Which is the right way to help people in languages other than English?

Some times I notice that the person asking for help also speaks spanish, and probably we would be better talking in our native language instead of both be struggling to express ourselves in English

Which is the right way of helping people in other languages? a private message? and if we get to a solution in a private conversation, how do we get back to the original post?


Tricky question.
I would keep using English as it is the community (and R) 'Lingua franca' so any answer can be of help to someone else now or in the future.
But if I were answering someone who pointed out that he was not very skilled in English and speaks Spanish, I would be more than happy to add a Spanish translation below.

Of course, the potential language issues of the OP are difficult to know unless he explicitly says it, so, still tricky.

The translation would be helpful just for the reader to undestand the answer, but not for effectivly writing the question, I think we might come up with a general guideline about the use of languages other than English.

I certainly agree regarding these guidelines, they could be implemented somehow. I don't know much about other languages, but Spanish specific forums have never got the attention from Spanish users, at least not in a reasonable way (as there are hips of native Spanish speakers using R). Spanish based R groups in FB (that means you have to be there) have many members, but they are quite chaotic and not really informative most of the time for the people seeking for help, and the R mailing list is relly good, but maybe a bit old-fashioned for younger people?.
Not sure about the policy of the community, and I don't think it 's as easy to make some kind of language specific "sub-forums" in discourse as it was in older platforms like phpBB.
Maybe with an extended flag system?

I am simply an user of the community but I would be happy to use my mother tongue to help those both struggling with R and with English, if I can :slight_smile:


I know this post of mine will be unpopular, but I think it's better to use English. Three reasons:

  1. writing in English maximizes the number of people who can answer the question, and the number of people who can benefit from the answer. I think online communities should strive to maximize both these numbers. They are the modern embodiment of the concept behind the Library of Alexandria.
  2. English is the "lingua franca" of Science. R is primarily used for Statistics, Data Science, Machine Learning (including ofc the application of these disciplines to Biology, Social Science, Medicine, Chemistry, etc.). People using R should learn English, IMO: among all the choices my parents took for me when I was a kid and which I'll forever be grateful to them for, one of the best was to push me and support me to learn English, any way they could. Much more important than learning to program, which I did later in life and which, of course, is also great :slight_smile: This is neither elitism nor gatekeeping, but the acknowledgement of a state of facts. This forum is already one of the most welcoming R Q&A forums out there (I'm sure whoever is a member of R-help, or, to a lesser extent, of Stack Overflow and CrossValidated, will agree with me). I think it's reasonable to expect people to read & write English in order to participate here. Of course, this is my opinion, and I'm sure other members of the community won't agree.
  3. In my limited experience, multilingual communities tend to split into noncommunicating groups. People (especially professionals with a family, whose spare time is limited) may decide to stop posting in English if they don't have to. This would be detrimental to the community.

I'll stress once again that I'm not a Moderator nor a RStudio employee, and these are only my personal opinions, thus of course iI have no issues if the community decides otherwise. I'll still write in English, though :slightly_smiling_face:

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I agree that it is better to write in English, the reason I made this question is because many times I have seen long sequences of posts written in other languages ​​(not just spanish, but chinese, german, french, etc.) and I think that is not the right way to help others, because it excludes a lot of people from the conversation.

Maybe a better way would be to take that conversation to a private message until it gets to a significant contribution, and then came back to the main thread in English. Also, if a bilingual sustainer notices that a question has redaction problems because of poor English, she/he may contact the OP in his native language and help him to rephrase the question.

About what you have said, maybe you want to take into account that, in many places in the world with non american or european life standards, there is no easy access to learning English, this I know by experience.

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I like this option better.

On this community, or generally in the online R world? Because if it's here, I admit I've missed them. If the phenomenon is so common, then I definitely agree with you that we should try to manage it differently.

That is a very good point. However:

  • do you think there is easier access to the Internet (this is an online community) than to English learning resources? Honest question. I would have thought that the part of the population which has access to Internet and enough educational resources to use R, and work in/study Stats, would also have access to some English learning resources. I may, of course, be wrong: I've only been in these countries for short periods of time.
  • Africa is certainly one of those places, yet http://www.deeplearningindaba.com/ is held in English. TBH, there are facilitators at some of the sessions, but definitely not at all.
  • Similarly, a lot of the ongoing conversation on AI in India & China (according to my personal experience) is held in English.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying it's easy for people outside of US/Europe to learn English. I'm only saying that the reward for that big is great, and that if you don't do that, you risk to miss out on a lot of exceptional opportunities. Having said that, that's only my personal point of view, and it's definitely biased by me being European. Thus by all means, if the rest of the community wants to address this differently, I'm not going to get in the way.

Just to clarify, I do believe that everyone participating in this forum must be capable of communicating in English at some extent, but I also believe that the community must be supportive with people on his path of catching up with the educational standards of the r community. I'm just looking for guidelines to doing so without affecting others in the process.

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I completely support your message, less structured, still the same stuff I mentioned in a previous post....

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That's a worthy goal! I have no better suggestions for now, but I'll follow this thread with interest.

So, you say "the reason I made this question is because many times I have seen long sequences of posts written in other languages ​​(not just spanish, but chinese, german, french, etc.) and I think that is not the right way to help others, because it excludes a lot of people from the conversation."

Well, did a question or anwer in spanish, chinese, arab or even Chilean, would make the answer exclude less?, that's an interesting topic....

I think I'm not getting your point here (maybe we are facing a language barrier :rofl:) and also, I know chileans have a very particular use of spanish but I don't think that qualifies as a different language.

What a great question @andresrcs!

I agree that it would be better if the main interactions remain in English so that the largest number of people are able to participate and benefit from the discussions. However, I also think some features could be implemented to make it easier for non-native (or non-fluent) English speakers to ask their questions.

For example, non-native English speakers could ask their questions in their native language and add a tag (e.g. "help-wanted-translation") that let's community volunteers know that someone needs help translating or phrasing their question into English.

I think a lot of people (myself included) would be happy to translate someone's question or help them get the "vocabulary" right. It would also be a good way for beginners to start contributing to the R community.

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This sounds like a good idea, although I'm afraid it could be difficult to implement.

@EconomiCurtis, do you think we could get a FAQ or community policy about non English interactions from the ideas presented in this thread?


The problem I'm frequently seeing when conversing on technical issues in languages other than English is that the tech vocabulary is so saturated with English, that translating things into native tongue ends up being counterproductive as most terms are better understood in English anyway.

This problem may be more specific to languages that are further apart from Germanic and Romanic languages, but I frequently observe that broken English is far better than perfect native Russian or Ukrainian when discussing specific tech problems.

Perhaps, there could be some wiggle room in posting questions in other languages (with community helping translate them into English - that's a great idea, @mpaulacaldas!), but answers, IMO, are better remain in English

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My oppinion is we can answer in Spanish, and then refer them to English resources.

Many people find an extra barrier when learning directly from English. I was in that situation many years ago.

To address this issue, Pablo Seibelt and I have created datosenr.org (Q&A forum of R in Spanish), and ArgentinaR, an R user group which contains an R guest blog post section. Similar to r-bloggers but completely in Spanish :slight_smile:
Please note that sites are scrapped only if the author previously fills the form.

Learning R is like learning a new language. We start with examples in Spanish-English, and then we can move to only English resources.



Actually the question is for languages other than English in general, not just Spanish.

Although It is nice to see a similar forum in my native language, we have to admit that there is not enough people participating right now to make these language-specific sites, a relevant alternative (I really hope this changes in the future).

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