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My Q&A community operates in English. Posts sometimes quote sources in another language, which we allow so long as the essential information is summarized in (or translated to) English. We have a sizable minority (guessing 10-20%) who are fluent in the other language. We've been asked to consider allowing posts in the other language without requiring English accommodation.

How does a site being bilingual (or multilingual) affect user engagement? On the one hand, you gain users for whom English isn't comfortable; on the other hand, very few users can now read (or vote on or review or moderate) all the content on the site any more. Do users not fluent in both languages see that as alienating, or do they treat posts in other languages as "just another topic I don't follow", like questions in a tag a user isn't interested in?

I know that Stack Overflow created separate sites for other languages instead of mingling questions in other languages on the same topics into the English-language site. I don't know the extent to which they studied user engagement in making that decision. SO is huge, so there might have also been technical issues. We are not huge; there are no unsolvable technical barriers to supporting two languages, though there would be policy impact. My question is about how such a change would affect our users.

Are there any case studies or research on this?

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There are pros and cons...

Pro's:

  • A bigger User-Base
  • Some nice interaction(maybe)
  • A bigger repository
  • More interaction(if you have the right user)

Con's:

  • More work(controlling, setting it up, organizing, ...)
  • Confusion(maybe; if you don't use different places for your posts)

I personally would like to have a bilingual Community BUT I would definitely use some sort of organisation or Plugins(if you are using Wordpress, etc...) to prevent some sort of confusion to other people. If your Main-Base doesn' t speak/understand your native? language they would be maybe very confused if they would see some sort of non-english articles between the other posts.

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Mixing languages can be seen as noise by many community members. I've seen best impact by "segmenting" communities by locale.

It actually illustrates the very definition of a community (people sharing similar interest): if people do not even share the same language, they'll be less motivated in helping each other.

From a UX point of view, since we need each community to reach critical mass of users, it's important to scope things for best success.

The way I've done it on high-tech communities is:

  1. a bunch of product communities, where everything (Q&A, ideas, wiki, blog, polls) happens in English
  2. in each geo/region/country (depending on size), one Local User Group (that spans all products of the portfolio)

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