Original question: Law

Recently I had many questions come to mind which would require a large part of the question consist of citing part of legal texts.
This would mean most of the question including the title would not be written in English.

Answering or even understanding them will require one to know the language in which the laws are written. Even for the parts written in English.

Of course this would only concern a minority of such questions targeting non-English speaking jurisdictions.

So, what about writing the whole question in the same (non-English) language in that case?

And for example questions, I have no ideas of such questions which doesn't concern my jurisdiction.


6 Answers 6


From a community standpoint, it strikes me as a bad idea to have questions in just any language. The only SE sites with non-English questions are sites built around that specific language: both sites about a language like Spanish.SE, and sites which are "X site in language Y" like the Russian SO. In both cases, there's one non-English language which is allowed, and the community is filled with people who understand that language. The trouble with this proposal is that it's not "let's allow language Y;" it's "let's allow all languages." Questions like that are a major problem for community moderation, because only people who speak that language can moderate it, and there's no expectation that enough high-rep users or moderators will have any knowledge of the language; for that matter, most voters can't act on them. Likewise, as jimsug says, these are unlikely to get answers.

I don't see any real argument to allow such questions. This is a principally English-language community; a question that requires readers to know another language to even get what it's about doesn't belong here as-is.

  • In both cases (same or multiple languages). You need to know the native language for community moderation.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 21:56
  • @user How so? The question and answers should be entirely in English, except for quotes from external documents (which should have rough translations, but those aren't necessarily critical in the question). If a question cannot be understood well enough for community moderation by someone who speaks only English, it should be edited or closed as unclear.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:00
  • Do you mean you are fully understanding what my example question above is about ? For me, allowing native language will make sense for law when the question is very jurisdiction specific and would be no interest for non English speakers.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:05
  • @user it depends on whether you want more or fewer answers. But I think we would require questions to be in English, even you have to put it in Google translate for that to happen. Obviously the meta site gets fewer hits in general, but no-one really seems to support this idea; do you believe putting something on Main in another language will actually attract answers? Keep in mind the primary purpose of a Q&A site is to generate answers to questions, not to write questions that are of no interest to English speakers in the source language.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 0:58
  • @jimsug : I'm talking about cases were translating the parts which can be translated won't bring anything useful for understanding it. And yes I believe it will attract peoples who will search the contents in which the laws are written (this not necessarily include those who can't speak English).
    – user4
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 2:06
  • @user You've said this, repeatedly - but you haven't said why translating into English not be useful for understanding it. Because so far, all I can infer is you believe there is some cultural idiomatic gap that translation can't bridge. Is that the problem?
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 2:09
  • @jimsug : because most of the question would still be in the native language. There is multiple possibilities, the one you cited in you previous comment is an example. there are also equivalents of terms having differences which aren't just semantics. ex : lot of peoples are opposed to copyright in favor of « droit d’auteur ». If you translate the french parts in my example question title it would definitely prevent finding the references.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 2:34
  • @user I think you're missing the point - the answer is suggesting that you will be required to translate the entire question into English. You can (and should) include a link to the source material, and you can quote relevant parts of the source in the body of your question, too. Also, the term "author's rights" is actually an established term in English.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 2:54

At a minimum, I think it's important for the title to be in English, which will allow potential answerers to identify questions of interest. The tags also need to be in English.

Given that, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to write the question itself in English, even if some of the primary materials cited aren't.

  • I tagged this question as discussion in order to see how would be relevant to write such question in English. Currently I don't how it would be relvant to get two English words in a ten words title.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 17:21

There's tension here between faithful representation of the question matter and attracting answers. If you privilege faithful reproduction, you put the likelihood of answers at risk, and vice versa.

Let's say I write a question in, say, Spanish. Immediately I reduce my audience to the union of people who speak Spanish fluently and people who need to use Google translate. In the latter case, you ultimately risk faithful representation of the question matter.

The primary reason to avoid non-English questions is that unanswered questions are not desirable.

People who come to StackExchange want, and should get, answers. However, no other SE site allows questions to be substantially in non-English (except those specific sites for language learning).

I'm not entirely sure what would happen if you posted a non-English question here.

Perhaps it would be closed as off-topic, who knows. If it isn't it is extremely likely that it will go unanswered, unupvoted, and then deleted after a year automatically.

Even on language-learning sites such as English Language Learners, questions asking for the English equivalent about some "untranslatable" word in some other language gets closed - bear in mind, this is a site where we actively encourage non-English speakers to participate. Of course, this differs in that I imagine you would seek answers in the source language. But I don't think it differs enough.

Your example question

Without more information, I can't see why it can't be translated. Why is this untranslatable? Or is it just untranslatable by you?

To me, it seems like that question title would be translated as

What replaced "Title II: Regulation of the use of the title of legal advice" of "Act 71-1130 of 31 December 1971"?

Is that not a faithful translation? If not, why not?

Anyway, if it is a faithful translation, then the body of the text needs to provide more context if it isn't evident from the question title. In particular, we should avoid linking off-site to other resources without quoting the relevant sections, because we don't know how long it's going to be accessible there, and once the link dies, the link-only question/answer dies.

Splinter stacks for each jurisdiction

having better phrased questions, given such questions would produce pseudo-English. If the community choose to don't handle them at all, then the best would be to create a site for each non English speaking jurisdictions.

Personally, I don't think this is the way to go. Again, it's about getting answers, right? You could propose a La Loi Française site on A51, but I'd advise building a critical mass of experts here first, then doing so. Otherwise, such a proposal is unlikely to succeed.

Also, according to your comment, a French Law site is unlikely to be active because they can't ask questions to non-lawyers, apparently! Would this apply in other languages? How does asking it in French (or the other language) avoid this restriction (if it exists)?

And finally, after some reading, I discovered it is illegal for French peoples to ask written questions to someone which is not a lawyer (because it breaks lawyers monopoly to answer locals law legal questions). – user2284570 May 14 at 11:28

There's no point having a dozen localised Law sites, with three users each; if the desire for people to answer it is strong enough, surely they're going to find it on an English-speaking site, right?

I guess it depends on the nature of the questions, too, to some extent. If it's something that doesn't require statutory interpretation, the exact wording may not matter. If you're asking something about French legal history, it probably doesn't matter whether the translation completely carries the sense that the source text does.

The best course is to post the question in English but the body in the source language, and then post your best attempt at translation with it. This way, if someone who speaks the source language comes along and finds it, they can answer it. If no-one does, an English speaker can. And you get both: attempts from native speakers (possibly?) and answers from English speakers.

I also see no reason to object to the above suggestion, because you would be more easily able to gauge the potential interest in a language-specific law site.

I really can't recommend writing the whole question in a foreign language, but I wouldn't necessarily vote to close, if the attempt to translate it made it appear on-topic.

  • I don't think we should have questions that aren't in English on this site; your option 2 isn't a good course for an SE community.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 15:55
  • In Beta, I would strongly discourage (and should have said so) that, because we need to quality answers, and no-one's going to answer a question they don't understand. Perhaps once the site's more matured; but even then, most SE sites aren't overly-friendly to non-English questions/answers, unless that's the actual subject matter.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 15:57
  • @jimsug : And the relevant part is writing the parts which can be written in English won't make questions understandable (they would still require knowledge of the language to understand the topic).
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 16:06
  • @user Right. In that case, I would say that you should still translate all of the question body and title into English, but if the crux of the question lies in some linguistic curiosity, it may be unanswerable by English speakers, which are going to be the overwhelming majority of users here. While I'm not prepared to say that they shouldn't be allowed by virtue of being non-English, the fact is you're just unlikely to get a (good) answer in the situation you describe.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 16:12
  • @jimsug : My question isn'tthe point of this question since non-English speaker won't understand it, why not write the whole question into the same language ?It is about how it would be relevant to write questions in English in that case, and none of the current answers address that.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 16:27
  • At the moment, our site has a 77% answer rate. I would caution against introducing questions that are unlikely to get answered. If this question is about your specific question, you may need to find a good interpreter who can find a similar concept or linguistic phenomena in English.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 16:36
  • @user What do you mean by "how is it relevant?" If the question cannot be addressed by the community, then the question does not belong in the community. It is relevant to write the question in English because an English speaker can then understand it. Non-answerers can also learn something from questions.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 18:11
  • @cpast : Do you mean the community will consist of English Only speakers ?
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:08
  • @user No, the community consists of only English (to some degree, including "not very well") speakers. If you understand multiple languages, that's great; however, the community itself is an English-language community, and members are expected to have at least a minimal understanding of the English language.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:11
  • @cpast : It's not only about not understanding English.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:13
  • @user Then what possible advantage does this change give, if not to include people who don't speak English? (not that that's a bad thing, but it's really, really, really hard to have people who don't share any language in a smallish community).
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:14
  • @cpast : having better phrased questions, given such questions would produce pseudo-English. If the community choose to don't handle them at all, then the best would be to create a site for each non English speaking jurisdictions.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 22:15
  • @user see my updated answer. I don't think that's the best idea, at all. Well. Unless you already have the support for it.
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 1:16
  • @jimsug : Just note it is illegal In France to ask legal questions to persons which aren't « membre du barreau »  (still think non French low can pass). I guess it should be similar in Belgium. It might work for some ancient colonies which kept the french language after independence.
    – user4
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 2:05
  • @user I don't understand - you wish to ask non-French, non-English legal questions?
    – jimsug
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 2:07

The only Q&A sites that are allowed in non-English languages are sites about programming (such as Stack Overflow in Russian), plus sites about human languages (such as the SE site about the Russian language which is conducted in the Russian language).

A SE site about law conducted in a non-English language wouldn't be allowed by the owners of the SE website for now.


I think it would be helpful for users to post things like "this phrase is 'foobar' in my native language" or putting a translation of key words and phrases in the post. A common language is very important on the internet, but as you said, linguistic quirks are important. I don't think the entire question needs to be in the native language.

  • Using the common language in a such case would be irrelevant and won’t allow to understand it.
    – user4
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 23:14

All the questions and answers should be written in English. If the questioner or answered needs to cite law from a foreign language, cite in the original language and summarise it to english in the question/answer (naturally without any legal bound).

There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Allowing different languages requires that this SE needs a moderator for every language on the SE. This makes it impossible to moderate this SE.

  2. As a citizen from country [insert name] I may also be interested in something about country [insert other name]. Maybe this is not an issue in USA, but surely is an issue in Europe, where people frequently live in countries with a different language.

  3. As community, it is our responsibility to ensure that a random user understands that an answer is not a legal advice from a lawyer. Free translations are thus acceptable, as long as it does not change the meaning [comments and downvotes are here exactly to indicate when it does].

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