Proposal: English Language Learners

It seems the concern here is creating a separate forum for folks to ask basic English questions, and I can't help but wonder... why? There's already a forum for asking questions about English (EL&U)... why not just broaden it to include both basic as well as advanced questions? I don't see Stack Overflow, for instance, trying to push all coding questions that are 'too basic' to a separate SE site. Is it necessary or valuable to do so?

Advantages of having only one site:

  • Folks looking to find answers need only search in one forum.
  • Folks looking to ask questions don't have to worry: "Is my question too basic for this site? Too advanced for that one?"
  • Folks looking to answer questions only have to visit one forum.
  • Less bookkeeping closing questions or migrating them back and forth.

What are the corresponding benefits to splitting up the sites?

  • 1
    This discussion is related to your question.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 9, 2012 at 16:00
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    @KitFox - Related, yes, but a different focus. It's about 'How do we separate' whereas I'm asking 'Why would you want to?'
    – Lynn
    Jul 9, 2012 at 17:32
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    @Lynn: It seems to be the same. The question is "How shall we clearly define what is on-topic for this site and what is confusing enough that it should properly go to English Language and Usage?" You're asking about the line between ELL and EL&U, if it exists at all. It's the same thing, just phrased slightly differently. Jul 9, 2012 at 19:42
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    @KitFox - I have expanded the question to hopefully clarify what I was asking. Hope that helps.
    – Lynn
    Jul 9, 2012 at 22:57
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    Too many too basic questions drive away experts. (Drop by in chat and I will provide you with a list of high-rep people who already are tired of the main site and either only hang out in chat or have left ELU for good.) Add more, and you might as well pull the plug on the site. BTW, SO has been split, and into way more than just two sites; in fact into more than a dozen. And MSO used to be chock-full of "I have no idea where to post anymore" posts. So your concern is valid. But fast forward eighteen months, and all the sites are still there, and there's not much bookkeeping at all.
    – ЯegDwight
    Jul 10, 2012 at 9:21
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    @RegDwight - Thanks for the info. Why not put that as an answer? I know that SO has been split, topically, but was not aware of a 'basic' version.
    – Lynn
    Jul 10, 2012 at 15:10

6 Answers 6


Folks looking to ask questions don't have to worry: "Is my question too basic for this site?"

I think that's the point; some questions are too basic for EL&U, and people asking questions there should have that concern.

As an example, here's a recent question:

Could anyone explain what does it mean when someone texts "I would talk later". IS this a polite way or not? And how much possibilty does it expressed?

After eight edits, four downvotes, and five votes for closure, the question has finally worked itself into this state:

What does it mean when someone texts "I would contact later" when answering the question, "When will you contact?". Is this a polite expression or not? And what does the word "would" mean here?

While I feel for the OP (and I left a comment trying to answer the question), I still believe that the question itself – even after its incremental improvements – is hardly appropriate for a forum that is "dedicated to serious language enthusiasts." I like the idea of having a community where such questions are welcome, and others will gladly give answers to such questions, without some people feeling like they are being responsible members of the community by downvoting and voting for closure. (And, don't get me wrong, I'm not taking a shot at those voters – in fact, I was one of the first to cast a close vote!)

  • 3
    I understand that based on the current rules of the ELU site, there are questions that are deemed too basic. What I was asking was actually: Why not just change those rules to allow said questions rather than creating a completely separate site? StackOverflow, for instance, doesn't chase away people who ask or answer simple programming questions, and yet it flourishes.
    – Lynn
    Aug 6, 2012 at 13:21
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    @Lynn: The rules could be changed, or a new site could be stood up; there are pros and cons to both approaches. In this case, there are two disparate audiences: one craving hard questions about the complex nuances of language, and the other wanting to know the meaning of a very basic word. I don't think anyone is trying to chase anyone away, on the contrary! That's why so many support the idea of creating a place where these questions are both appropriate and encouraged.
    – J.R.
    Aug 6, 2012 at 13:36
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    @Lynn: As for the flourishing SO, they, too, close questions that are deemed too basic, or don't show much research, like this one and this one. It's not necessarily a good idea to change the rules so that anything goes.
    – J.R.
    Aug 6, 2012 at 13:40
  • Thanks for the expanded replies. That's what I was looking for.
    – Lynn
    Aug 6, 2012 at 14:24
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    I concur with J.R. In just a few days' presence on this site it has become obvious to me that there's a real need for a place where novices will be made welcome and receive answers suitable to their level of understanding - and which will drain off from ELU those questions which are most annoying and excite the most ill-tempered responses. Aug 11, 2012 at 18:37
  • Folks looking to ask questions don't have to worry: "Is my question too basic for this site?" that's so nice :) +1 Nov 23, 2012 at 12:48
  • So would ELL close questions as off-topic for being too hard? How hard is "too hard"? Won't that make ELL a complete subset of ELU?
    – badp
    Dec 5, 2012 at 18:41
  • @badp: I don't think so; I don't think the dividing line is quite as simple as "Easy questions go to ELL, hard questions go to ELU." ELL would get questions about English that might confuse a non-native but a native wouldn't bat an eye at, such as, "Why is a house on fire - shouldn't it be in fire?" Interesting question - one I hadn't thought about until it was asked. But native speakers are so accustomed to hearing "on fire" they don't even pause to think about how awkward it sounds, so, to the native, the question sounds more awkward than the phrase.
    – J.R.
    Dec 5, 2012 at 20:21

I'm an EFL (English as a foreign language) teacher, and I've noticed that there's a huge difference between the language interests and perspectives of native English speakers/highly fluent people and English learners. There are different views of what is "correct," different perspectives on what is most useful, etc.

I haven't seen too much on ELU that's relevant to EFL students, or EFL teachers. Thus, I think that this idea has potential and isn't duplication.

  • Yeah, me too. And ELL would be EFL-student friendly instead of unfriendly, as EL&U often is right now. I would prefer to hang out in ELL for a lot of reasons, but most of all because I taught EFL for 40 years and studied 9 languages myself. I'm sympathetic to the needs of EFL students. The big guns on EL&U are wasted on EFL students. I don't much care about EFL teachers, because everyone has a different style of teaching. I don't want to talk about materials, because I make my own. They work for me but maybe won't for others. I prefer EFL to theoretical linguistics most of the time.
    – user70308
    Nov 22, 2012 at 6:19
  • Aside: "EFL" has got to be one of the worst TLAs ever. Every time I saw this repeated in the post, I automatically read it as "English as First Language" :)
    – badp
    Dec 5, 2012 at 18:40
  • @badp: What other term would be better? EFL and ESL are distinct, though related, terms. And as it's field-specific jargon, it doesn't really matter much if people outside the field understand it. Dec 5, 2012 at 23:48
  • @ScottSeverance Oh, don't worry, it was just a silly aside of mine that for some reason I felt I had to share.
    – badp
    Dec 5, 2012 at 23:59

At http://english.stackexchange.com if you try to ask a question that is considered basic, it will be closed or you will get heaps of minuses. I am very careful when asking there.

People who do not know English well yet, need MORE help, not less. So, this site could even become much more popular.

  • I know that's currently the case, but it doesn't /have/ to be that way if the community chose to welcome basic questions on the original site. But a lot of folks want to split the two, so I'm clearly outvoted :)
    – Lynn
    Dec 4, 2012 at 10:07
  • I, too, think that "english" site could be better teacher. Simply basic question could get tag "basic" or/and "study", and/or "English as foreign language", as "homework" exists in StackOverflow. If you'll put such proposition to their meta, I would gladly support it.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 4, 2012 at 12:04
  • See RegDwight's comment on coleopterist's answer. Tags of this sort - 'meta tags' - are forbidden on StackExchange, for reasons explained here. Dec 5, 2012 at 19:27
  • Arguments against "subjective" don't work against "study". And the meta-tag "homework" on the SO is very useful. Please, for the future, when you are arguing against some post that has a thought, supported by some arguments, bring arguments, too. Authorities don't work against arguments since 15th Century in the European society :-)
    – Gangnus
    Dec 6, 2012 at 11:12

I agree. It is my opinion that a separate site is needless fragmentation. If the concern is for driving away the "experts", there should also be an equivalent--if not greater--concern for fragmenting the existing user-base which numbers those who are interested both in basic and advanced English usage.

This is essentially something which should be solved with technology and procedure rather than fragmentation. Perhaps questions from "beginners" could simply be tagged 'beginner' and all the "experts" could simply hide questions with such tags from their default display. I dare say that a generic "hide questions with the following tags" feature would go down well across all of SE.

Users could also tag their own profiles with 'beginner' which would automagicaly tag all their questions similarly. There are endless alternatives to fragmentation.

If this goes through, we can all look forward to Spanish Language Learners, Spanish Language Experts, French Language Learners, French Language Experts, ad nauseam.

  • 8
    The "beginner" tag is a non-starter. Such meta tags are expressly verboten across the entire network. Read the official blog entry from two years ago. And as far as Spanish, French, etc., are concerned, that's a red herring. If people manage to pull off seventy-four Spanish-speaking SE sites, more power to them; if we don't get enough people together to pull off two, so be it; but either way, that is not relevant to ELU.
    – ЯegDwight
    Sep 3, 2012 at 22:22
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    The beauty of the Stack Exchange philosophy is that you can make every one those Language Learners proposals, and then a commitment, and then a beta. A democratic process determines if the site has the enthusiasm and content necessary to hit critical mass. There's no shame in seeing if there's interest in those other sites and it not panning out. You say fragmentation as if it's necessarily a bad thing. If it was a bad thing by default, we'd have one giant site with tags of [english] [gaming] [comp-sci]. English learning and English usage are two different subjects, deserving different sites.
    – corsiKa
    Oct 25, 2012 at 15:03

My personal opinion? There will be no fragmentation in the end. Simply, ELU will die out.

Their standards for questions are so ridiculously narrow, with anything "too basic" being unwelcome, anything "too complex" being "non-constructive", a major part of the remainder "off-topic", and everything acceptable with requirement to prove prior research, so that once an alternative site which doesn't restrict the users so badly shows up, all the new users who commonly arrive with countless basic, "inappropriate" questions will migrate to ELL and ELU will remain for the actual few serious enthusiasts willing to squeeze into their scope.


As I commented on a question on EL&U:

I've noticed lately a plethora of Area 51 proposals that are very closely related to other A51 proposals, or even main SE sites. Many of the proposals are very narrow (bordering on niche) and have little chance of making it through the process.

Whilst it is important that any SE site has a clearly defined scope, in my humble opinion, I'd rather see a small number of active broadly-focussed sites than a large number of niche but dormant sites.

There are already a lot of SE sites, and a large number of (related) A51 proposals... in many cases, it is better to widen existing groups than to unnecessarily fragment - it's pointless having a place to ask questions if no-one will be there to answer them.

  • 1
    There are currently 153 followers of ELL, including some high-rep answerers from ELU, so there should be people to answer. Many of the recent ELU questions would frankly be better in ELL, so there is plenty of scope for ELL to be active. In fact it's quite likely that ELU will become a niche site [even if probably not dormant]. Is that so bad? Sep 18, 2012 at 11:58
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    OK, although my comment was more generic than just EEL/ELU - but what is the point of creating a new site so that an existing well-supported site can go even-more niche or even inactive?
    – Andrew
    Sep 18, 2012 at 13:03
  • Let me ask you, how does one go about broadening the scope of a pre-existing site (by like 300% of the current scope) especially in light of its "power users" actively fighting questions that exceed the current scope?
    – SF.
    Dec 11, 2012 at 15:49

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