Our site regularly receives questions from people who want to know everything about learning a foreign language from scratch and that are therefore too broad. Sometimes we get questions that are really about several skills at once, and these are also too broad. Examples include the following:

In spite of comments that advise these (new) users to break down their question into more smaller / atomic ones, we tend to lose these users and after some time, the closed questions get automatically deleted. I would like to find a way to better support these new users. Our past experience shows that comments are not effective, possibly because they are too short to provide all the explanations and encouragement (!) that a new user needs when their question gets closed.

For this reason, I think we should create a meta question that gives users advice on what to do when they ask this type of broad question. This meta question should explain what the different skills are that one needs to develop when learning a language, that broad goals can be broken down into smaller ones (providing one or two examples) and that questions about examples for specific levels are also relevant. This question would then be tagged and be referenced from comments on these questions.

For clarity's sake, this would not be a question that explains an ideal language learning curriculum but one that explains in what way(s) overly broad questions can be broken down into acceptable ones.

What do people think? What else should be in such a meta question?

  • I'm not convinced that users expecting we define for them a "zero-to-hero" path to fluency curriculum fitting their use case would be willing to put in the effort to write high-quality questions. – Hatchet Sep 3 '18 at 19:25
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    @Hatchet I don't understand your comment. This is about helping to formulate better questions, not about describing a language learning curriculum. – Tsundoku Sep 4 '18 at 8:30

I think a question like "I want to start learning a language but have no idea how to even begin. What are some common approaches to get started?" might be okay.

An answer might mention formal face-to-face language courses, online courses, starting with a textbook, Duolingo, trying to learn from private instruction with a tutor, and possibly some other approaches. A good answer would give short summaries of these. If necessary, a community wiki answer could be formulated before asking the question.

Not all of the approaches are appropriate for all people in all situations, but at least it would give a few ideas on where to start - this is not trivial for someone who has not yet learned a foreign language. An answer that would not so much discuss every option in detail, but tell what some popular options are and what to expect.

People with more particular needs should ask a separate question. But a standard low-effort question could be closed as duplicate of this one, unless the particular needs are outlined.


This is just off the top of my head, but eg Bicycle SE have a Wiki Q+A(nswers) regarding the various parts of a bike, what they're referred as, and a few details about them.

Maybe something like that would be worth having a shot at? Here is the question I'm referring to: Terminology index - a list of bike part names and cycling concepts on Bicycles Stack Exchange.

  • Have a look here. Oh, and English Language and Usage has a meta question listing common abbreviations and acronyms, which is similar to your idea. – Tsundoku Dec 26 '18 at 0:22
  • I've followed your links - and I see that the first seems to be what you had originally suggested in your question. I reckon thats a good start, but what I had been suggesting is something rather different. I doubt I'll be putting in the effort to write something like it up any time soon though, so I guess there's little point in trying to argue how great it would be :P ! – Sean CJ Dec 31 '18 at 11:11

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