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Prompted by the comments to this question

Bearing in mind the FAQ on this subject, in particular:

Unless you're posting on a language-related site (e.g. French Language) or a site where all questions are expected to be in a different language (e.g. Stack Overflow in Spanish), yes, all posts are expected to be in English.

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If someone makes a non-English post on a site other than one in the above two lists, or in a language different from the site's accepted languages, first, check to see if it's spam. A small portion of wrong-language posts are actually spam, so be sure to check for that.

If it's not spam, vote or flag to close it as "Needs detail or clarity" if it's a question, or flag as "very low quality" if it's an answer.

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...it is not necessary to translate wrong-language posts. Machine translations (e.g. Google Translate) can be inaccurate, and even human translations risk distorting the intended meaning of the post. It's up to the author to make sure that their post fits the quality standards of the site; if they don't, it reduces their chance of getting a good answer (in the case of a question) or that their post will be well-received.

What is the policy, or preferred convention, when a post includes non-English content? i.e. one that is only partially non-English so falls outside of the above "vote to close" criterion?

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When the actual law, regulation, contract provision, or other relevant text is not in English, it is acceptable, and often best practice, to provide the original. In my view a translation, the best available, should also be provided, usually adjacent to the original. (As was done in the linked post.) Ideally an official translation would be provided, but one is not always available. If the translation provided is a machine translation (such as by Google Translate) that should be indicated, because the quality of such translations is still often suspect. If the poster made the translation personally, then that should be mentioned. (Ideally the source of translation should always be mentioned, but machine translations and self translations are the two cases where I think it particularly important).

If a word or phrase in the non-English text is a term of art, or has a specialized legal or technical meaning, it is helpful to mention this, so that those not fluent in the other language can form an accurate understanding and still participate. If the OP does not know this, others can perhaps provide such information. Just as the meanings of specialized legal terms in English are often pointed out, because even fluent English speakers may not know such legal meanings.

If a person is not able to give an accurate answer, because that person cannot read the non-English text well enough to understand any nuances involved, that person should not attempt to give an answer; of course inaccurate answers can and should be voted down.

Even a person who cannot give a full answer may participate by reading and perhaps posting comments. Such particpation should (ideally) not be hindered by untranslated texts.

I do not think the kind of use of non-English text of which the linked post is an example warrants a vote to close. If a significant text is given without an English translation, I would make a request for a translation in a comment, and if one is not provided reasonably promptly, vote to close.

I do not think entire posts on law.se should be in other languages. At the very least an introduction and statement of the problem should be in English. If that is not done a VTC is probably justified, preferably with an explanation in a comment.

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  • Provide official translation? disclaimer of who made the translation or whether it is a machine translation? These expectations seem quite a stretch, and this burden on the OP hardly would enhance the chances of getting a useful answer. If an OP is initially aware that a term has a "specialized legal meaning", chances are the OP no longer needs to resort to Law SE. Mar 25 at 16:40
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    Official translations are often given on the same sites as the texts themselves. The OP knows (as no one else does) if s/he used a computer translation, or made a translation personally, and saying either takes only a few words and no significant effort. If someone other than the OP recognizes that a term has a specialized meaning (in English or another language) that person can edit the post, or provide a comment to say so, either of which might help those drafting answers or trying to understand the issues. Mar 25 at 16:53
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The correct question maybe should be: may a question contain portions of a non-english text?

An offered, possibly faulty, translation of the original text will often lead to an understanding where the problem is.

Some terms have a predefinded meanings which (non-specialised) translation programs don't always catch.

In this case it was the word gehalt which always means a monthly compensation (and not an hourly or weekly which uses a different term).

Had only, the faulty, translation been used would only have lead to the question what the original term was actually used.

So in such cases, the legally binding text should be included when it is relevant to the question.

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What is the policy, or preferred convention, when a post includes non-English content?

Allowing non-English content on Law SE is consistent with the approach taken in other SE sites beyond the narrow categories the FAQ outlines. It arguably is consistent even with the VTC/flag guideline you quote.

Posts on Biblical Hermeneutics SE oftentimes involve terms or statements in Hebrew, Koine, or --to a lesser extent-- Aramaic. Those posts encompass much of the most genuine hermeneutical issues, in part because such posts reflect the author's awareness that translations are likely to bias the actual/original text or wipe out the subtleties present therein.

Posts on Mathematics SE and sites related to [computer] programming entail the use of symbols, equations, and code snippets which would be cumbersome and pointless to verbalize in English.

Similarly, reproducing legal provisions in their original language preserves subtleties that are likely to go unnoticed to users who need to rely on a translation. Furthermore, an OP's non-English content tends to ensure that only those proficient enough in the foreign language --and therefore capable of delving in the legal specifics of the jurisdiction at issue-- post an answer.

Even in the case of posts entirely written in a language that is not English, note that the suggestion to "vote or flag to close it as "Needs detail or clarity"" might be misguided. That is because, first and foremost, votes and flags ought to be premised on voter's honesty. If I understand a non-English post to the point where I can direct the author to a related resource that might be of interest to him, I cannot honestly posit that the post "needs detail or clarity".

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    This is correct. The legally binding text should be included. Some terms have a predefinded meanings which (non-specialised) translation programs don't always catch. In this case it was the word gehalt which always means a monthly compensation (and not an hourly or weekly which uses a different term). Mar 25 at 7:27
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    The original language should indeed be included. But it should not be left untranslated, and it is appropriate for anyone to edit to provide a translation. As to "non-English content tends to ensure that only those proficient enough in the foreign language ... post and answer" I think this is contrary to the general principles of Stack Exchange. As to posts entirely in another language I think they do lack important details, and should be closed until a good translation is provided. I would not answer without providing a translation even if I were fluent enough to provide a valid answer. Mar 25 at 15:28
  • @DavidSiegel "this is contrary to the general principles of Stack Exchange." Maybe because you are missing the point, but my understanding is that the priority in SE is that answers be accurate. The latter is harder to achieve when the language is a limitation for delving in the actual sources of law. "As to posts entirely in another language I think they do lack important details" This view is equivalent to attending an advanced lecture (perhaps in another language) without knowing the basics and conclude regardless that the lecture lacks important details. Mar 25 at 16:27
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    @Iñaki Viggers I agreethjat accuracy is essential. A person who cannot understand the issues well enough to give an accurate answer (whether because of language or for any other reason) should not attempt one. But such a person might well be able to read and learn even if not able ot answer, ad a good translation may well help such a person understand the question and answers, even if not well enough to give an answer. [...] Mar 25 at 16:44
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    @Iñaki Viggers [...] I do not think your analogy to an advanced lecture valid. At a lecture on math, say I might well expect audience knowledge of basic or intermediate concepts and math notation, but not of a wholly different language. such as German. Similarly, a person on Law.se should be able to read a post and understand its general nature and subject without knowing any language but English, and if that cannot be done, the post lacks essential detail. Mar 25 at 16:47
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    @DavidSiegel "I do not think your analogy to an advanced lecture valid." Ok, this should be clearer: If a user grabs a book written in a language he does not understand, the user simply has no elements to support a conclusion that the book lacks essential detail. The context or circumstances under which he grabbed the book are irrelevant. He might have grabbed the book from the bookstore section that matches his area of expertise: he still is not in a position to determine whether the book lacks essential detail. Now replace "grab"/"book"/"bookstore" with "click on"/"SE post"/"SE site". Mar 25 at 18:46

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