English Please Discussion

[Concerning Ward's request on EnglishPlease]:

I strongly disagree. Wiki is a big wide world, I don't need to understand everything that is on it, I'm not that kind of a control freak. As long as someone understands a page, it is fine with me. -- RobertDiFalco
In French: Moi je suis enti�rement d'accord. Merci de tout �crire en anglais, sinon �a va �tre un bordel monstrueux, que la tour de Babel ?c�t?va faire p�t?de sable.

English Translation: As for me, I completely agree. I Thank you all to write in English, otherwise we will be a monstrous brothel, such that the tower Babel nearby will do [become?] p�t?sand.

Je me gausse doucement... (Try BabelFish on that. Or the next for that matter.)

Better Translation: Right on, dude. Have a heart and use [English] everywhere - or we'll have a mess on our hands fit to make the Tower of Babble look like a dirt pile.

As the guy writing UnitTests and an AcceptanceTests rig for the core SysTran? engines behind BabelFish, my official opinion is the more languages we write in here, the better.

Um, how does your work qualify your opinion? Arent you only qualified to comment on test suites?
I agree with EnglishPlease for this wiki. Diversity of opinion, thought, and culture is great, but if most readers can't read it, it is not useful. Wiki is about communication and sharing of information, and it is useful for everyone to use a common language to promote those goals. Pages that are not in English are just "noise" to English-only readers. It's also problematic to link related pages that are in different languages, and I don't think we want language-specific fragmentation of the wiki content.

Languages other than English may be appropriate for "cultural" and OffTopic pages, but I think it would be a bad idea to have non-English "technical" pages.

I don't support an outright ban on non-English pages, nor a requirement for an English translation, but I would suggest that people who want to wiki in other languages should start their own wikis. -- KrisJohnson

I'd hate to lock anyone out due to lack of English language skills. But content in languages other than English are a problem for most current Wiki readers. I'd like to encourage English translations; perhaps over time we can find ways to overcome the language barriers. Perhaps marking non-English postings with their language, such as [InFrench?] would help direct people to appropriate translation services. (Call me ignorant, but I haven't been able to recognize Portuguese, right of hand, whenever I've seen it! ;-) -- JeffGrigg

I'm all for foreigners and their various languages, BUT these foreign pages have no place on this Wiki because I can't understand them and that makes me feel small and weak. If we just remove the foreign language, then I can feel strong again. Clap if you want foreign languages removed. -- Tinkerbell

(By the way, JuanPabloNunnezRojas has started a Spanish-language wiki. SwitchWiki, the list of all known public wiki, lists wiki in quite a few languages, and a few multi-lingual wiki, at http://www.worldwidewiki.net/wiki/CategoryTag )
There is a high potential for Wiki to become a sort of melting pot for natural language. This would be a most interesting development, and a shame to squelch it. Part of the joy of Wiki is watching developments you don't necessarily understand, and can't quite control. Language diversity could be one such development.

Simplicity is important. In this case, simplicity means "Don't make rules when there are already rules that cover the same ground only more fundamentally." If someone comes to Wiki to collaborate, but can't manage English, why not just trust the WikiNature and see what happens. Worst case, the person is ignored and goes away. Best case, a little garden begins to grow because of the vast wealth of talent in the wiki's readership coupled with the vast spirit of helpfulness and community that's in the same place. We shouldn't shackle that sort of PiecemealGrowth for perceived local optimizations.

We shouldn't try to make Wiki a place that any single person can competently manage.

There are a few negative possibilities, however, and we should watch for them: If it turns out that the presence of non-English on Wiki is insular and poor quality, then action is called for. But the regular Wiki "rules" ought to take care of it anyway.
One problem with foreign language pages are that they are almost always off-topic, but no one knows for sure or knows what to say for sure so we let them proliferate. WikiTunaJourney (a personal conversation that existed for a long time, possibly because of its unusual name) is one example that lasted for a long time. It doesn't matter what languages are used here, but PeerReview must continue just the same.
On the PatternsList page, there was the sentence "Mensen op kmt vinden het ook leuk." I have no idea whether that is gibberish, or whether it is an insightful comment or a scathing insult in an unfamiliar language. So I don't know what the appropriate action is: delete it or leave it. If EnglishPlease was accepted by the community as a whole, then I'd know what to do. -- KrisJohnson

[The Dutch quote says, "The people at kmt(misspelling of something else?) also like it".]

Why do we need to know what to do? -- RobertDiFalco

I try to pick up garbage whenever I see it lying on the side of the road (or to FixBrokenWindows). If that sentence is gibberish or otherwise unhelpful, I think it should be removed from the page, and I'd be willing to take on that responsibility myself. But I can't take on that responsibility, because I don't know whether it is garbage or not. Which is fine - I don't need to clean up the entire world myself - but if no-one else can figure it out either, it will just stay lying there. -- Kris

What a wonderful freedom that would be on Wiki, not knowing whether or not something was garbage! Let's not underestimate the wonderfulness of that. In the meantime, there's always the recognizable stuff to concern ourselves with. -- Walden

Perhaps the multi-lingual among us need to accept more housekeeping responsibility. (Some reward for studying all that vocabulary.) -- WardCunningham

There are some multi-lingual (or cross-cultural) Real World Communities where English has been the working language for decades. What might be perceived as rewarding, for the provision of the (organizational) housekeeping features which allow different degrees of English fluency to collaborate, is the type of results which may be produced by such Communities. Something in that direction seems to have been worded in CallForCollaboration, probably without thinking that various languages might be added to the already listed collaboration assembly items. In other words, the Web was made by a multi-lingual Community, was it not? -- LuigiBertuzzi

Try to keep in mind that English is also the universal language of air traffic controllers, international diplomacy, and computer programming languages. The fact that Americanese consists of something on the order of a million words [Note: that can't possibly be right, can it?!?] should be an indication that anything you need to express can be conveyed in Yankee Doodle English.
Have you ever considered that not everyone speaks English? Do you want to exclude them from exchanging information? -- MichelDenys

The WikiWikiWeb doesn't have a mandate to facilitate the exchange of all information between all members of our species. That's completely unrealistic and it's why it has a much more focused purpose than that. It's difficult to say exactly what that purpose is but facilitating the exchange of information between a dozen non-members of the community in a language most members will never understand on a subject completely irrelevant to >99.99% of the members is probably outside of that purpose. One of the reasons for writing things in English is to ensure that things written on Wiki are relevant to people on this Wiki.

You are so right. The only little problem is that the Wiki community isn't in the business of ensuring things or enforcing them. The Wiki community is in the business of learning from others. I do agree that, to pick on one recent example, the concerns of the burghers of Uccle are probably beyond our ability to benefit from.

But I might maintain that we can learn something from these people, even if there is little to learn from their worries about the local underground transit system. My challenge to you is to find out what you could learn on this occasion.

I learned that it's difficult to set up a wiki site in a pinch; it shouldn't. And at least, it's a nice change either from people messing around the sand box or afraid to get their feet wet. (I may never hear from them but I'm sure they're legion.)

Other than that, I've decided that the ability to participate in a page is more important to me than learning from it or using it in some manner. That's what distinguishes a page in Korean from a page about, say, the wonders of neo-liberal economic policies. I expect to be able to write here. It may be different for other people.

I think Michel is right in saying that there should be a better description of what WikiWikiWeb is about. Probably something along the lines of it being a community activity.

Wiki has many more readers than writers. Perhaps keeping writers happy is only important insofar as it keeps readers happy.
The basic WikiName conventions, like the little words that go on magnets, reflect an English bias - many languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc) don't compose and decompose the way English does. The WikiNamePluralProblem is significantly compounded when the word itself changes more frequently based on context (masculine/feminine/neuter, active/passive, person, etc). I can't imagine what might result when Asian, Middle-Eastern, Russian, and similar languages are incorporated.

Those of us who have been inside full-text search engines - stemming, stop-words, etc., may be able to add insight.

Separately from whatever feelings of inclusiveness we might have, the basic WikiName rules have a strong binding to the syntax of English.

-- TomStambaugh

Nonsense - a WikiName is formed by juxtaposition - with minimal binding to the syntax of any particular written language that uses words formed of letters which can be lower or upper case.
Apparently "EnglishPlease" means don't write any other language here. Funny, because I would have thought it meant "please write in English if you can so I can understand you." While it seems almost unnecessary to say the latter, it seems by contrast both rude and kind of incestuous to harbor the former. Maybe we could say EnglishS'ilVousPlait and laugh the whole matter off. -- WaldenMathews

I actually like reading stuff in French or Spanish (even though most of my understanding of Spanish comes from French :) but I doubt that monolingual English speakers have the same opinion. Something to consider: this wiki uses AsciiCode so that inherently limits it to Western languages. -- RichardKulisz

Agreed, and Thank God nobody's interested in that choice! My position is conservative. The garden is growing; no need to poison it with superficial rules like this one. The presence of non-English poses no threat to anything of value here that I know of. If someone knows different, please enlighten! -- WaldenMathews

Seconded. The source for Wiki is widely available. If others wish a Wiki in another language, they are free to implement it, and Ward has already shown that he will link to SisterSites for cross-pollination.
It would appear that WikiNames cannot have accented characters in them: another technical hurdle to a multilingual Wiki.
New, irritating trend: new visitors editing previous work by translating it into another language, but deleting the original version in the process. I just undid such work on StephenCovey (translated to Spanish) and AntoniGaudi (translated to Catalan). Hopefully not something we'll have to deal with a lot of.

I believe the cause of this is people reading the site through an online translator such as BabelFish. If you find your way into an EditPage, the fish happily translates the text in the edit box, and that's what gets submitted if you push the Save button. Instead of a harmless null edit or "what's this?" at the bottom of a page, the ConfusedVisitor? has overwritten a whole page with a bad translation, totally unintentionally.
Another reason for EnglishPlease has to do with the page reaching a wider audience and being most effective in garnering the widest possible participation. To use another language than English when the overwhelming number of pages are in English creates for some a WalledGarden which is shielded from view. Such approaches will inevitably lead to isolation and limited relevance, frustration and alienation.

Also, it typically locks out the WikiGnomes. See above discussion on this point.
Does anybody remember a drive to make Dutch the -- wait for it -- third official national language of Canada about 20 years ago? Boy, am I glad that failed. I'm not even a Canuck, just an uninformed Yank. How about India? A nation of almost a billion people with over 80 distinct languages and dialects. What is their official national language? English! Thanks, Great Britain, for doing something that actually unified a nation not your own. What is the international language of air traffic control? Of diplomacy? Of business exchange? Of software development? English.

I look forward to a time when the entire world -- and perhaps even beyond that -- is connected to a high speed network for just about all communications. It is quite possible that American English (the most widely used dialect, having stolen words from every other language on the planet) could become the Standard or Basic or Intergal 1 that you read about in the old Golden Era ScienceFiction books. It would be a Good Thing� in my opinion and that of some language specialists. By eliminating the barrier to common communication that exists whenever two people can't simply speak to each other face to face we open a whole new universe of possibilities. Imagine how quickly ideas can be generated, shared, combined, refined, and developed when everybody understands each other directly, with no need for translation. I have worked on a number of projects that required Japanese or French Canadian or Farsi or other "foreign" language documents be translated for me so that I could continue my work. How much better for all of us if this step is not required.

Now, if we could just get those Froggie Canucks in Quebec to talk 'Murkin... [What -- this isn't phunny?!? Lighten up, dude.]

No, Doug, I'm not suggesting that all languages other than Americanese be supressed. I am simply suggesting that Yank might very well become the standard tongue of the human race. English is the official language of India, a nation of over a billion people and 80 different domestic languages. English is used for air traffic control and diplomacy. English is used for international business; somebody backstop me on this, but I think most business contracts involving two or more native languages are written in English if English is spoken by anybody involved. (Don't remember where that one came from.) English is the assumed language for computer programming; the keywords have English roots. Foreign poets choose to write in English because they can express ideas, idiom, and subtlety in English that they might not be able to convey in their native tongue.

This is not suggesting that all other languages are obsolete or useless. The native Alaskan Inuit, as we all know, have something like 15 different words for "snow." If one needs to express some difficult concept involving snow then Inuit (or one of the Central Alaskan Eskimo languages) is the LanguageOfChoice. If one needs to express some difficult concept of software then Yankee Doodle Dandee is the tongue of choice. Use the tool that fits.

-- MartySchrader
This is a wiki on SoftwareDevelopmenttherefore, EnglishPlease. You know what Russian looks like when spoken between SoftwareDevelopers? Well, I do. You take English verbs and nouns, adapt them to Russian pronunciation, and apply Russian grammar rules, inflections, etc to them. And as soon as you try to find native equivalents you face ambiguity. Take the word pattern � translate it into Russian shablon � get an ambiguity with template � have to qualify them as shablon projektirovanija (design pattern) vs shablonnyj klass (template class). You no longer can express yourself concisely and unambigously and have to fall back to English terminology. Might as well use English grammar and make the discussion accessible to everyone.

-- YuriKhan?
When we are born, we all have wonderful Latin language skills for the first few days. I just cannot understand why they go and teach us all these different ones. I am one for reverting to Latin. At least the command line interface would be clearer. Shakes the dog her tail.

Which leads me to ask a question of those who know other languages - about the language syntax. I often wonder if there is a base language syntax useful for computing. So how is a simple sentence constructed in your language? -
 English -  Subject - Verb - Object --- The mantis ate the grasshopper.
 Latin   -  Verb - Subject - Object --- Ate the mantis the grasshopper.
Well thankyou for allowing me to correct my own errors - Latin was a long time ago for me.
 Latin   -  Subject - Object - Verb --- The mantis the grasshopper ate.
As a side note, there's already a Latin interface for PerlLanguage: http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~damian/papers/HTML/Perligata.html The url describes a wonderful implementation using Latin as a Perl dialect.
Russian - mainly Subject - Verb - Object, but depends on logical accents. Because the subject and the object are in different grammatical cases, there is no ambiguity as to which is which: No wonder the russians are so good at software - C++ is simpler than the spoken language

Japanese - Subject - Object - Verb --- Mantis <subject_marker> grasshopper <accusative_case_marker> ate.
Note: Those interested in this topic should be sure to follow the category links and look around for other discourse. This is a pretty important aspect of communication we're dealing with here, and it would be a Good Thing� to get a better grasp on it. Eh?
CategoryWiki, CategoryCommunication, CategoryDiscussion

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