This was mentioned in another question, so I'm starting a new one to see if we can flesh it out a bit, namely the use of some sort of leveling of questions so that users can filter the site and responders also know how to tailor the question. The idea seems to make sense but we will need a good system in place for it to be successful.

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    Read this! Jun 1, 2011 at 5:08
  • @Rebecca- And yet they are required on the meta sites. :) Creating a foreign language site for people of all levels is going to be difficult (i.e. the beginners will just not come if things appear to be too advanced) if we can't come up with a way of appearing welcoming or if they get answers that they can't understand.
    – user51
    Jun 1, 2011 at 11:18
  • @Rebecca - Also, while this is meta tagging to an extent - although only if we go with a full tagging system - we are also trying to zero in on being able to say "I'm asking a question about x from the stand point of a beginner" and ensuring that someone doesn't get back an answer that is purely in Japanese. Which would be a good way to drive people away from the site as they can't understand the answers that they get back
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:10
  • it is information that should be in the question, not in a tag. Jun 2, 2011 at 17:59

3 Answers 3


I don't believe the advantage of specifying perspective is enough to justify the otherwise useless meta-tags. The only advantage I can see from such a system is allowing some users to filter out questions, and I'm just not convinced that that's either

a) Something we really want people doing. This isn't like SO where there's a fair chance an advanced learner will be useless on Fortran/Haskell/m4 questions.

b) Worth the overhead of tagging every single question with a level. If you don't tag every single question, a necessarily subjective process, the goal above is not accomplished.

Where does a stylized anime expression, that is fairly basic conversational Japanese, go? One that would be inscrutable to someone only familiar with the "proper" Japanese studied for the JLPT?

Taking your suggested tags in order:

Considering that the focus of this site is a language, even very simple questions can have very complex answers (joshi comparisons are a good example of this). By arbitrarily telling people "don't use big words here", you limit the usefulness of the site. Remember that the focus of this site is on the answers, not the specific question.

to Unless these specifically refer to the tests, I'm not sure what purpose these delineations serve. Questions can very quickly cross 2 or 3 levels.

Why? Presumably a native-speaker would be asking very advanced or obscure questions, making this redundant.

I would vastly prefer or or

Again... how would this not be obvious? Anyone filtering on this tag would either be missing a number of them, or not successfully filtering out at least half of the actual advanced questions.

  • As noted in the answer, the JLPT tags are just there as ideas to get out there and get people thinking about the problem. Likewise, you might want to read through the back and forth between @Ali and myself as most of the points you raise in terms of the tags have been discussed. Right now I'm leaning towards only really introducing the [elementray-japanese] tag - likely through a well documented tag wiki entry - as it will fall out of most of the beginner questions and can accurately describe the level of the question as well as level of the person asking the question. (more)
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 20:01
  • (continued) Note that when I say it can descirbe the level of the question I mean that we could say something along the lines of "Questions on basic Japanese grammar that are introduced in most introductory texts to include those of primary school students in Japan." In regards to the level of the person asking the question, it can be inferred by their use of the tag as well as how they phrase the question. Nothing to say that a native speaker wouldn't use the tag, but it might show up more for those that are still learning basic grammar.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 20:03
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    The best you can say for a [basic-japanese] tag is that it might fulfill the same role as the [homework] tag on SO. Homework indicates that the asker is (or should be) more interested in the process of getting to the answer than the answer itself... to the extent that an answer which doesn't actually give "the answer" is often marked as the accepted answer. I really don't see exactly how that maps to our environment.
    – jkerian
    Jun 2, 2011 at 21:07
  • Re-reading my comment... it suddenly became obvious to me that we probably will have a [homework] tag here too.
    – jkerian
    Jun 2, 2011 at 21:10

One idea that I have is based upon the JLPT levels as most students of the Japanese will encounter it fairly quickly in their studies and should be familiar with it to give a fair idea as to what the test requires. Likewise, it also gives people an idea so to the language skills of the person asking the question so they don't use kanji that the asker may be unfamiliar with. That said, here's my basic idea for the system:

  • - A extremely basic beginner who is unfamiliar with the language and likely only understand romaji.
  • - The asker understands hirajana, katakana, and the kanji required for the level N5 of the JLPT.
  • through - Same as conceptually, but increasing in terms of understanding.
  • - The asker is a native speaker or has a native speaker understanding of the language.
  • - The terminology being used applies to a specific domain (i.e. medicine).
  • - Would be a flag for other users on the to categorize the question if they can.
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    jlpt-n5 through n1 seems a litte komakai to me. Unless you're strictly following course material you may not even know which level you're at.
    – deceze
    Jun 1, 2011 at 1:47
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    @deceze - Indeed, but it does give us a starting point to work with and the tests have we defined levels that we can reference. For example, [jlpt-n5] could become [advanced-beginner] and we have a note in the FAQ defining that has "You understand hiragana and katakana, but only recognize a few common kanji. You may be studying for or have passed the JLPT level N5."
    – user51
    Jun 1, 2011 at 1:49
  • These are all extremely subjective. What happens when the jlpt syllabus changes? What defines a native speaker? I think beginners are already here and are already asking questions, and can't see intuitively that they are going to feel more welcome with arbitrary tags assigned to questions.
    – Ali
    Jun 2, 2011 at 0:58
  • And n5 isn't advanced beginner, its fresh off the boat newbie. Jlpt scale goes up exponentially... see how subjective that is? We had totally different interpretations, who's to say which is correct?
    – Ali
    Jun 2, 2011 at 1:01
  • @Ali - I'd argue that someone that can pass the N5 test is going to be much more advanced than the fresh off the board newbie that can't read hiragana yet. That said though, the tags are just ideas to get people thinking. We could also go something along the lines of [elementary-japanese] to indicate that it is a more basic question than the others.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:07
  • @Ali - Actually, something I just thought of, I could foresee the JLPT based tags showing up in the system just through the natural progression of things as people are studying and have a question to ask and toss the tag on there as part of their question.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:12
  • Actually, since you've mentioned that you're at about that level you probably have a better understanding of what makes beginners comfortable with using the site. Still not sure if we need that level of granularity past intermediate level. Re: the difference between N5 and brand new, let's see if you feel the same way in three years :P In all seriousness, much like any other subject worthy of study, I've found that the more you know, the more you know you don't know!
    – Ali
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:13
  • Yeah but again, those tags will go stale as soon as JLPT changes, which it's been known to. When I did it there was no Nn levels, just 1-4 kyu for example. At the same time if it has some utility and we don't mind if the tags are a little stale from time to time, then what the hey?
    – Ali
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:16
  • @Ali - Indeed, when I was mulling things over I realized that we might only really need two tags that could be "meta" even though I could foresee them arising naturally through how people would asking questions, namely something along the lines of [elementary-japanese] which could be on par with the range that most beginners would understand which would also be just that - very basic Japanese and maybe something like [advanced-japanese] which would likely be implied by the question being written purely in Japanese but would be for college level grammar questions.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:19
  • @Ali - However, I do think we need some way of letting people indicate they are looking for a more beginner oriented answer as people will be driven off through the intimidation factor if they ask a beginner style question and get back and question that is why over their head, plus it's not very helpful to the learning processes.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:21
  • Fair enough. The real way to fix the JLPT problem is to match vocab in a question up against lists and manage tags dynamically but I'm not sure if a) there's a SE API and b) that it would support such a thing.
    – Ali
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:25
  • @Ali - I think that the API would support it, but the application of it would be limited to programs outside of the site. Plus, use of kanji within a given level does not imply that the question is limited to that level. However, I think that the JLPT tags will show up more due to questions people have about something on the current test as opposed flagging what their current level is.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:29

Using jplt is bad though. I didn't feel people with the highest jplt degree had specialized knowledge of the language (I see jplt as a bragging right, though I find most of these people are good at passing exams but forget most of what the studied once passed...) - I'm extremely sorry if that shocks someone, it's just a personal observation over time, not directed at anyone :) Feel free to ignore that part.

The level of a question is relative to one's own knowledge of the language. Those levels are going to be completely subjective.

  • The JLPT based tags were just ideas that were being presented as part of the concepts as opposed to the execution. Also, the core of this is avoid someone asking a beginners level question and getting an answer back that is completely in Japanese. The answer might be 100% correct but if you can't understand it then you will not find it useful, plus it might drive people off if they can't understand the responses they are getting back.
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 16:32
  • ok, that makes sense presented like this. Maybe a good question should simply explain what kind of answer the person asking needs?
    – repecmps
    Jun 2, 2011 at 16:35
  • Indeed that is one idea and we can infer quite a bit on some questions depending upon how is written, but once someone knows enough kanji to be able to include them in the question it gets a bit harder
    – user51
    Jun 2, 2011 at 16:39

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