27

I'm a native English speaker, and I couldn't find anything in the tour or the help center about this question. Is it appropriate for me to answer questions on this SE? I likely will never ask a question here (my questions would go to English Language and Usage instead). I know that this SE is geared more towards people trying to learn or master English, but is my input appropriate here? I'm interested in sharing my language (and culture) with those interested in learning it.

  • 5
    Anyone is welcome to contribute whether they are a native speaker or not. Welcome! You may want to take a glance at what questions are on topic here even if you're unlikely to ask any just so you don't spend too much effort on questions likely to be closed. – ColleenV Jan 29 '15 at 4:23
  • 4
    You're not only welcome here, but wanted! Anyone with enthusiasm to share knowledge of English is an asset to the community. I think of this site not as a place where people ask questions to be answered, but rather, a place where Answerers (like you and me) can find interesting questions to which we can answer! Question makers provide the service of providing good questions for those of us who have a passion for Answering. I'm being 50% funny and 50% true as an alternate view of what drives the community. Seriously, you'll learn more and have more enjoyment than you can imagine by answering. – CoolHandLouis Jan 31 '15 at 22:40
40

Absolutely your participation is welcome here, in any role.

I suspect, in fact, that most learners ask questions here precisely because they want “authoritative” answers they believe only native speakers can provide.

(True, they quickly discover that a) there are no authoritative answers; b) non-native speakers often provide better or more relevant answers; and c) native speakers agree with each other about as often as clocks do. But these are all important things to learn, too.)

One of the real strengths of this site is the variety of answerers. The majority are Anglophones of one sort or another; but many of them speak decidedly non-standard dialects like East Alabama and Scots, and we also have very highly regarded answerers whose native languages are Thai, Dutch, Hindi, German, Russian, Italian ... you name it, we've probably got it.

So please, jump in. But be warned: the questions here are often much harder than those on ELU. You are likely to end up learning more from the questions than you can possibly return to the questioners.

Welcome!

  • Ok thanks. I'll keep that in mind. – ryanyuyu Jan 29 '15 at 13:42
  • 14
    I would only add to this excellent response that it is helpful for learners if, when you answer out of your personal experience, you characterize it by locality, dialect, education, etc. So, for instance, I will sometimes mention the usage I am reporting is familiar to me from my locale of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, or the New England area more generally. Sometimes I will go so far as to mention whether I have observed it in the predominantly college-educated community in which I live or the blue-collar community in which I work. – Codeswitcher Jan 29 '15 at 18:20
  • 1
    Seconding what Codeswitcher said - there are infinitely many varieties of English, and the context in which an answer is given can easily be hugely significant for not only how the questioner interprets the answer, but also for anyone who sees the question in the future. For instance, someone learning English in India is much more likely to be learning a variety of British English, and so while an answer from the context of an American English speaker might be useful and offer insight, it may also miss the mark completely. – Pockets Jan 30 '15 at 6:29
  • 4
    "You are likely to end up learning more from the questions than you can possibly return to the questioners" - indeed, part of why I joined ELL was because reading the questions and answers caused me (a native anglophone) to think more deeply about English and about aspects of it that I usually didn't question. – stangdon Jan 30 '15 at 19:22
  • We even get answers posted here from people who speak that strange Missouri dialect. – Jay Feb 4 '15 at 14:31
  • @Jay - Yeah - I've lived in Missouri almost 40 years and it still jars me occasionally. – StoneyB Feb 4 '15 at 15:07
12

We get quite a few questions on ELL asking which is "correct" out of two or more alternatives. Often, practically every native speaker could easily identify the most common (or only "correct") usage. So like many others, I'm often tempted to post a short answer addressing the "bare" question as asked, but...

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Adapting for context, whilst all "correct" answers are welcome, by far the most valuable ones are those that illustrate some relatively reliable principle about English usage that the OP can apply to a wider range of contexts than simply ticking the right answer in a multi-choice homework test.


TL;DR: Being a native speaker makes it easy to provide a basic answer to many questions here, but please consider what else you might be able to add that will extend the scope of whatever you say.

  • 6
    For me, sometimes handing someone a fish [ie via a quick comment] can help, even if it just gives someone else some extra bait & tackle for a full 'teach how to fish'. But it must be said that some questions provoke me into merely pointing at the river & shrugging :P – Tetsujin Feb 5 '15 at 11:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .