I have decided to reopen this discussion because there has been some debate about the fact if certain questions asking for resources are or not suitable for this site in the comments to this question. It seems to me that it's a good opportunity to discuss this in more detail and this Meta site is the right place to do it.

In addition to this, we have recently closed with the votes of 5 users some questions asking for resources that have been open for years, such as, for instance, this one.

As a community, if we decide to allow for some questions asking for resources, I believe we should make an effort to define in a more clear way which kind of questions are suitable to the site and change the contents of our on-topic page, so we should decide how.

If we decide that some or all the resources requests are off-topic, we should change something in the description of the tag and do something with the questions that are or will potentially be under this tag.

Anyway, it's clear that we are giving contradictory information because, at present, we have a help page saying resource requests are off-topic and, at the same time, a tag for questions about resources related to Italian language, so we should solve this contradiction in some way.

As it is now, our on-topic page states that requests for resources are out of the scope for this site, so that one shouldn't ask any questions about this. Nevertheless:

  • We have a tag called with this tag wiki: "For questions asking about resources related to Italian language."
  • Some questions requesting for resources have been asked in the past.
  • Other Stack Exchange sites about languages allow for some requests for resources. Update: I've checked it: all language-related SE sites have at least one "resources" tag (sometimes they have more than one), except English Language Learners (I'm not sure about Russian Language in Russian). Even if ELL doesn't have such tag, they seem to admit certain resource requests. See, for instance, this question.

For these reasons I would like to ask to our community: should we define which questions asking for resources are on-topic and which ones are not? Should we simply remove "requests for resources" from the list of topics that are out of the scope of this site? What do you think about this?

Other Stack Exchange sites about languages have had this kind of discussion (see, for instance, https://french.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/127/are-resources-for-learning-french-on-topic-les-demandes-de-ressources-pour-lap#). They have arrived to the conclusion that some requests for resources should be allowed, but they have tried to define a policy on this kind of questions.


6 Answers 6


First of all, I think we should keep working on our list of useful resources. Everything that is covered in that list would be essentially off-topic (for example, questions asking for a dictionary, verb conjugation tables, or a pronunciation guide).

Secondly, I'd suggest to close as off-topic questions asking for advice, such as "Help me to choose a textbook," "What is the best online system to learn Italian?," "How do I start learning Italian?" and the like. There are three reasons for that:
- the answers to such questions would be highly subjective,
- the answers to such questions age very fast (because more tools and textbooks appear every year),
- the questions themselves are subjective, because the choice of the right tool - especially a studying tool - might depend on the OP's goals, intended use (tourist vs. professional), native language and proficiency in other languages, available time and schedule intensity, and many other factors that we couldn't possibly account for.
For the same reasons, I would consider off-topic questions, critiquing or favouring a textbook or a tool, such as this one. (Examples from ELU 1, 2 - note the comments from moderators). So, let's include a couple of titles of good, uncontroversial, and comprehensive Italian textbooks in the list of resources as "one-size-fits-all" and that's it.

Thirdly, several questions tagged "resources" ask about reading sources - old or contemporary texts in Italian. I think, these are valid questions, or better, they WERE valid questions. We should incorporate answers from those questions into the list of recommended readings - again, one community-supported list here on Meta, and we could close such questions as off-topic later on.

Finally, we should consider closing questions if we think they are off-topic, even if these questions are old or have got some good answers. Here's what the ELU moderators write to such questions:

Mod note: This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. Ordinarily, we would lock such a question; however, because allowing the answers to be edited and voted on greatly enhances its value, we have chosen not to do so. Please do not vote to reopen or delete this question; such actions will be reversed.

So, we would preserve such questions for their answers, but we should close them to avoid getting other off-topic questions in the future.

  • I repeat exactly the same thing that I've said in another comment. The downvotes to this anwser seem perfectly OK to me, but, since the purpose of this question is to have a discussion on this issue, I would highly appreciate if you can comment on it. I mean, you don't agree with absolutely anything what is said here or you don't agree with certain aspects? For instance, your downvote means that you believe that we shouldn't generally close these questions because they are perfectly on-topic on this site? And that do you think Meta is not the place to host resource questions?
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 15:08
  • I do not agree with the idea of mantainig community-supported lists of books here on Meta which would include a few titles of good, uncontroversial and comprehensive "one-size-fits-all" resources. It doesn't seem feasible to me and I think this Meta site is not the place to host questions asking for resources. I agree that the kind of questions mentioned in the first part of this post should be considered off-topic, but I disagree with the idea that absolutely every question asking for books or other types of resources should be closed as off-topic, as I have explained in my answer.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 8:31

This first part of the answer was written a lot time ago. I've now rephrased it in a more detailed way below:

I agree with some of the points of @I.M. answer, but, in my opinion, a link to our list of useful resources should appear in our on-topic page in the section "What topics can I ask about here?". I think that, instead of saying that requests for resources are off-topic, we should write something like "if you are looking for resources related to Italian language, please check if you can find them in our list of useful online resources before asking a question". One reason is that it may be some requests for resources that at that moment are not included in our list. For instance, have a look at this question on German.SE (maybe this is not a good example of on-topic resource request question and we could look for a better example, but it seems that it has been considered on-topic on German.SE). One could ask for something similar on Italian.SE, namely, podcasts with colloquial Italian, but we don't have anything like this in our list of useful resources. Another reason is that, in principle, this is a list of resources available online, so that it doesn't include other kind of resources such as books.

I agree that questions asking for advice, such as "what is the best tool for..." or "which is the best way to..." should be closed as off-topic for the reasons explained by @I.M. But maybe what we should do is to encourage users to write questions asking for resources in such a way that:

  • the question is as objective as possible and the possible answers are not opinion-based;
  • the question specify the purpose of the requested resources so that it isn't too broad.


The above answer was written a long time ago, so I will try to add some new thoughts about the argument.

I agree with what is said by @DenisNardin in a comment that this Meta site is not the place to host questions asking for resources. Other SE sites about languages have questions about resources on the main site.

If we decide as a community that some old or new questions asking for resources should be closed, what I think should be done would be that some "regular" (that is, non moderators) vote to close that questions. As a moderator, if I vote to close a question, it automatically gets closed: I personally don't feel comfortable with this kind of questions being closed with the votes of only one or two users of the site.

In my opinion, most questions asking for resources would be off-topic because they would be opinion-based or subjective questions where every answer is equally valid. But I think we should allow some of them if they fit the criteria I will try to explain (and that maybe should be reworded), as every language-related SE site does (basically, questions asking for something very specific, which not give rise to opinion-based answers or to potentially long lists in which every answer is equally valid). It seems too drastic to me being the only language-related site in which absolutely all resource requests are off-topic.

And, yes, I know it is impossible to write a "perfect receipe" so that applying it you will get to know if certain resource requests are or not on-topic. But, for this reason, the closing votes of the community are important to decide what to do in such cases.

Some ideas to modify our help page What topics can I ask about here?:

  • Remove "Requests for resources" from the list "please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics [...]".

  • Add a new section with the title "Can I ask for resources?" to explain to which extent requests for resources are on-topic. The contents may more or less be something like this (I took some ideas from the Chinese SE on-topic help page. All this can be reworded, of course):

The short answer is: in principle no, but it depends.

Subjective questions (asking for opinions, polls or, in general, "list" questions where every answer is equally valid) are off-topic on the main Stack Exchange sites because they do not fit the Q&A format. You may notice there are already some resource questions collected under the tag, but we are in process of closing most of these questions, as they don't fit the Stack Exchange format. In any case, we have set up on our Meta site a question about useful resources on Italian available online. You're free to add more material to it.

So if you do ask for some resources that are not included in one of the sections of the above mentioned Meta question, be very careful how you phrase your question. Open-ended, chatty questions are explicitly discouraged on the Stack Exchange network. As the "Real Questions Have Answers" post states

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

We're not saying that you should never ask for resources, but when you do, you should ask for something as specific as possible. Avoid vague or subjective questions like "What are some good books I can read to improve my Italian?" as they are going to be closed.

If you do have a chatty, open-ended question, visit our chat room. (I'm not sure if we can say this if no one or almost no one visits this chat room)

For instance, do you think that these questions, question 1, question 2 and question 3, would fit these criteria so as to be considered on-topic on our site?

Idea of something to be added to the tag description or wiki of our tag:

Please, see this help page for details of which requests for resources are on-topic for this site.

We can even add

Resource questions are likely to be closed

to this description if you think this would be useful to users.

  • 1
    I personally do not see any harm in a community-wiki question asking for "good books for learning Italian" and I do not think that it is really the job of meta to host these questions. For example in Mathoverflow there are often textbook-reccomendations questions and do not seem to do any harm. However I have not been part of this community for long, so I am not sure this reflects the practices here.
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 20:06
  • I don't have any problem with getting downvotes in this anwser, but, since the purpose of this question is to have a discussion on this issue, I would highly appreciate if you can comment on it. I mean, can you please explain which are the aspects you don't agree with? It's that you believe that absolutely every resource request should be off-topic? On the contrary, is that in your opinion most resources requests are on-topic and we should simply delete "Requests for resources" from the list "don’t ask any questions about the following topics" without adding anything else on that help-page?
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 14:08
  • To me, the harm is that answers for resource questions are all equally valid, if the users who answer didn't totally misunderstood the question. They are questions where answers make a list, users post their preferences, and where other users vote the answers that match their preferences. There isn't a objective criteria on what is wrong or what is right (except in the case the user who answered totally misunderstood the question).
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 12:39
  • I completely agree with that, @kiamlaluno, and I think we should try to explain in our on-topic help page that this kind of resource request is off-topic. It's what I've tried to explain in this anwser, but, the wording can be changed if it's not completely clear.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 12:46
  • @Charo This answer is confusing. It's not clear if you agree that questions about resources are off-topic, or that they should be allowed. From your last comment, I get you think they are off-topic, but the answer is mixing two different actions (with opposite effects). It's not clear with what the users who up-vote agree, nor with what the users who down-vote disagree.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 13:11
  • @kiamlaluno: I think that most questions asking for resources would be off-topic, but that we should allow some of them (if they fit the criteria I'm trying to explain, that maybe should be reworded), as every language-related SE site does. As I have said, it seems too drastic to me being the only language-related site in which absolutely all resource requests are off-topic. I will try to add this to the answer so it's more clear.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 13:18
  • @kiamlaluno: I've added this to the answer: I hope now is clearer.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 13:39

In my opinion, there is no doubt about this kind of questions being out of place here. As mentioned, in one of our help pages, it explicitly says:

But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.
"How to improve my Italian?" or "What's a good tool for...?" (this is not constructive anyway)
Requests for resources

And this rules out general questions about all kind of resources, books, methods, suggestions, schools to learn Italian. The fact that we have a tag for it, or that in the past such questions have been admitted, doesn't make it right to continue doing so. [Personally, I'd keep them for reference, but having closed and provided them with clear info that they are presently considered to be off-topic.]

These and other opinion-based questions may well be quite useful and interesting in themselves, and worthy to be pursued in other kinds of websites. However, “The best questions are those that have specific answers; Italian Language Stack Exchange is not a general discussion forum”, while suggestions about resources and books are an all-too fertile ground for opinions and discussions.

Just to make an example, the answer to the question mentioned in this question transcribes a list of books suggested by a language school. There is at least one of those books, and possibly some other ones, that I'd strongly advise against, should I mention them to someone learning Italian. Moreover, that list mixes recent masterworks of Italian literature and far more commercial, not to say lowbrow, novels. Of course, it's perfectly ok to read both kinds of books, but each would deserve some kind of introduction to someone not knowing them; but, then again, this would be perfectly subjective and the next user would likely have a completely different take on them.

  • Thanks for your answer, @DaG. The problem I see is that, as far as I know, almost all SE sites about languages have a "resources" tag and all of them admit some questions asking for resources. So, qualifying all these questions as off-topic seems too drastic to me. As other sites have done, I think we should try to define which requests for resources are on-topic for this site and modify the page on the Help Center you have mentioned. And maybe close some questions, but, as I have said, I think this should be done with the votes of some users of the site and not by moderators.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 9:26
  • I see your point, @Charo. Do you have in mind some possible criterion about which resource questions might be admissible as not too reliant on opinion?
    – DaG
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 9:41
  • Maybe we could try to have a look at what other SE sites about languages have done. For instance, this is the on-topic help page of Chinese Language.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 10:04
  • 1
    @Charo No, not all the language sites have that tag. English Language Learners doesn't have it.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 13:07
  • 1
    I would also add that What types of questions should I avoid asking? states that questions were every answer is equally valid should be avoided. Asking for a list of books or other off-site resources would just get answers that are all equally valid (if the answer doesn't suggest a book that is about cooking, when the question is asking for a grammar book, for example).
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 13:44
  • @DaG: I've just added some ideas to my answer.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 13:56
  • @kiamlaluno: I essentially agree with what you have said in your last comment, but I'm not sure to be understanding you. Are you suggesting that absolutely all the questions asking for resources should be considered off-topic?
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 14:12
  • 1
    @Charo I would avoid to get them on the site, considering that answers would need to be kept update, or they will become quickly useless.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 14:16
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno: So, maybe we should close all the questions that are now under the tag "resources" and modify the tag description to say something like "Do not use this tag: we are not anymore accepting resource requests on our site"?
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 14:26
  • OK, @kiamlaluno, I've checked it using this list: all language-related SE sites have at least one "resources" tag (sometimes they have more than one), except ELL (I'm not sure about Russian in Russian).
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 16:36
  • 1
    @Charo Closing all the questions using that tag is probably excessive. Changing the tag description to add a sentence saying the tag should not be used because the questions using it are off-topic is the first step. Closing the new questions about resources would be the next step. As for the tag, ELL doesn't use neither resource nor resources. That is the site I checked.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 16:55
  • @Charo That is ELU, not ELL. Since you said that all the language-related SE sites have a resource tag, it's sufficient to find one of those sites that doesn't use it to say that not all the language-related SE sites use such tag.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 18:37
  • 1
    @Charo The usual answer is that questions on that topic aren't accepted anymore. Existing questions should be not used to say But that question is similar to mine, and it has not been closed. On the site I moderate there are many questions that are off-topic for nowadays' standards; if a user complains about a off-topic question not being closed, the usual actions of moderators is close it as off-topic.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 21:27
  • 2
    @Charo Making clear they are off-topic is perfect; involving the community in closing those questions is perfect too. It just should not become a we have to close all those resource questions in 6 months crusade.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 8:54

Please, downvote this answer if you don't agree, upvote it if you agree. It's important to me to know it: if we don't agree with that idea (which is something perfectly OK to me, but I need your downvotes to know it), I think it's wasting our time trying to write detailed proposals.

I've decided to add this other answer because I've seen a great diversity of opinions on the issue. When I raised this question four and a half years ago, the result was some answers with some proposals, but every answer received few votes, so finally we did nothing about it. I fear this time there will be more answers, each of them with a small amount of total voting score, so at the end of the day the result would be that we will have to live with this contradiction for, let's say, five more years.

I write this answer to see if at least we agree on this:

At present, we have the contradiction I have explained in the question, as a result we are giving confusing, incoherent information to some new users (for instance, the one who posed the question I linked in the question) and we should do something to solve it.

  • Yes, we should resolve it. The "issue" is that there are different opinions on what a good question on Italian Language would be. I always thought that a good question should be an objective question that can help future readers, shows a minimum of understanding/research, and that doesn't require answers to keep updated with, for example, new published books. I take I am just one of few that thinks that.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 15:32
  • @kiamlaluno: If at least a sufficiently large number of users agree with this, we can try to find a negotiated solution to this problem: that is, a solution that won't satisfy all the thoughts of every one (which right now it seems something impossible to me), but that at least will satisfy some of the thoughts of every one who agrees with this. For this reason, it's important to me that users downvote or upvote this answer.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 15:45
  • Unfortunately, a post's score doesn't help in resolving the problem of which questions should be acceptable. On the site I moderate, many users where contrary to not allowing a tag like drupal-7, where Drupal is the name of the CMS, but that (on the long term) was the better solution, since users tend to use any tag containing drupal simply for the fact their question is about Drupal, even if the tag doesn't apply to their question. This shows that sometimes users don't have a clear vision of the consequence of a decision.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 15:57
  • I would like to avoid that similar mistakes are done in other SE sites, but I have to admit I fail with that.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 15:57
  • @kiamlaluno: I quite agree with what you have said in your first comment: the only thing is that very specific resource requests such as the ones ("question 1" and "question 2") I linked in my answer seem in principle OK to me. I don't see so problematic to add a new answer if one is aware of a new site or of a new dictionary with the characteristics described in the question, in the same way it hasn't been a problem to add new online dictionaries to our Meta resource questions.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 16:05
  • The problem is that new answers should always be added, or old answers should be edited to be updated because answers on resources cannot possibly be exhaustive. Users who already answered could give a different answer, just after 6 months. Differently, an answer for a question asking, for example, how to use a word would need less updates.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 16:09
  • @kiamlaluno: I know that post score won't solve anything, but at least we will know if we can try to do something to solve it or if it's better not to waste more time trying to do it because users feel OK living with this contradiction.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 16:10
  • @kiamlaluno: Maybe we can decide that answers to such questions should be community-wiki.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 16:12

Here is another proposal, or better a meta-proposal.

I trust the moderators: they are all long-time users of this website, very knowledgeable on both the topics covered here and the workings of the SE sites. If they were to decide to take things in their hands, consider the opinions expressed here and elsewhere, find a consensus among them (possibly also consulting other SE people? I don't know how this kind of decisions work) and present it as the new rules for Italian Language, I'd be ready to accept them, no matter how close or distant to my own opinions they are.

I hope and suppose most other habitués would too, while the occasional visitors of the site will find the new rules already in place.

  • Thanks a lot for this proposal, @DaG, but I think this is not something that moderators can decide. We do not consult this kind of issues with other SE moderators because they are things that every community must decide. Let me also remark that what I've said in the question and in the answers are my personal views and that the opinions of the other moderators about this topic may be completely different from mine.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 21:51

I agree that the list of resources should have the maximum visibility, I also agree that there is no harm in asking for resources and suggested books, but maybe there should be a cut-off line drawn somewhere or you would have to accept every single request, even the ones that could be resolved with 5 minutes of search. Take this question as example Where does one find pronunciation, spelling, and phonetic rules in English for Italian? , a search would pull up a lot of resources very quickly and in the language requested. If we say "yes but we are asked for resources in English, and they arent in the list so its acceptable" then you would open the door as requests in any language as I don't see why somebody that doesn't speak English shouldn't have the right to ask for the same in their own languages. After all that same question could be written asking for more specific orthography explanations rather than a simple list of links, it would show some effort. I don't have anything against people asking for these kind of questions, let me be clear, but there are other questions on hold because of the ease of googling for the answer and I don't think it's fair to apply that to some and not others. Whatever the decision the community wants to take its fine, but should be the same for everybody.

  • The problem is that, at this moment, our on-topic page states that requests for resources are off-topic, but we (as in fact other Stack Exchange sites do) are accepting some requests for resources. So, in my opinion, we should change our on-topic page.
    – Charo Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 18:11
  • 1
    @Charo I see your point and agree with it. You will have to choose what kind of resource requests are on topic first though, its hard to make everyone happy... Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 18:20
  • @Erik I disagree that said question could be answered with a five minutes googling. In fact I put mine in a comment rather than an answer because I consider them strongly lacking (for example no resource as far as I can tell explains the tongue positions for those sounds that are not in the English language). In fact I am very surprised that such a resource does not exists
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 0:52
  • @Denis Nardin, there might be a misunderstanding in concept here, as I wrote in a comment for that question its not completely clear if it refers to pronunciation or orthography. When in English one talk about spelling it means orthography so I leaned towards that since the OP didnt reply to the comment. If you search "Italian orthography" there are a bunch of resources popping up right away. The OP also states in a comment that what she found was "unsuitable for her purposes", I find it broad enough to make impossible for anybody but her to find something suitable to add to a general list Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:33
  • @Erik I'm confused by your distinction between pronunciation and orthography. Aren't they basically the same thing, that is the relationship between phonemes and graphemes (apart from allophones, but I think we can disregard them for the time being)? In any case I fear this is getting off topic. It suffices to say that I could have asked exactly the same question for a language I do not speak and I would not have been completely satisfied by answers similar to the one s/he received
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:47
  • @Denis Nardin, my point is that its impossible satisfy everybody's needs and expectations, the question would have been handled differently if it was posed as "this is what I found... this is what I didn't understand, please explain". Another example is the panvowel question, which can be easily solved searching (see DaG comment) IF you know how to search, and to find it in English one has to do a bit more work than going straight to Italian, as there is a series of translation of terms in the middle, yet everybody was ready to close that one... let's use the same rule for everybody... Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:47
  • Oh I agree that the panvowel question should have been closed and remained closed. That was just silly. I guess that my standard for references are unusual. I still see value in this site to have some questions asking for general references on the language (and I'd like them to be open questions so that people can, from time to time, add to it). I simply do not think that it is meta's job to write a "definitive list of useful resources"
    – Denis Nardin Mod
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:53
  • @Denis Nardin, to me orthography/spelling is how you write what you say. Since in English they don't say a word as they write it they make a much bigger deal out of spelling than we do in Italian to the point they have spelling bee contests and spelling varies with locations. Sometimes I saw English speakers being disoriented learning other languages because they didn't have spelling rules to go by like they are used to, for what i know this could have been the reason that what OP found was unsatisfactory for her, she didn't explain it Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 14:56
  • In a lot of places even out of SE they won't reply to anything if you dont demonstrate effort in the problem, they are tired of doing students homeworks. I find both questions at the limit, I don't care if they are kept, I rather like that the Italian section isn't policed to the point of being unusable. I just think that the community should decide what constitutes an "easily googled answer" and I understand its not a simple thing since its rather subjective and I saw another discussion in Meta that seemed unresolved so... Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 15:04
  • @DenisNardin, and i do agree with you on the "definitive list", i think its even impossible to make it definitive Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 15:46

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