.e. one that only makes sense to people who already understand Japanese well — then you have no excuse for not using Japanese.
I definitely wouldn't want to limit the usefulness of the site to any particular group, but as someone who is just starting out on the path to learning Japanese I'm already lost with some of the half-english/half-japanese questions.
If the question can be reasonably translated(or partially translated) I think the English translation should be encouraged. If the question only makes sense in japanese, then may a specific tag should be added.
By posting questions in Japanese, we also encourage Japanese native speakers to contribute, so I like the idea. However, I don't like the idea of a rift between questions that beginners can, and cannot, understand.
At least, I reckon that the question should get a specific tag for its posted language - e.g. "question-in-japanese" or something.
Japanese question is OK. Other language than Japanese/English: No.
For example, considering stackoverflow. Highly sophisticated question (and answer) would require that domain's knowledge, and without that knowledge, the question can be totally incomprehensible. For this kind of question, I think making an effort to comprehensible even for beginners for that topic, it is of course welcome but not mandatory.
Same logic applied, I think the question can be of only Japanese (or English).
As this community's purpose (as I understand) is to accumulate knowledge for Japanese Language, asking question which requires Japanese language capability, it is OK, as long as the question is about the target domain of Japanese Language of which this site (the community) wants to accumulate.
About other Languages, I think support for them should be opted out. Moderation cost for such support does not pay, for this site's purpose, IMO.
Do questions have to be in English?
A short answer: Yes.
All the answers posted so far agree in that questions do not have to be in English in principle, although some point out the limitation of the system which might cause glitches when questions are not in English. But I beg to differ. The primary language of this website is and should be English, and we should not try to optimize the website for those who do not at all speak English. Questions have to be English, or at least the English version of questions should be included.
There are two reasons. First, we cannot optimize the website for everyone and, like it or not, we have to focus on some group of people. There are many, many websites out there in Japanese about the Japanese language. Setting English as the primary language is a distinguishing feature of this website from those websites, and it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Second, as I understand it, this website was intended to be in English from the beginning, and changing it without going through that painful process of Area 51 seems unfair.