Now that JLU has been updated to support non-ASCII characters in tags, we have the ability to introduce non-English versions of our tags, and use synonyms to match the Japanese and English versions together for people that aren't familiar with both words.

Should we? If so, to what extent?

Some advantages:

  • The immediate benefit is with the particle tags. By having the particle written in Hiragana, we can help avoid issues where there may be two different ways to spell a particle in English, like with .

  • It may make the interface easier to use for native Japanese participants because they will be able to search more effectively for a topic.

  • It can possibly help people learn terminology as they see their tag is a synonym of some word they've never seen before.

Some disadvantages:

  • The site is now almost 18 months old, and we have been using English tags since the beginning. A switch now might be disruptive.

  • It may make the site harder to use for some people. Sure, there can be synonyms to pair the English tag with the Japanese one (or vice-versa, depending on what convention is decided), but that mostly helps when adding tags. Only the primary tag is shown on the question, not the user-entered synonym, so users browsing the question list may not understand or recognize the tags shown. (I'm not entirely sure about this, having used synonyms rarely.)

  • It may be harder for people to type non-English tags (this may or may not be an issue).

So, what do we as a community think? Would JLU benefit from the adoption of non-English tags? If so, would we use English or Japanese for the primary tag language?

Also related: Do we need support for kanji tags?

  • As others have said, the tags do not seem to be of much value: changing them might not be much of a distraction. Perhaps a few tags by hiragana particle really would make these things more useful...and help the site get picked up more often by the search engines?
    – Tim
    Nov 2, 2012 at 12:10
  • I do not see any ambiguity in the tag name “particle-e.” Did you mean something like “particle-wa” which could mean both は and わ? Nov 3, 2012 at 17:23
  • @TsuyoshiIto Some institutions would refer to it as "particle-he" because it uses the "he" character. So some of the people most likely searching for questions about that topic may not find it under the current tag. (I assume more advanced speakers are asking about more advanced topics.) Your point about は would fit as well.
    – Troyen
    Nov 3, 2012 at 20:55
  • Ah, I see. I incorrectly thought that you were talking about two particles having the same romaji spelling, while you were talking about two spellings for the same particle. I should have read the post more carefully. Thanks for the explanation! Nov 3, 2012 at 22:06

3 Answers 3


I am all for having hiragana tags for common grammatical subjects such as こと、もの、と which are the kind of thing that bring new people to the site. (I am not technical but if it brings us up more in the search engines then it is also adding value to the site franchise as a whole.)

Personally I, like others, have seen little value in our tags. This would give us a facility rather like the indices in our text/reference books to help make use of past questions & answers.

  • I'm not really a fan of JLPT tagging because it doesn't provide a clean division. Some of the vocabulary for JLPT 5 use kanji from the JLPT 2 test, as an example. And depending on study, someone may know a smattering of concepts from JLPT 1-2, but not know concepts from JLPT 4 because they weren't taught to the JLPT. A general "JLPT" tag is easier to support because questions on standardized tests have specific requirements compared to general language questions.
    – Troyen
    Nov 3, 2012 at 20:59
  • @Troyen I said it was controversial - I'm not even sure that tags would be the best way of sorting by JLPT level, I think it may be better to do it in a meta post. But I was really thinking about grammar points rather than vocabulary, arranged similarly to the way jgram.org is, using the the old JLPT 1-4 when the lists were prescribed...Anyway, this is a thread about Japanese tags, so I think it'd need to be proposed in a separate thread.
    – cypher
    Nov 3, 2012 at 22:20
  • 1
    @Tim would it be OK if you could remove the JLPT level bit so that people who agree with the Hiragana tags but not the JLPT level proposal can vote it up?
    – cypher
    Nov 4, 2012 at 2:38
  • @cypher: Ok. (Actually I do like the idea of jlpt level but we can leave that for another day.)
    – Tim
    Nov 4, 2012 at 16:54

Personally I don't hold a strong opinion either way, but I think I'm leaning towards sticking with English tags for the time being.

  • Using the unofficial Japanese Stack Exchange localization script, I prefer to leave Japanese tags on myself.

    In many of the other Stack Exchange language sites though, e.g. the French site, even if I don't know any French I can get a pretty good idea of what the tags mean, but with Japanese being a more distant language from English, I think it'd make browsing the site more difficult for someone who doesn't already know the words or have rikaichan or something installed.

    I think it also might make things more difficult for some beginner users to locate and figure out which tags to use when asking a question.

  • I'm not sure of the specifics of how Stack Exchange does SEO with tags, but it might be a problem for SEO if the tags were in Japanese and people were primarily searching on Google in English.

  • Autocomplete when editing tags may not be possible with a Japanese IME and Kanji tags, though if people typed tags in English I think you could still get autocomplete for the tags using the English synonyms.

  • This is a minor issue, but the alphabetical browsing of tags is more difficult with Kanji in the tags page. Also in English you could type , and it'd automatically create a new tag when writing a new question, but when typing with an IME you currently need to switch to English, type , then switch back to Japanese for the next tag which is a bit more work, though I think that's a fixable problem.

I think in an ideal world, if Stack Exchange was to implement localization officially and the tags were also localizable based on browser language/user preferences, tags would be displayed in English if the English localization was displayed, and Japanese if the Japanese localization was displayed, but I don't know how difficult that would be.

  • 1
    This is kind of my position as well. Instead of kanji tags, what about limited use of hiragana on the particle tags? For example, the へ tag I mentioned, some people refer to it as "e" and some people "he", whereas I think へ would be more unambiguous (if people knew to look for it).
    – Troyen
    Nov 1, 2012 at 23:39
  • @Troyen yeah maybe, it might also pay to display Hiragana for e.g. "te-form" and "na-adjectives". I'm currently undecided on whether to make Japanese words currently written in romaji like "kansai-ben", "wasei-eigo", "ateji", "okurigana", "kana" etc display in Japanese or not, but I think that's an option too.
    – cypher
    Nov 1, 2012 at 23:57
  • @cypher: I downvoted because I don't see what we would lose by having hiragana tags (eg こと) , particularly if currently the existing tags are not really used. (I am going to look at other comments about taga but I can only remember one +ve one, and even then they sounded like a nice to have.) Perhaps we could have both romaji and hiragana in the name (eg こと/koto). [I guess the alternative, to have two levels of tag, min. of one mandatory English tag plus optional hiragana is not possible.]
    – Tim
    Nov 3, 2012 at 0:08
  • 1
    @Tim I think I'm in favour of limited use of Hiragana in tags, as I said in my previous comments...but if you want to make all tags in Japanese with Hiragana, that is one point of view too, but please write your proposal as a separate answer so that we can evaluate why that would be better than what we have now.
    – cypher
    Nov 3, 2012 at 0:25
  • @cypher: Perhaps we've misunderstood each other. I don't want to make all tags hiragana (heaven forbid), I just think it might be worth having some tags in hiragana so people can easily find questions relating to, say, the use of こと. I don't use tags at all but if I had some like that then I would be able look them up questions about こと in the same way as I would the index of my text/reference books. (That's all. I can still use the site without them so it is not the end of the world.)
    – Tim
    Nov 3, 2012 at 2:20
  • @Tim Oh OK...I actually don't think that's a bad idea, and have previously thought about proposing tagging by Japanese grammatical elements like "こと". It might be worth writing that as an answer anyway as I think that's a real possibility. (I might even go so far as to tag questions by JLPT level, but that's probably more controversial :P)
    – cypher
    Nov 3, 2012 at 2:32

In the spirit of creating as much Japanese interface as possible to be more inclusive of native Japanese speakers, I propose:

  1. Create Japanese tag synonyms for a selection(*) of English tags. The English tag shold be the primary one, with the Japanese synonym pointing at it.
  2. All questions, including those in Japanese, must use English tags.

(*)Selection criteria: Most frequently used ones and tags which are essentially romanization of a Japanese word, such as .

That way,

  • a. Tagging gets easier for people who are only familiar with Japanese grammatical terms.
  • b. You can search all questions relating to a particular concept in one go.

This is not mutually exclusive with having hiragana tags for common grammatical subjects.

  • Conceptually, I don't have a problem. Though practically, I wonder if a synonym for every tag is necessary. In my opinion, there are a lot of tags that aren't so useful, and which are only on a few questions anyway. That's a lot of extra tag synonyms floating around for little benefit (say, for example, the vowel tag). Maybe just major tags, concepts, or tags that didn't translate well into English anyway?
    – Troyen
    Nov 8, 2012 at 0:09
  • Yeah, I agree having synonyms for all tags is too idealistic. I've edited the post to have a more relaxed guideline.
    – ento
    Nov 8, 2012 at 2:29
  • @Troyen As for the current situation of the tags, I like how programmers.SE is conducting "once a quarter-ish" tag cleanup initiatives.
    – ento
    Nov 8, 2012 at 2:36
  • Why don't we give a few a trial run? If we get rid of them later perhaps, depending on the tags themselves, put them all down as "grammar".
    – Tim
    Nov 8, 2012 at 10:09

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