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Following this proposal, I created a skeleton for a help page in German aimed at users who do speak little or no English. As soon as it is in a state that we consider helpful for somebody, it shall be linked on the tour, the first page of the help center, and possibly be a permanently featured Meta question. Also, you can refer to it when welcoming new visitors.

This project needs volunteers and everybody with at least 100 reputation can and may contribute. However, to make this help useful and coherent, we should agree on some guidelines, which is what this question is for. I wrote down what I consider some good guidelines, but they can and should be discussed and improved. This is what you can contribute to right now (sorry if I got you too excited). If no big issues come up within the next 24 hours, I will unlock the German help page.

Also, this is the place for any discussions about the project.

Feel free to make this question and every answer to it bilingual.

  • Is there any rough estimate how many users there may be who can not understand English sufficiently to get along with our current help center? – Takkat Jul 21 '15 at 6:23
  • @Takkat: The question is rather how many users could there be who would use our site and not one of the low-quality German alternatives, if we had a short introduction in German? – Wrzlprmft Jul 21 '15 at 7:12
  • Probably a thing we will only find out after we had tried... people with an interest in finer points of any language should be also interested in learning English, at least if they are using the Internet. – Takkat Jul 21 '15 at 7:19
  • What do you mean with "a permanently featured Meta question"? – Martin - マーチン Jul 21 '15 at 11:33
  • @Martin-マーチン: A question that is permanently kept in the featured on Meta panel, by refeaturing it pepetually, such as PCG’s Sandbox. – Wrzlprmft Jul 22 '15 at 6:36
  • Ich würde gerne mithelfen eine deutsche Hilfe-Seite aufzubauen, aber es widerstrebt mir sehr, mich über die notwendigen Schritte in einer Fremdsprache unterhalten zu müssen. Schreibt bitte irgendwo auf Deutsch was ihr von einem freiwilligen Helfer erwartet. (I would like to help to create a German Help site, but I don't want to talks about this in a foreign language. Please explain in German how I can help) – Hubert Schölnast Jul 28 '15 at 8:13
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    @HubertSchölnast: Wenn Du Dich nicht mit der englischen Sprache auseinandersetzen möchtest, kannst Du leider akut eh nichts tun, da die deutsche Hilfe aus diversen Gründen eine Übersetzung der englischen sein soll. Aus eben diesem Grund habe ich auch nicht direkt eine deutsche Ausgabe dieser Frage und meiner Antwort angefertigt. – Wrzlprmft Jul 28 '15 at 9:15
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Guidelines

Structure

The German help should be structured like the help center, with one answer corresponding to each page. In addition there should be a tour page (which should have the highest priority). The question should contain a brief introduction as to what the help is and a table of contents. If we feel like it, we can easily switch to a structure spanning several questions, but for the beginning, one question should suffice.

Some details:

  • This prescription of structure does not mean that we need to translate the whole help center rightaway.
  • Do not create placeholder answers. I created one for purposes of illustrations but it should be filled with content before the help goes live.
  • Every answer should link to the respective English original.

Content

All pages should be translations of the respective English ones, with the following exceptions:

  • The tour should address the most important questions specific to speakers of German, such as: “Can I post in German here?”

  • We can add a page specifically for bilingual issues.

  • Points that hardly apply to our topic or site can be skipped. Examples can be adapted to be more realistic for our site. For instance the following point from What types of questions should I avoid asking?, could be removed or replaced with an example that is more likely to occur on our site:

    [avoid asking subjective questions where …]

    • you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • At appropriate places, information specific to our site or arising from bilinguality can be added, e.g., the site about duplicates should arguably contain information about our policy on cross-language duplicates.

  • References to pages outside the help center or help-center pages waiting for translation can be replaced with a short explanation, if deemed appropriate. A link to the original English page should be included.

  • If help provided by the interface is missing from the help-center, it should be added.

For future editors and for possible reuse, please leave short comments in the source using the following syntax:

<!-- Abschnitt über sprachübergreifende Duplikate eingefügt. -->

The reasons for this are as follows:

  • It facilitates to incorporate changes to the help center.
  • We do not risk to omit or to distort information.
  • Our work may form the basis for an eventual localised Stack Exchange and may make it happen sooner.

Translating terms

Since we cannot translate the interface, I propose that we only translate Stack Exchange-specific terms whose translation is easy, either due to the English word being very common (e.g., question → Frage) or due to the naïve translation being appropriate (e.g., duplicate → Duplikat). Thus terms such as badge should stay untranslated but a German translation should be given in parentheses when they first appear on a page.

This should avoid confusion due to people reading about terms in the help or on the page/interface that they cannot associate with each other.

Errors in the help center

If you disagree with the help center, please do not translate it differently but discuss the issue on Meta SE first.

-1

I am against the notion of a German help-center

There is a few reasons for that, so here's the TL;DR; up front:

  1. It's bound to be out of sync with the original.
  2. It is not accessible from the help-center.
  3. It facilitates a "two-culture-split" (English vs. German)
  4. It opens the door to German discussions on meta.
  5. It's a challenge to the help-center as single source of truth.

It's bound to be out of sync with the original

This one is somewhat simple to explain. Translating always is associated with interpretation. Accordingly two translations of the same text seldom (or maybe even never) overlap fully.

Additionally this "second help center" has to be maintained. With every change coming from our meta, as well as parent meta, that has to be translated and updated.
This is a problem because help-center changes don't come with a notification. Somebody has to watch these changes, notify people to translate it (or translate it themselves) and then edit it into some huge post-collection...

That's already a huge effort.


It's not accessible from the help-center

This is one of the biggest flaws of this. I cannot link people to two help-centers at once. Also editing the help-center pages to link to the respective German posts is inefficient.
Those that read the English help-center don't need the German help-center and those that need the German help-center don't read the English one.


It facilitates a "two-culture-split"

We already have a problem to bring the two cultures together. I often see discussions about important site-business happening in German. While I personally don't have much of a problem with it, it excludes users that don't (yet) speak German well enough to contribute.
It also excludes a lot of the StackExchange employees responsible for community management.

Overall it's a subversion of English as the "lingua franca of site-business". Additionally it's a huge exclusion factor for users who speak English better than German.

Adding this help-center clone would furthen that already happening split between the German community and the English community. This is something I'd like to avoid, because this site cannot harbor two distinct communities by design.


It opens the door to German discussions on meta

I think it's fairly self-explanatory. The reasons why I consider this a bad thing have been made clear. It shouldn't happen that a language that's accepted as the means of talking about site-problems and General "business" in the WHOLE SE NETWORK becomes an "option".

There needs to be a common denominator for the community to allow for a place to communicate and build the future of the site.
That common denominator cannot be German, not in a network of english-speaking sites.


It's a challenge to the help-center as a single source of truth

This is where the real problems start. I already can see the debates about nuances happening, about "but the German help-center says ...".

The sole existence of an alternative to the single source of truth is a threat to the community. It opens space for cherry-picking the "right rules".

This opens up wide for confusion in regular users, close-voters and "externals".

The single source of truth is the strongest point of StackExchange sites, there is no debate where the rules are, or who makes them. Everybody knows what's up for discussion.

This changes drastically when the single truth is compromised.


Overall I think there's too many good reasons against such a German help-center to create one, no matter how many good reasons for such a help-center may be there.

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    While I can understand your arguments, I do not see the respective risks nearly as high and think that you overestimate the impact of the help center. First of all, we do not need to translate the whole help center rightaway, we only need the basics, i.e., the tour and the first page – enough for somebody to properly ask questions or post answers. And even beyond that the help center only covers the basics; it is not the ultimate source of truth, plainly because it covers only the basis. I can only remember one case where I ever quoted the help center. – Wrzlprmft Jul 21 '15 at 7:03
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    That being said, we can and should make it crystal-clear that Meta discussions and similar will continue to happen in English. Also, we can state that the translation is only a service and when in doubt, the English version takes priority. Not that I think that we will ever encounter such a dispute. After all, big parts of the help center are about site mechanics. – Wrzlprmft Jul 21 '15 at 7:05
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    It's not accessible from the help-center – Actually, we can modify the beginning of the tour and the first page of the help center to link to the German help. – Wrzlprmft Jul 21 '15 at 7:06
  • What Wrzlprmft said. I also do not believe that a German help centre would open the door to German discussions on meta. And the possible culture split is already here: Being a source of German language, with encouragement to write (and answer) complex questions in German, we already potentially have users that do not understand English enough to contribute to meta. When around on Finnish websites I would have no way of understanding any concepts like the ones discussed here, but I could find ‘post comment’, ‘ask question’, ‘search’ and understand some basic things presented in English like … – Jan Jul 23 '15 at 13:38
  • … ‘does this similar question include your answer?’. I meant that last bit just to say a user’s level of understanding of English can be enough to get basics, but far away from their understanding of German and those users should be given a basic idea of what is going on. – Jan Jul 23 '15 at 13:39
  • You said »It opens the door to German discussions on meta« And I answer: YES, at last! We need German discussions on meta! See: meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/325/… – Hubert Schölnast Jul 28 '15 at 8:09
  • There is no such thing as a single source of truth (except the quran, the bible, the thora, the enlightened words of Ron Hubbart, Das Grundgesetz in der Fassung von 1949, von 2015, ...). Every text has to be interpreted, even the English version of the tour/faq/... . – user unknown Sep 15 '15 at 15:53

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