Many questions are closed here under the close reason:

Question about the grammatical rules or specific characteristics of a language.

Use this reason when a question asks for an explanation of grammatical rules or specific characteristics of a language rather than asking about techniques or resources for learning or teaching a language. Consider leaving a comment directing the user to a language-specific site if there is one for the language they're asking about. If the question is good quality and should be migrated, consider flagging for moderator attention.

Sometimes they're able to be migrated to another site, sometimes they're not. These closures waste the authors time, and it wastes our time. I'm hoping we can make it more obvious to the authors that these are off topic before asking.

Question: How can we reduce the number of off-topic "specific characteristics of a language" questions?

I'm looking to brainstorm ideas on how we can reduce this problem. Please keep to one idea per answer so people can vote accordingly.

  • Are you calling posters authors?
    – Lambie
    Nov 20, 2022 at 15:34

4 Answers 4


We could adapt Stack Overflow's Ask Wizard to provide gentle guidance to the user. For example, the user could be presented with a dialog such as:

Welcome to Language Learning Stack Exchange! Is your question primarily about:

  • Specific techniques for learning or teaching a language, such as flashcards, film dubbing, spaced repetition, or verb chart memorization

  • Finding or evaluating language learning resources, such as courses, instructors, books, tapes, or websites

  • Formal credentials in language learning or teaching, including language proficiency certificates and teacher certifications

  • A specific question about the grammar or usage of a language that I am studying or teaching

  • An advertisement for a product or service I (or an entity I am affiliated with) am offering

  • Something else, such as the rain in Spain or recent sports scores

If the user picks a "correct" response (e.g. 1-3 above), they will be provided some brief assistance in formulating their question. If they pick a "wrong" answer (e.g. 4-6 above), they will receive a targeted message indicating that their question is most likely unsuitable for the site and and why. Links to resources such as other Stack Exchange sites could be offered as applicable.

This is obviously not likely to be the final dialog, it can of course be tweaked. My idea is to present a dialog similar to this, not this exact one.


When people click "Ask Question", to the right of the question box is this message:

Step 1: Draft your question  The community is here to help you with questions about language learning. Provide details and share research with your question.  Helpful links (i) Find more information about how to ask a good question here (ii) Visit the help center (iii) Ask questions about the site on meta

As I understand, we can't directly modify its content, but we can ask Stack Exchange staff to do it. Here, we can emphasize how "Language Learning" is a subfield of (applied) linguistics, and directly link to the appropriate Stack Exchange sites.


For the sake of completeness, let us also consider the "None Of Above" option.
Sorry for playing devil's advocate here. :)

  1. Yes, some users who are coming here for the first time may go straight to asking a (bad) question before reading what this site is about. So what? If handled properly (with welcome message and comments why the post is bad), an adequate person would continue with quality posts.
    Or go away to a language-specific site where their question could be addressed.
    Nothing, nor a huge red banner "THIS IS NOT A TRANSLATION SITE!!!111" would help. For too long we've been taught just to find the "Continue" button and press it. Sad but true.
  2. This site has very low traffic. Adding obstacles before posting questions may distract new users who are not familiar with the site functioning.
  3. Other sites have been here, too. The early Stack Overflow had lots of non-programming questions like how to use source repository or an issue tracker. When the site grew up, Super User, Software Engineering, SQA, and others arose. The Mods did a tremendous job moving posts around. Many now-offtopic posts, however, remain at Stack Overflow even today.
    Daresay, this site does not have that many offtopic posts, even as a ratio to the total number of posts.

Let me be clear. I sincerely think the problem raised on the original question is not a problem.
It's a consequence.
The real problem which I think can, and should, be addressed, is low activity.

  1. The participation could be better.
    We have too few active users. Maybe some promo on language learning sites could be sponsored. Maybe someone could find chats or social network groups where LL students gather, and promote LL.SE there.
  2. The moderation activity by regular users could be better.
    Voting, Flagging, Commenting, Reviewing is available to everyone. With it, nothing is too difficult for us. Without it, even the most dedicated Moderator would get frustrated.
  3. The activity on Review Queues could be better.
    This and this is what I consider absolutely unacceptable.

And this is why I had a very hard time making my choice on the recent Mod election.

If this site had an solid core of active users, handing 0.5 questions per day would not be an issue.

  • Maybe we should consider reducing the close-vote threshold to 3. Nov 16, 2022 at 23:58

We could consider changing the name of the site (currently Language Learning) in some way, such as:

  • Applied Linguistics: Language Learning
  • Language Acquisition
  • Language Education

Or we could consider naming the site after something representative of language learning, such as:

  • i+1 (or Eye Plus One)
  • Comprehensible input
  • The four strands
  • Fluency

Realistically, very few people know that "Language Learning" is an academic discipline.

This was brought up 6+ years ago here: Is “Language Learning” the best name for this site? where a few suggestions were thrown around:

  • Teaching & learning languages
  • Learning & teaching languages
  • Language Learning and Teaching
  • Language Learning & Teaching
  • Language Acquisition
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Language Study
  • Language Learners

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