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English Language Learners Continues…

Proposal: English Language Learners

I wasn't sure about the need for this site when it was proposed. But in keeping with the spirit and purpose of Area 51, I asked the Community Team to keep an open mind and let the process of ideas and development run its course through Definition.

So now looking at the final Definition of this proposal, the vast majority if example questions listed here are already hosted on the English SE site — and much to their credit, those questions have pretty good answers, too.

You made a good run of it. I followed the various discussions here with great interest. There were actually some good points made about the unique needs of English language learners. But our existing English Language site never developed into a site solely for "serious language enthusiasts", and I am confident that the needs of this community can be met by English Language & Usage. If it is unclear how certain questions should be asked, their meta site is the perfect place to have these discussions.

Building a new site is hard. But it becomes untenable when you are constantly trying to explain the nuance between two English-language sites to an increasing baffled audience… one who will correctly note the huge overlap and largely interchangeable scope of questions. It becomes a constant battle of Gerrymandering, cross-posting, and migration hot potato with no appreciable gain.

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    We pulled dozens of closed questions from EL&U that we felt would be topical on this proposed site.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Oct 16, 2012 at 17:16
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    With this proposal closed, essentially all its potential users have nowhere to go, since those questions were not considered on-topic at ELU. Oct 16, 2012 at 17:18
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    ELU never developed into a site for "serious language enthusiasts" because we had to deal with all the non-serious stuff. Your rationale for closing the proposal sounds like circular reasoning.
    – Robusto
    Oct 16, 2012 at 17:31
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    If it helps, we could delete those questions and be more rigorous about closing and deleting all the questions we think should go on ELL.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Oct 16, 2012 at 18:13
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    So you just decided to close this yourself based on your own personal ideas? From the objective data, the site has been making steady movement forward. In fact, just moved to the commitment phase with many committers. Let the community decide. Where's the vote to reopen button? Oct 16, 2012 at 18:25
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    "Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through fog and filthy air."
    – Robusto
    Oct 16, 2012 at 20:52
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    @NicolBolas: a moderator is supposed to -moderate-, be -moderate-, and in the extreme, stop things that are in the extreme. This proposed site is community supported, well on its way to being a real site, therefore -not- in the extreme. Oct 16, 2012 at 21:56
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    @NicolBolas: It would absolutely not be a "duplicate". Most ELL questions are now closed as off topic on ELU already, and there is a trend towards closing even those that remain. Overlap will be minimal.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 16, 2012 at 22:08
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    I'm dumbfounded. You're unilaterally closing this proposal because you don't understand the need for it? Seems like a rather rash course of action by someone who has contributed all of 6 answers on that site. ELU is becoming increasingly schizophrenic, and ELL was a good solution for that bona fide problem.
    – J.R.
    Oct 17, 2012 at 8:45
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    and yet, there is a precedent for this pattern within the network already: mathoverflow.net is for graduate level and above math problems, and math.stackexchange.com is for everything else. Math seems as basic and fundamental a topic as English to me, and can support a similar split. Oct 17, 2012 at 9:21
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    @NicolBolas: "He only left the site open, as he stated, in order to see if it's definition was significantly far away from ELU. And apparently, it was not." You'd have a hard time convincing me of that; the timing seems too fishy to me - almost as if he had hoped the effort would fail on its own, but then chose to intervene when it looked like it would succeed.
    – J.R.
    Oct 17, 2012 at 15:57
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    I am saddened for this unilateral action done by the moderator. I know how ELU works and am sure ELU is not useful for my purpose to learn English language; instead ELL would be the right site. Therefore I ask that this proposal be re-opened because I think this action of the moderator is totally illegitimate being based on a comparison that it is not in his function: as it is well known the Area 51's proposal are not part of the Q&A site, so comparisons between proposals and Q&A sites do not make sense at all. Oct 17, 2012 at 16:08
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    @J.R. There's a lot of intriguing and sensible arguments against closing this proposal, but "fishy timing" is not one of them. The proposal had merit so we agreed to let the Definition phase play out. Perhaps you preferred it be closed earlier? Please. Your ad hominem conjecture only distracts from the arguments made in good faith. Oct 17, 2012 at 16:58
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    "but "fishy timing" is not one of them. " I disagree. I spent a lot of time to follow this proposal. If anything, it would have been better to close the proposal when it was proposed. It need respect to the user of Area51, whose hopes are drammatically broken today. :( Oct 17, 2012 at 18:23
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    Robert: I did find it odd that this abrupt decision was made just days after a months-long effort successfully transitioned into the next stage of the process. If you're looking me in the eye, though, and telling me I've made an inaccurate conclusion, so be it. You have a diamond next to your name, so I'll presume that community has found you trustworthy, and you have more than a modicum of altruism. But the decision did seem abrupt, unilateral, and unpopular. I won't question your integrity any further, but I'm still not sold on the wisdom of your decision or the soundness of your argument.
    – J.R.
    Oct 17, 2012 at 19:53

3 Answers 3


The reason for ELL is to support language learners while making ELU work for experts. Robert, you have made the point yourself: ELU never developed into a site solely for serious language enthusiasts. But this is because there was also an unfilled need for an ELL site, and people – being people – have overrun ELU trying to fill this need.

You are quite right that there needs to be no confusion between ELU and ELL. It needs to not be a matter of nuance. ELU needs to focus on working for experts, and the difference needs to be obvious. ELU probably should have "advanced" or "expert" right in its name to support that focus.

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    +1 Perhaps you might add that the majority on ELU seems to want to close all "basic" questions (this may be where we're headed either way), and that we only allowed them because there was nowhere else to go, and only grudgingly at that: ELL would fulfil a definite and precise need.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 16, 2012 at 18:25
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    It seems to me that you're trying to shift the focus of EL&U and meeting too much resistance to your liking. Have you considered creating a new sites for experts instead? The expert site is the niche one that must make or break, let the existing site cater to the 99%. Oct 16, 2012 at 18:31
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    Another reason why you should create a new site for experts and not a new site for beginners is that right now, you're trying to create a site for other people who don't care for it. Instead, create a site where you want to participate. Oct 16, 2012 at 18:37
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    @MετάEd “And (serious) English language enthusiasts.” That makes a lot of difference. Oct 16, 2012 at 18:44
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    @Gilles The point of including serious enthusiasts in the community is to welcome amateur experts in addition to professional experts. Yes, many people are enthusiastic about learning a new language. But serious enthusiasts does not mean enthusiastic beginners who are not experts.
    – MετάEd
    Oct 16, 2012 at 19:01
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    I have to make one vital clarification about "a site for experts." Its okay to ask simple questions as long as they are thoughtful, intriguing questions posed as you would ask them of an expert. Overly simple questions without research or forethought should be closed. That sort of moderation-for-quality applies equally whether there's one English site or two. There's no lowering of the bar for a so-called learners' status. Oct 16, 2012 at 21:57
  • I'm curious why this site wasn't aimed at teaching English rather than learning it. As far as I'm concerned all SE sites are designed for experts in something. Oct 17, 2012 at 20:32

From a comment above:

a moderator is supposed to enforce the rules. And the rules say that we don't allow duplicates. He allowed your site to start developing on the assumption that you would make an effort to show the distinction between ELU and ELL. In his understanding, you did not. Hence the closure. –

I suppose what's bothering me most about this is, once we entered the second phase of development, I thought we were making positive progress. I presume others thought similarly. The closure came as a bolt out of the blue.

I would have liked to see the moderator at least announce that no convincing argument had yet been made, and allow a discussion to proceed – that is, give the advocates of the site one more chance to explain why they found a need for the new site. I'd bet many have been silent on that issue until now, because they never even realized this was an issue, or that the proposed site was on the brink of closure.

A lot of people put a lot of work into this proposal, and having it closed with such little warning on the basis of

Building a new site .. becomes untenable when you are constantly trying to explain the nuance between two English-language sites to an increasing baffled audience

is a tough pill to swallow. I, like many others, never had a chance to offer an explanation that might have alleviated that bafflement, because I was completely unaware of a moderator with his finger on the close button, waiting for his misgivings to diminish.


I think that the ELL would be much more successful if it were hosted in other languages. Much like the various stackoverflow in [X language] sites that are gaining a lot of momentum, I think that ELU could stand to have counterparts in other languages. The biggest problem with ELL, from what I could understand, is that it was hosted in English. Anyone who can formulate a sentence well enough to ask a question, write a good explanation for the question, and understand the answers, is probably pretty advanced in English. As such their questions are probably a good fit for ELU. This is probably why so many example questions in the ELL proposal ended up overlapping with ELU.

So my idea is, maybe this is a good segway into starting some ELU sites in other languages.

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    re: "Anyone who can formulate a sentence..." Not really. A lot of the questions on EL&U are by people who can barely or can't string together a sentence in English and would benefit a great deal from a site dedicated to dealing with the basics.
    – Matt Ellen
    Oct 16, 2012 at 18:34
  • This is a very interesting idea. The advantage is that it gives an English Language Learner much more help in their native language. On the other hand, the ELL would get less help from native English speakers who are possibly the best resource for certain aspects of language learning, such as idioms, cultural references, and slang. I would say definitely worth proposing.
    – MετάEd
    Oct 16, 2012 at 18:35
  • @MattEllen I agree, but once again, such a site would be better in other languages. Otherwise we end up with a site filled with low quality, unintelligible questions that the advanced English speakers have to constantly clean up. Such a site would be a huge mess, viable neither to teachers nor learners alike. Oct 16, 2012 at 18:42
  • @phoenixheart6 Those questions are already being posted on ELU right now. They are usually somewhat intelligible. Yes, they can't help complete beginners, but they can help many people with only basic English skills. If you fragment the site by source-language, most of your English-language experts will be shut out because they don't speak the language that the learner speaks. Oct 16, 2012 at 18:46
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 the same issue exists with our existing language and usage sites. e.g. On JLU we have plenty of Japanese language experts who speak the language that the learners speak (in this case Japanese). It goes without saying that the Japanese experts who don't speak English are shut out from the site, but that doesn't very much hinder the site from good quality content. Oct 16, 2012 at 18:50
  • @phoenixheart6 The difference is that JLU is an English site for Japanese Language. It by design supports English and Japanese. If a user comes along and posts a question in German about learning Japanese, how many people do you think could answer it? Probably not many. And with English you have the awkward situation of most native speakers being uni-lingual. Oct 16, 2012 at 20:23
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 I'm still not really sure I understand. The ELU will be a Japanese site for English, in the same respect as JLU is an English site for Japanese. Where does German come into the picture? Oct 16, 2012 at 21:15
  • @phoenixheart6 The problem is that on the English site the English learners come from innumerable backgrounds. Most of them do not have any resident experts who speak their native language. On ELU maybe 3 or 4 high-rep users have working knowledge of Japanese. Maybe a half-dozen know German. A couple know Chinese. I don't know of any that speak any Indian languages. Are you proposing that we allow all those languages to ask questions in their own language? Those people are all getting by with English, broken or otherwise, at the moment. Oct 17, 2012 at 0:03
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 I guess there's only one way to find out if that's actually true. Oct 17, 2012 at 0:14
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    Most immersive English classes are conducted entirely in English, and for good reason. The best way to learn English is to speak it and read it as much as possible. Thus I don't see much merit in this proposal. Oct 17, 2012 at 9:24
  • @JeffAtwood I still don't really see much difference between this, and the other language proposals we have here. Oct 17, 2012 at 13:00
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    @phoenixheart6 The difference is in audience. Stack Exchange has a large english-speaking audience. Therefore it offers sites in English. It doesn't have a large German audience or Japanese audience or Farsi audience or whatever, and thus probably cannot sustain sites that require experts in subject matter that speak those languages. Especially if those experts need to also be expert in something besides the language. Oct 17, 2012 at 15:38
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 These proposals, stackoverflow in Turkish and Chinese emigration, among others which are gaining significant popularity are definitely worth checking out. They're currently in the process of working out all the UX issues of having sites in other languages, but other than that a few of them are ready for beta. Oct 17, 2012 at 15:48
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    @phoenixheart6: Great! If they can build an audience in Turkish or Chinese, that's fine. But that doesn't imply that they can then have "Japanese for Turks" or even "English for Turks". Critical mass is key. So I'm skeptical about SE's prospects of ELL sites for all the various come-from languages. Oct 17, 2012 at 17:39

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