Should Fortran Discourse be open to languages other than English?

This came up in Boucle fichiers.

@certik suggested that we should stick to English so that everybody can participate.

However, I wonder if this Discourse forum should be open to other languages as well?

I’m concerned that somebody who needs help with Fortran but doesn’t speak English wouldn’t be able to ask for help here. I think they should be. This would be aligned with our mission to be inclusive as a community.

For example if somebody asks a question in French, only the French speakers would be able to respond. I think this is fine.

There is the issue of moderation. How would we do that for other languages? Ideally in the long run, we’d have a moderator for each language being used on the forum.

Note that this is rare. Since May we’ve had only one topic in language other than English.

What do you think?


Hi @milancurcic and @certik,
you are launching a great debate! If we stick to English, we exclude people who have not a sufficient level to write and/or read in English. If we allow other languages, we exclude the discourse members who do not write or read those languages… That’s why I decided to give a bilingual response in Boucle fichiers, as a compromise. It takes more time to type but it is inclusive, although the question was not translated…

As a non native English speaker, all I can say is that in the research world, most people will be able to participate because you generally publish in that language in fields where Fortran is used. But it can intimidate many students who are not already used to use English in the technical/scientific field (there is a double barrier: English itself and the vocabulary of computer science). So excluding other languages is excluding young people who need to learn Fortran at University, which is a bad point for the community.

As Milan said, it is the first time someone (dare) ask a question in another language. But of course, it could attract more people to the site that would also dare. To what extent? I don’t know. If too many questions are asked in too many languages, it could be also a problem. I don’t really believe in this scenario, but who knows…

So let’s debate and think before deciding something.

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We are responsible for the tone and the content of this forum. By using a language that the admins can understand allows us to know what is going on. If another language is used, how can we ensure that newcomers are treated nicely? Furthermore, using multiple languages makes it harder to foster a community if it becomes split with multiple languages. It might feel more inclusive to allow any language for communication, but I think it is actually less inclusive: for example most people at this forum can’t effectively participate, myself included. Our goal should be to encourage participation of the whole community under any post. Using another language might be inclusive for the person asking in that language but it is exclusive for most of our current community.

If we are going to have dedicated communities for other languages, we have to have trusted moderators who will communicate with the rest of the community.

In the near term while our community is small, I recommend to stick to English. In the long term, we can have translations of our webpage to other languages as well as start communities in those languages at this forum.

It is not black and white, but the above is my gut feeling as well as experience from other online communities that I started.


Absolutely. We need trusted users (moderators) who speak the language and who can commit to ensuring a welcoming and helpful atmosphere. I believe that this has been true to date, even with the one French post. In fact, I think most responses there have been above and beyond, with users posting responses in both English in French (kudos!).

I doubt that this will happen. Of the 173 topics so far, we’ve only had 1 in non-English language topic. So less than 1%. I expect it to stay that way. So it’s unlikely that we’ll have community split by languages.

I understand your argument, but I strongly disagree that this is the perspective we should take. People who are actively posting on the forum are already included. I propose that we should be inclusive toward people who are not included, and let them participate. It’s true that they won’t be able to participate fully, but over time they will become comfortable with English and able to participate with the rest of the community.

In other words, by restricting the language to English, I think we are harming the people who can’t participate more than we are harming the existing community if we didn’t have a language restriction.

To illustrate, consider two scenarios:

  1. We allow any language. A new user asks a Fortran question in French, and a few people respond. For existing users who don’t speak French, they simply wouldn’t participate. Other than the knowledge that a topic in other language exists, the world is exactly the same for these users as if the topic was never started.
  2. We restrict to English. Users who don’t speak English can’t post and are excluded. The existing users are in exactly the same position as in scenario 1, except for that one bit information that somebody has posted a topic in another language.

I’m now actually quite curious how others think and feel about this–does a post in a language you don’t understand really make you feel excluded, even though 99% of posts are in the language that you speak?

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If we are going to allow that then there needs to be a person fluent in the language who is aligned with the goals of fortran-lang and who will be responsible for that language’s community and we have to have regular meetings (perhaps during our monthly video calls) where we keep in touch to ensure things are going well.

It seems you feel strongly about this Milan, so if the above is a reasonable compromise, I am fine with that.

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Is it not the case that everyone has access to Google translate? If someone who does not speak/understand English has a question, they can get it translated into English easily before posting.


It’s true that Google Translate has progressed a lot. I have just translated several posts from English to French, and the result is really very satisfying (probably it’s using AI methods) and usable.

DeepL is a similar tool, based in Germany:

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As an existing user I do not feel excluded by a post in another language; if necessary I would use Google Translate since, as Vincent pointed out, it is sufficiently robust nowadays.

New users are at a disadvantage if they ask questions in a different language since they are less likely to get a response from the wider community - English can be the recommended language for this reason, but I don’t think we should explicitly exclude other languages.

There is a Discourse Translator plugin, but unfortunately I think our instance doesn’t allow it.

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To avoid the Babel tower syndrome, we could use that kind of procedure:

  1. New members are told to post either in English or in their native language + an automatic translation in English,
  2. If they forget the translation, an “old” member post a translation (automatic or not).
  3. Of course, it’s better if a member speaking that language can verify that the automatic translation is correct.
  4. Each reply to the post should contain both an English version and the other language version (which could be put in italics to distinguish it clearly), using an automatic translation tool or a human translation.

In that way:

  • we avoid splitting the community in sub-communities (Babel syndrome),
  • we welcome new users that don’t feel confident with their English level,
  • everybody in the community can read and answer,
  • the moderators can verify the content of each message,
  • we attract new users worldwide because:
    • progressively the Fortran Discourse will go up in the results of search engines in their countries,
    • they feel that they will be welcomed.
  • Incidentally, everyone can improve his level in other languages that he learned at school or later… :wink:

A remaining problem will be that the subject of the post could be in another language, so perhaps less attractive to people who don’t understand that language. On the other side, it would clearly show that our translation procedure is needed…

Let’s hope we won’t be Lost in Translation… :japanese_ogre:


So far I like @vmagnin’s proposal best. It’s more work but such posts will be rare enough that the extra work is negligible. Plus, I think this is a truly inclusive solution for everybody involved.

I volunteer to moderate posts in English, French, and Serbo-Croatian family of languages, should we decide to not restrict to English only.

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We should also learn from other (bigger) communities how they handle the same issue. I found some relevant links, but there are probably more:


Thank you for those links. I have read them quickly, and they seem to discuss about creating a spanish or german forum or sub-forum.

Personally, I am clearly for a bilingual approach. We are not so many and I am not at ease with the idea of splitting the discourse. People come here to discuss with people having specific skills and the probability of finding the person(s) with the right skill will be far higher if there is systematically an English translation.


And I am really impressed by the translation tools based on neural networks… The technology seems to be now mature.

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Separate forums for other languages could be a good solution when we have more such users. I think we are far from that, and we will know when we get there: A critical mass of users will ask or simply create a separate forum.


Yes, I also want English translations, to make it easy for the (busy) people with expertise to interact.


@certik and I discussed this briefly offline this morning. We tentatively agreed to propose the following to the community:

We will put a notice about language in Welcome to Discourse (thread that new users see first):

  • The official and recommended language of the Fortran Discourse is English.
  • If you are uncomfortable writing in English, try and make the best effort to post in English using Google Translate or a similar automatic translation tool.
  • Otherwise, you are still welcome to post in a language other than English. In that case, it is possible that few or no responses if there are no existing users who understand it.

In this approach, we are inclusive and don’t explicitly discourage posts in other languages, however we encourage posting in English so that everybody can participate.

In the scenario of a non-English language post, we can follow the guidelines 2-4 that @vmagnin proposed, so that English-speakers can read and respond.

What do you think about this proposal?


I support the proposal as a compromise between two reasonable positions.

I’m curious how it will work out.


A related note: The ISO standard itself historically has been translated into Russian and Japanese (languages with non-Latin alphabets). The current web site seems to only have the English version available, though that could mean that the translations of the current standard are not finished yet.

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I personally like the last proposal by @milancurcic and, in case the guidelines 2-4 of @vmagnin are required (I check this forum regularly), I can try to ensure that Portuguese posts are correctly translated to English (and vice-versa if required). And to report to the moderators if I see clear violations of the CoC.


@t1mc0up thanks for the weedback and welcome!