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When reviewing some of the proposed tag wiki excerpts, I noticed that for some of the language tags, proposed was simply something like For questions about the XYZ language.

This is not a good tag wiki template for language tags, because the Help Center says:

Some tags are common knowledge. Most tags require a bit of explanation in the excerpt, even if it’s only 3 or 4 words. But if the tag is common knowledge — that is, if you walked up to any random person on the street and said the tag word to them, and they would know what you were talking about — then don’t bother explaining the tag at all. Stick to usage of the tag within your community in the excerpt.

Also, a tag wiki edit reject reason says:

Tag excerpts amounting to, "[tag] is for questions about [tag]" are pointless and usually rejected. Excerpts should describe why and when a tag would be used.


Since this is the language-learning SE site, the usage guidance for any language tag could literally amount to saying that this is a tag about XYZ language, and for questions about learning this language, and maybe a little about its history/roots.

What would be a good description for language tags?

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I don't think there's a particular problem with

For questions about the XYZ language.

for a couple of reasons:

  1. Many of our visitors don't speak English as a first language, and names of foreign languages are often hard to grasp in a new language. Being explicit is never harmful here.
  2. It's not always obvious when an adjective is about. To anyone who spends significant time here, it should become apparent that means the French language, and not French people learning to speak Italian, or how do French schools teach German, or does French culture tend to value second-language acquisition more than others, etc. So saying "For questions about the French language" actually does serve to disambiguate, at least for brand new visitors.
  3. The long wiki entry ought to contain information about the language itself (similar to the summary one might find on the Wikipedia page for the language). As such, it makes sense for the abbreviated wiki entry to reflect the same information.

We could also choose to expand the short entry slightly, perhaps borrowing from the summary Wikipedia offers. In this case, perhaps:

French is a Romance language, belonging to the Indo-European family and is the official language in 29 countries.

But we must not get carried away. We should include only the minimum information necessary to identify the tag meaningfully. For some obscure languages, mentioning the language family and how many speakers could serve in this regard. For French, it's probably not necessary.

  • Please do not suggest copying from Wikipedia. Wikipedia content dumps in tag wikis are a major problem across Stack Exchange. Tag wikis should contain information that is useful to this community, not a section of an encyclopedia. (Aprt from this point, I broadly agree with your answer.) – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Apr 11 '16 at 8:25
  • @Gilles: Answer updated. – Flimzy Apr 11 '16 at 8:36
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Tag wiki excerpts

Most tag wiki excerpts for languages should probably have something generic like

For questions specific to learning or teaching the X language

Some tags may require more information, for example if the denomination of the language is not clear (e.g. with respect to which dialectal variants are included), or to indicate related tags. For example, we may have

For questions specific to learning or teaching Serbo-Croatian languages including Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin

(if we decide to have such a tag — this is just an example, not meant to be an argument in favor of this particular tag) or

This tag is for questions specific to learning or teaching the Mandarin Chinese. For questions about other Chinese variants, use other tags such as [cantonese]. For questions about learning Chinese characters, use [chinese-characters].

(once again, this is just an example, not meant to suggest we need this particular taxonomy). Note that in this example, I made the first part a complete sentence — there's an automated process that hides the beginning of the excerpt, to hide verbiage like “this tag is …” or “a <tag name> is …”, and it's sometimes overeager, so it's best to give it something recognizable to eat up.

Tag wiki bodies

In the tag wiki body, we should include information that is relevant to our community.

Please do not copy-paste from Wikipedia. Encyclopedic data is rarely needed: we don't care about the etymology of the name of the language, nor the summary of the language's history, nor a description of the language's history.

Here are some examples of things that are relevant here and should be included in tag wikis:

  1. Encyclopedic data that is directly relevant to learning or teaching the language
    • A brief summary of where the language is spoken (natively or as a trade language).
    • What script(s) the language is normally written in.
    • Important dialectal variants, and languages with mutual intercomprehension.
    • A general idea of what family the language belongs to.
    • If the language is extinct or nearly so, mention it.
  2. A curated list of external resources (reference material, learning tools, databases of material in the language, etc.).
  3. A curated list of questions with that tag, representing the most common issues.

Here are some good examples of tag wikis elsewhere on Stack Exchange:

  • Many of the high-traffic tags on Stack Overflow, for example php, c++, javascript, etc.
  • Country tags on Travel (e.g. uk, germany, france, china, etc.) follow a more or less consistent format. The first paragraph situates the country in the world and includes some essential information such as what language a traveler may be understood in and what the country's currency is. Other information in the tag wiki includes how to get a visa, main transport options, links to related tags (e.g. cities that have their own tag), etc.

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