I'm pretty sure answers need to be in English, and I was going to recommend an answer for deletion that is mixed English and something else, but I can't actually find a meta question or help center article explicitly saying this.

Someone want to write an answer I can cite, or direct me to where this is spelled out?


Let's ask two questions:

  1. Does the answer in question include a complete translation in English?
  2. Can it be understood if English is the only language you know?

If not, I think it's a problem that needs to be fixed. Remember, answers here on ELL aren't just for the original asker. We're trying to create a resource that will be useful for future users, too! And the only thing we can assume about future users is that they understand (or are trying to understand) English.

If a user finds this answer on Google but they can't read it because it's not in English, from their point of view it's Not An Answer. I think you should flag accordingly.

  • This is the answer in question: ell.stackexchange.com/a/57319/10238. I don't know if I really want to add that link to my question. – DCShannon May 21 '15 at 20:20
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    The most important thing here is that answers are for everyone, not just the person who asked so if a question comes from a Spanish speaker and you find it easier to explain in Spanish, that means the answer can only be useful to other Spanish speakers, which defeats the purpose of the site. – Catija May 21 '15 at 20:20
  • @DCShannon for that one, I'd likely call it too low quality. – Catija May 21 '15 at 20:23
  • @Catija Yeah, probably, but I don't actually know what it says, so the biggest problem for me is the language, rather than the length. I'm avoiding putting that link in the question, as I want an answer in general, not one that depends on how short that answer is. – DCShannon May 21 '15 at 20:26
  • @DCShannon Low quality reads: "This answer has severe formatting or content problems."... The foreign language is the content, no? Technically, at least it looks like an answer... the parts that are in English relate directly to the question. Both are probably fine for flags, though. I suppose it could just as easily be another question. – Catija May 21 '15 at 20:30
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    Yes, I would have definitely voted to delete an answer given entirely or even 1/3 in a foreign language. One or two lines given, as an afterthought but not as part of the main answer seem okay to me. – user6951 May 24 '15 at 19:36

Answers should be in English, for the reasons that snailboat gives and also so that they can be verified by native speakers. We get quite a lot of answers by learners that are incorrect on various points, and it's common for native speakers to correct them. Answering in a language other than English means that such mistakes are much less likely to be spotted.


Referring to Alan Carmack's answer.

I do not speak Hindi, but I did take the time to read the answer carefully.

So, in Hindi, 'to be' verb means "होना".

The first Hindi character is clearly the translation of to be.

According to Google translator it also means happen but the verb "to be" is also listed among the options.

The OP then writes

The boys is moving toward ...

The second Hindi word/expression (or character(s) I'm not sure what to call it (apologies for my ignorance)) is का मूव होना

Boys "का मूव होना" is correct but then 'to be' verb should be 'are'.

It looks like either the translation of boys, or is moving, note the use of inverted commas.
Google translator says "का मूव होना" means to be moved Admittedly the meaning of the second expression in Hindi is not crystal clear, but it doesn't really matter. Because then the OP clearly explains that the singular verb does not agree with a plural subject, and supplies the correct answer.

The boys are moving...

It's an easy enough explanation which any English learner can easily grasp.

I would edit and clarify the answer myself, but it would seem I was an interfering busybody.

If anyone wants to go ahead, please make the necessary and very small edit.

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    -1 I don't think it reasonable to expect users, no matter how carefully they have read the answer, to have to search the internet for possible meanings of a language they are unfamiliar with to decode an answer that is not written in English. Besides, Google translate cannot be trusted. – Alan Carmack Nov 7 '16 at 16:08
  • The first Hindi expression is clearly the translation of the verb "to be" it even has inverted commas. The second is less clear, but overall the answer is easy to understand, and I assure you I only checked Google translator when I realized the text was not gobbledygook. – Mari-Lou A Nov 7 '16 at 16:12
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    I don't remember what post I was thinking of when I wrote this meta question, but I'm certain it wasn't similar to the Hindi example. The asker in that situation spoke Hindi, so it made sense to include some in the answer for their benefit, and there are only a few words in the answer anyway, clearly surrounded and introduced by English. – DCShannon Nov 8 '16 at 1:49

Let's take this answer

as an example of a question that mixes English and Hindi. The answer begins by stating where the questioner is from and continues with

So, in Hindi, 'to be' verb means "होना". And that's how, 'is/are/was/were' comes into the picture.

If we apply the second test posed by snailplane in her post here ("Can [the answer] be understood if English is the only language you know?"), this answer fails that test; in addition, if I were a learner who had no knowledge of Hindi, it would discourage me from reading the answer further.

The part of the answer

Boys "का मूव होना" is correct but then 'to be' verb should be 'are'.

is also cryptic and, again, cannot be understood.

Either this answer should be edited, or we should take it as an acceptable answer (by a moderator, no less) and to pattern our answers after it, when we know the native tongue of the OP.

  • If you're a learner but you only speak English what are you doing on a site for learners of English?! :) Maybe if you're a native speaker and only speak one language than that type of answer confuses you. Perhaps the answerer knew for certain the OP was a Hindi speaker; but I agree, unless the user translates Hindi into English, the answer should either be deleted, or clarified in an edit. – Mari-Lou A Nov 4 '16 at 13:55
  • Just looked at the linked post, March 2015, some time ago. I haven't seen instances of this happening recently. – Mari-Lou A Nov 4 '16 at 13:59
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    Why would we need to pattern other answers after it? (You had a similar tiff with Josh some time ago - "If the mod team won't delete this answer, then that's how I'm going to start writing my answers.") Just because one answer is allowed to stand doesn't mean that answer should be emulated across the exchange. Please stop with such childish reactions. – J.R. Nov 4 '16 at 17:09
  • @J.R. Because I concluded that an answer, especially from a moderator, that someone has brought to the attention of the community in the meta site as possibly in need of editing because it fails a test applied to it by another moderator (snailplane) and that is left to stand "as is" was worthy of emulation. – Alan Carmack Nov 5 '16 at 17:41
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    @Alan - The five moderators on this site have contributed nearly 4000 answers. You found one where a moderator happened to sprinkle in a little bit of Hindi to help explain a concept. Just because that answer wasn't stamped out when you flagged it doesn't mean it's suddenly "worthy of emulation." – J.R. Nov 5 '16 at 18:38
  • @J.R. Look, ELL wants to be the premier Q&A site on the Internet about ELL-ing. How does it look when a question asking about the meaning of the verb to be (arguably the most important verb in any language, if it exists in a given language) is answered by a post that relies on Hindi to be understood? Call it pedantic, call it nitpicking... I call it being concerned with the quality of questions and answers on the site. – Alan Carmack Nov 5 '16 at 20:47

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