Will this site be strictly about the general principles and process of learning a new language or can it also suggest web/print resources for learning specific languages?

Proposal: Language Learning

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Here's the most recent thing I can find on Meta.SE on this perennial question. It's specific to books but the same principles apply.

Basically, the rule/practice seems to be, individual sites can choose to allow or forbid recommendation questions, but even if they allow them, each question must have a problem to be solved which provides enough context for one answer to be judged against another.

For example, this is a "bad" question even on SE sites that allow recommendation questions:

What resources are there for learning Chinese radicals?

...because there's no way to rate answers beyond "Yes, that's another resource on learning Chinese radicals", and there's no room for an answer to be anything more than "X exists, it does Y, here's a link".

This, however, could be a "good" question:

Is there something portable, physical and visual I can use to practice Chinese radicals while travelling? (not an app)

...because answers can explain how they solve the problem, and voters have objective criteria to compare answers against.

  • "X cheat sheet exists and is particularly suited for travelling because it's very concise and portable" is an okay answer to the question,
  • "X flashcard-based exercise exists, it's very portable and also, you're actively practising both writing and recognising radicals, so it trains both prompted and unprompted visual memory. It's the type of practical, repeatable task that is very suitable for use as a regular exercise, based on X language learning principle" is a better answer because it directly addresses more of the criteria and gives a more complete explanation of how and why this is a good solution to the problem.

(don't be distracted that one is "what is there..." and the other is "is there anything...". People sometimes get hung up on the idea that good questions should only have one right answer. It's okay for there to be more than one right answer, so long as there's enough criteria that there's some objective way of comparing answers against each other as being a more or less complete or efficient solution to a problem)


The entire SE network tends to look unfavorably on resource request questions, because they tend to fall into two broad categories which are off-topic:

  1. "List" questions

    These are questions without a single "correct" answer. Asking for lists of Spanish-English dictionaries, French Thesauruses, and German learning courses are all examples of this. There are often countless correct answers, making them not fit for SE.

    If you can word the question to be specific enough, it might work. "Is there an official Spanish dictionary?" (Yes: rae.es) "Are there any English-X dictionaries?" (where X is an obscure language) might work, too, as you're not looking for a list of resources, but just for whether a single one exists.

  2. Primarily opinion-based

    Most questions asking for resources are asking for people's opinions on how "good" they are. For obvious reasons, SE doesn't handle recommendations well. And there are many sites which do! If this is your question, try amazon.com, goodreads.com, or google for reviews of the book/resource type you're considering.

So in general if we can narrow it down by being very specific in our requirements (as is needed in SE sites which are recommendation based) and present our objective requirements, then that's a tentative yes? I'm interested in recommendations of this kind in general. – brandaemon Aug 6 '15 at 20:25
@brandaemon: I suspect that a site looking for educational resource recommendations won't have a long history here. For examples of good resource recommendation questions, you might check out Software Reqs. Their requirements are a bit more relaxed than most other sites, but still tend to fall under the "good objective" rules. – Flimzy Aug 6 '15 at 21:33
But to your question, it is indeed a "tentative" or guarded "yes"--assuming the questions fall within standard SE guidelines. – Flimzy Aug 6 '15 at 22:05

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