Proposal: English Language Learners

Following the conclusion of the Definition phase, this proposal was recently closed in support of our English SE site. After a lot of discussion here and internally, we decided to re-open this proposal.

There were a lot of intriguing arguments throughout. I think it is safe to prioritize learning over expertise in this case. A "network of experts" is an aspirational goal we uphold, yet the audiences seem clearly different. There is a huge pent-up demand for learning English from an in-kind community where questions simply need to be asked from a different context from what we have now. Learning (versus mastering) a language is a fundamental cornerstone of any human being's education — important enough to support two sites at very different levels.

So we move forward.

The Next Steps

The proposal will continue as normal. There's a bit of work needed to make it clear that this site is here to serve "English-language learners," not just a dumping ground for "too basic" question from English Language & Usage.

Our current English community will have to be patient about what they migrate while we build a strong foundation for a high-quality learning site. The new site will need time establish an "expert community." Advanced learners can share what they know (through experience or research). Hopefully advanced English users will join the site, too. But it's going to take a lot of moderation and community involvement to overcome the inherent language barrier and potential quality issues. We have to assure the answers are consistently correct and high quality. But that's what early betas are for.

Good luck, and enjoy!

  • 8
    Whatever the result of this proposal, thank you for letting us continue to define and work on it.
    – simchona
    Oct 18, 2012 at 19:20
  • 2
    I'm having difficulty understanding the meaning and intent of the penultimate paragraph. Could you be a little clearer? Thank you.
    – Robusto
    Oct 18, 2012 at 19:32
  • 6
    @Robusto — Alternate Wording: The EL&U community will not be allowed to start migrating their unwanted posts en masse from day one. We have a lot more work to do on the new site first... like getting past the challenges of "the blind leading the blind." Oct 18, 2012 at 19:37
  • Since I'm a learner, I hope to give a serious contribution to define ELL questions, but, for now, it is unclear to me where I can do this. Oct 18, 2012 at 19:39
  • 1
    @RobertCartaino: That's kind of what I thought, but I wanted to hear it from you. You've confused me anew with your "blind leading the blind" comment, though. Do you really imagine that ELL is only intended to be by and for non-native speakers? You don't want expert native speakers answering questions at all? I mean, seriously, if that's what you thought the site would be, I understand why you closed it in the first place. And I can't imagine the value of one awful non-native speaker correcting another one's English.
    – Robusto
    Oct 18, 2012 at 19:44
  • 6
    I may be awful, but I will certainly participate in ELL, and many other high-rep users from ELU will too, I think, because it's fun.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 18, 2012 at 20:02
  • 1
    I don't intend to side with Cartaino's interpretation of a site for learners only, but perhaps he had some intermediate solution in mind, such as more proficient ESL speakers "teaching" less proficient ones. I'm thinking for example of Coof Elf, who stated that he is willing to help others using his background knowledge as a ESL teacher (though non native, I think).
    – Paola
    Oct 18, 2012 at 20:23
  • 3
    @Robusto No, the "challenge" I spoke of is making sure the site is NOT "the blind leading the blind." If correct answers are not being given, the site will not work. Absolutely, native-speakers are welcome. But "learners" are not morons, either. They can answer questions from experience and research. But I hope there are advanced native-speaking users on the site, too. I tried to clarify the last paragraph. Oct 18, 2012 at 21:44
  • @Paola, you pretty well have to consider yourself an expert as well as Cool Elf is, but, frankly, I do not think Cartaino have this "solution" in his mind simply because that is not a solution. Oct 19, 2012 at 0:24
  • +1 Robert Cartaino, I see that you are understanding the Robusto's elitarian approach. I hope you repudie it. Oct 19, 2012 at 0:30
  • 2
    Hmm, I've never been repudied before. Is it fun?
    – Robusto
    Oct 19, 2012 at 12:13
  • I will note further that this isn't about any aversion to non-native speakers nor any "elitarian" motivation. As I remarked to @GraceNote yesterday, "Just because we don't want children present at adult venues doesn't mean we hate children or don't wish to help them."
    – Robusto
    Oct 19, 2012 at 12:18
  • 2
    Also let me note that we have plenty of high-level NNS participants at ELU. Nobody is trying to force them into the second-class carriage. But those at the training-wheels level would be better served by ELL, and the hope is that their egregious and puzzling misunderstandings of English will no longer clog up the pipes of the original site.
    – Robusto
    Oct 19, 2012 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


I am glad you have reconsidered. You may be gratified to know that the EL&U core community has come together to try to establish a clearer distinction between the two sites. I anticipate a lot of Meta questions on EL&U as we navigate the development of this exciting new site.

  • 3
    I anticipate a lot of discussion too, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the final "elevator pitch" (a brief sentence that describes what each site is about) can be understood without needing a long, complex understanding of the history here. Oct 18, 2012 at 22:12
  • 1
    Maybe someone could provide the "elevator pitch" in multiple languages. Oct 18, 2012 at 23:56
  • Yes, Robert, but Kit is right in saying what she said, and you are welcome in the EL&U meta site for haveng some good idea. Oct 19, 2012 at 0:47
  • @David yes, your idea is not so ilarious as it seems. Oct 19, 2012 at 0:49
  • 1
    @Carlo_R. All of my ideas seem more hilarious than they are. Oct 19, 2012 at 3:41

Robert, I'm sad to see the "powers that be" backtracking on this. The points that you made in your earlier posting were excellent ones, even though they were unpopular with many members of the community here.

In particular, your remark

it becomes untenable when you are constantly trying to explain the nuance between two English-language sites to an increasing baffled audience

is the heart of the matter. We know that the people with the very basic English questions don't read FAQs and don't follow basic instructions about how to use the site. This proposal will do nothing but make matters more confusing for them.

Also, the fact remains that ELL will inevitably be the "dumping ground" (as you put it) for ELU questions at the bottom end of the quality scale. It won't fit the Stack Exchange model of a site with expert answers; and I honestly feel it will tarnish the Stack Exchange network as a whole. It's not clear where the line will be drawn between questions that belong on ELL and questions that belong on ELU; so there will be much migrating of posts back and forth between the two sites, and the accompanying wailing and gnashing of teeth.

My last concern is that it will cause ELU to wither and die. We will throw out the bathwater and discover that there is no baby. The true English experts will lose interest, and leave one by one. And I shall join them.

  • 3
    I do sincerely hope you will not leave EL&U because you have been an excellent member and, moreover, a beautiful person there; but the 'scenario' you are painting is a bit dramatic: EL&U will not die! I, and other people, will stay there for a long time. Stay with us! Oct 18, 2012 at 19:32
  • 2
    I feel as you do, to an extent. It will indeed be difficult to demarcate ELL and ELU and could deprecate ELU if not done correctly. But none of those are issues that can't dealt with by a dedicated community. Let the community work out all those issues in the later stages of the development. If it fails, then it will get dropped for lack of support just like any other proposal. But that doesn't mean that it's right for the "powers that be" to impose a premature closure on it. Oct 18, 2012 at 19:38
  • 1
    Thank you @Carlo_R, it's very sweet of you to say so. Oct 18, 2012 at 21:53
  • 1
    I honestly don't understand the last paragraph. Are you afraid that ELU will die due to lack of traffic because everything is migrated?
    – user11235
    Oct 18, 2012 at 22:30
  • @Phira Yes. Lack of traffic. Oct 18, 2012 at 22:37
  • 2
    Better that all the EL&U traffic be Ferraris than junkers that get pulled off the road. If The Road to EL&U goes unused, whose fault will that be? Right now it's filled with rubble and ex-traffic cops from Ludowici & Waycross, Georgia, speed-trap capitals of the USA. Most of the big guns there don't like answering basic Qs, and some do it with such rancor that it'd be better that they don't do it at all. I like answering basic Qa. Been doing it most of my life. I prefer to have experts & pros like John Lawler & Barrie England answer the high-level Qs: they know what they're talking about.
    – user70308
    Nov 22, 2012 at 6:44

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