Should other languages than English be allowed on the Discourse forum?

I was asked this question today. My take on this is that we can only accept posting in other languages than English if we have at least one moderator that understands the language. Then, we should probably have special categories for each of the languages so that people can easily “mute” the ones that they don’t understand. (It would then be up to the moderators / users to decide if this category should have sub-categories or not.)

We can easily have moderators for French, Spanish, Italian… On the other hand, I know that there exists a significant Japanese Coq user community but I don’t personally know any member of this community, so opening such a category would depend on whether some Japanese-speaking Coq users are volunteering to become moderators. Same for Chinese, Brazilian / Portuguese, Russian, etc.

Anyway, that was just food for thought. What is your take on this?

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My take is that there is much to gain by allowing this experiment and little to lose.

I can moderate the Spanish section.


Have you thought about having separate instances, eg. coq-{cn,es,fr,jp} This may allow to use a localized interface by default, which may be important for people not comfortable with english, and the separation might actually make people feel more at ease using their native language. (On the other hand, it means you have to sign up several time with separate accounts.)

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Yes, I have thought about this and I had two concerns:

  • The main one is that I don’t expect Discourse to agree to create these other instances (for free) if we can’t prove to them that it will receive enough traffic. To know if there will be enough traffic, we can try first the solution with categories, or do a poll.
  • My other concern is that this would split the community into separate silos. If the community is large enough, this is not necessarily bad (the separate Stack Overflow in Portuguese doesn’t hurt the main Stack Overflow). But I’m not convinced the Coq community is large enough.

Perhaps a good alternative to splitting the community into separate Discourse instances would be to mandate one-language per thread? It would be nice to have just one forum to go to as a multi-lingual Coq user.

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Maybe the best way to decide how to proceed would be to contact people in the language communities of interest, and ask them what they think their crowd would be most comfortable with.

@Zimmi48: re. finding moderators, we briefly discussed having per-language moderators at the last Coq WG and people (Yves Berthot in particular, iirc., also Pierre-Marie for Japan) seemed to have a lot of ideas on who to ask.

I was just reading how requiring to learn English in order to learn programming supposes a big problem in many countries :slight_smile: so indeed that’s a case of diversity and I do agree.

I think it is fair to assume that most discussion in other languages will be targeted to people approaching Coq for the first time, senior users / researchers are way more likely to conduct discussion on English.

Thus, I do suggest we create the “Coq en Español” category.


Perhaps a good alternative to splitting the community into separate Discourse instances would be to mandate one-language per thread? It would be nice to have just one forum to go to as a multi-lingual Coq user.

Sure for me, this was clearly a prerequisite. But this rule alone wouldn’t prevent people subscribed to the forum to receive lots of mails from topics in languages they don’t understand. That’s why I was proposing to use categories. People can decide to mute them.

re. finding moderators, we briefly discussed having per-language moderators at the last Coq WG and people (Yves Berthot in particular, iirc., also Pierre-Marie for Japan) seemed to have a lot of ideas on who to ask.

I know that Pierre Castéran too has contacts in Japan, but I kind of intended this topic as a call for moderators.

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The Google Translate feature for translating an entire web page is pretty useful, especially if Discourse had a button on the screen to invoke translation. (Maybe even better if Discourse could track the language used in a thread.)

Google translation:
Past experience indicates that the machine has been able to translate simple Chinese. If the community allows the publication of regional event advertisements and the activities use the local language, it is of little significance to translate them into English accurately, and machine translation is sufficient.

Unfortunately, the free Discourse offer that we are using only allow to install a very small number of plugins, and there is no translate plugin among them.

Are you suggesting that we could allow posts in any language in the announcements category (with the implied rule that only regional events use local languages)?

It seems to me that this would be useful only if non-English speakers are already actively using the Discourse forum, e.g. by using a translating add-on in their browser. Do you think that this will be the case?

I used to be quite hostile to automatic translation, especially given that it used to be very bad, at least between French and English. Thus, I don’t really grasp how many people regularly browse the web with such an embedded translator.

Today is the “international mother language day”. This seems to be a good opportunity to promote multilingualism in our community in general and on this forum in particular.

Anyone on this forum should be welcome to write in the languages they are comfortable with and find suitable for the situation and expected audience. Of course, the writer knows that not everyone can read all languages and the readers know that they are not expected to understand all messages.

Also, regarding Jay’s suggestion, I’ve seen interesting multilingual discussions, in which some replies are not in the main language of the thread. The authors of said replies are fluent enough to read and follow the discussion but not confident enough to write in that language; though, their opinion is still valuable and welcome.


I’m not certain of the situation in other countries, but in China, learning English is mandatory since 2001. I would expect the Coq community are all able to read English (with dictionary assistance), but not all are confident to post in English: our community should be open to these users.

I have seen unmoderated chatrooms where beginners can ask questions freely; even if they couldn’t state clearly enough, other participants can immediately respond to clarify. Beginners might feel more comfortable in informal groups than “official” forums like this, but I think “Coq 中文” category is still worth a trial.

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It seems to me that what emerges from this discussion is that everyone agrees that welcoming posters in non-English languages is important for the diversity / inclusiveness of the community and that this is something that we want. People are generally not worried about seeing posting in mixed languages, and even in a single thread that might not necessarily be a problem (there is debate on this question). Having categories for specific languages would be useful to strongly signal to users that they are welcome to post in non-English languages too and make them feel even more at home.

So I propose to implement the following conclusion:

  • There is no rule against posting in any language in any category (if we don’t have moderators for this language, we will use automatic translation tools to ensure this is not spam / abusive), we could add to the Welcome message a sentence such as “If you are not confident with your English writing skills, feel free to post in your preferred language, and we will try our best to answer nonetheless.”
  • We will create categories for the language where there is explicit demand and someone ready to moderate:
    • Coq en español (moderator @ejgallego)
    • Coq 中文 (moderator @Lys? can you confirm that you are OK with this?)
    • Coq en français (moderator @Zimmi48)
  • We will add more categories as soon as someone requests them.

(Moderating is not supposed to take much time / effort, it is just about writing a welcome message for the category, responding to flag posts and scrutinizing posting by newcomers mostly.)


Thanks @Zimmi48 , the second point looks good; however I am slightly concerned about the point 1, in the sense that we should encourage posting on non-english in the proper category, right?

Of course if some post is done there, it could be moved by mods, but I mean, wouldn’t it better to try to centralize discussion in a particular language in a certain place?

Here I am assuming of course that language categories would host mostly non-developer discussion; which would not be true for example for French :slight_smile:

It was my position when I started this thread, but then the comments by other people seemed to show that people wouldn’t mind seeing postings in other languages in any categories. This applies in particular when no category exists yet for a given language. But indeed, the Welcome message should also advertise the existence of these specific categories per language. It was also suggested by @Lys that the announcements category in particular could contain posts in any local language. Once again, if there is a language-specific category then there could be an announcements sub-category, but in the case there is no such language-specific category it would make sense for people wanting to announce a local event to use the local language on the main announcement category (even if a translation to English would always be very appreciated).

I wouldn’t support conducting development discussion in French: this goes against our objective of transparency and inclusiveness of the development process. The French category too should be specifically targeted for people that do not master English writing and for local event announcements (although in the case of the Paris meetup, since the talks often end up being in English, a multi-language posting in the main announcements category would actually make more sense).

I was kinda joking here sorry if it wasn’t clear from the context @Zimmi48.

I am still undecided on the topic of announcements, etc… First of all, or course I guess we won’t have any “hard” rules so people can try to post wherever they think it fits. But for example, I would expect Chinese readers to pay more attention to the announcements thread in the Chinese category than to the general one. Same for Spanish; and also, such announcements wouldn’t be so helpful to others.

Thus I’d say that people is free to post in other language in the main section, but only when the topic is clearly of general interest.

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We can refine the phrasing I used previously in something like:

If you are not confident with your English writing skills, feel free to post in your preferred language, and we will try our best to answer nonetheless.

We have a number of non-English categories. If your preferred language is already listed there, then it would be best if you used these categories when creating new non-English threads. If there is no category for your language yet, feel free to post in the main categories. We can also create new language-specific categories when there is demand for it and at least one person voluntary to become moderator for this language.

And say the following in the description of the Announcements category:

Feel free to announce local events in any language. In case, the local language already has its own category, it would be best to post there instead to make sure the posting better reaches its intended audience. For events of interest to non speakers of the local language, you are welcome to cross post in both English and the local language.

I don’t know what to think. Is this better, clearer, or have I made it too long and complex now?

Yes I can take the moderating responsibility.

Maybe I would phrase this more not to be about the poster, but something [shorter] such as “The default language for the forum is English, however you are welcome to use other languages if you prefer. If a category for your language exists, the norm is to use it.”

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