Why don't questions identify the native language of their author? I'm new here, but it seems to me that it might be useful (and interesting) to know that people who speak a certain language often have problems with a certain pattern in English. Maybe tags would be an appropriate measure?

  • We do have plenty of instances where the community has explained that certain things are common issues for native speakers of certain languages - we're fortunate to have multilingual community members that can recognize those situations. However, knowing the native language of the person asking the question doesn't change how someone would answer that question most of the time, so it doesn't make sense to ask for it for all questions. I think it's better to clarify questions and answers in comments as needed,
    – ColleenV
    Mar 13, 2017 at 12:40
  • I've downvoted this question because I don't agree with OP's suggestion that "tags would be an appropriate measure". But this in no way implies that I don't think it's a good idea to raise the issue here on meta. My preferred approach (which OP doesn't seem to have adopted on ELL) is that "committed" users should include nationality and/or native language(s) on their profile. Mar 20, 2017 at 18:17
  • @FumbleFingers Why would tags be inappropriate?
    – Chaim
    Mar 20, 2017 at 21:32
  • @FumbleFingers It seems to me that Catija, the one person to answer so far, simply doesn't see what I mean: that if Greek speakers all have related difficulties in English (for reasons related to the differences between the two languages) they would have more luck finding the relevant discussion if Greek speakers tagged their questions, although the questions arose about different particular words. The fact that I don't speak Greek is irrelevant to this point.
    – Chaim
    Mar 20, 2017 at 21:40
  • There's an Indian-English tag (which I think is useful), and German (which I don't endorse). I don't know of any others like that, but even those two aren't specifically concerned with identifying the OP's native language. And it would soon become tiresome if, say, every question involving failure to include the definite article risked being tagged as Russian-English. Mar 20, 2017 at 23:36
  • ...anyway, you obviously haven't taken my suggestion on board, since I see you still haven't specified "nationality" on your ELL profile. Most "serious" users here do that, even though many of them only put this information in the free-form text (rather than in the specific input field provided, which I think works better with the SO user interface). Mar 20, 2017 at 23:42
  • @FumbleFingers It's funny. Instead of explaining why tags would not be help users find related questions, you just repeat that you don't endorse them. And instead of explaining why it would address the same problem, you repeat the insistence on changing my profile. I don't see why every question about definite articles would be tagged Russian-English, unless all of those questions came from Russian-speakers; and in that case I don't think they would find the tags tiresome at all if they helped them learn English. Is helping them an important part of the purpose of ELL?
    – Chaim
    Mar 21, 2017 at 11:54
  • You seem to be trying to start an argument with me that you should really be addressing to @Catija (whose answer I agree with, and have upvoted). Note that I'm not "insisting" that you specify your nationality in your profile - I'm not a mod, and even they couldn't make such demands. I simply pointed out that this is my preferred approach (i.e. - I think that's a perfectly good way of providing the "functionality" you seem to seek). If you have a cogent argument against that position I might try to engage with it; otherwise, I must refer you to Catija (and ColleenV's first comment above). Mar 21, 2017 at 13:42
  • I'm despairing of progress. I don't want to argue with anyone, but I don't see the relevance of your suggestion about profiles. I think that a Russian speaker stumped by some demand of English might do well to find other questions posted by Russian speakers. I think this would be possible if they had tagged their questions. He could also browse through the profiles to find people who took your advice, but I don't see how that would help him.
    – Chaim
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:04
  • @FumbleFingers Suppose a Spanish-speaker thinks that the English translations of prepositions seem haphazard and arbitrary. He doesn't have a specific question, but a vague confusion, and he wants to browse questions that other Spanish-speakers have asked about choosing prepositions. My questions to you are (1) do you think that such a desire really exists, (2) would you like him to succeed in browsing such questions, (3) would my suggested tags help, and (4) would your suggested profile remarks help?
    – Chaim
    Mar 22, 2017 at 12:02
  • I think if such a desire exists, it would be better satisfied by looking at something like this (the first result returned by googling english spanish prepositions). SO sites are all about specific answers to specific questions, but I wouldn't necessarily be averse to ELL having canonical posts addressing significant categories of differences between English and specific other languages. Mar 22, 2017 at 13:26
  • I guess your attitude seems to me to preclude one benefit in exchange for no benefit at all. What am I missing?
    – Chaim
    Mar 22, 2017 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


Stack Exchange generally attempts to make questions accessible to a wide variety of users. Implying that a question and its answers are less valuable to part of the audience because they're native Spanish speakers —rather than the question's native-Russian-speaking asker— reduces the value of the question. The most obvious example of this is that questions must be posed in English.

The other side of this is that, similarly, answers must be in English. We don't (and shouldn't) use their native language to explain the English. A case of this is in requests for phrase or idiom explanations — if someone said What does "yolo" mean? I speak Russian, so what would the equivalent phrase be?, that's really a Russian language question. Here, we need to focus on explaining in English what "yolo" means, otherwise we'd potentially have several nearly identical questions, one for each language. This is a waste of space on the site and effort on the parts of our answerers and it also requires knowledge of another language… in the end, the answers would likely be slower to come along and lower quality.

Plus, because we're focused on English, we may not actually be able to compare their native language to English as many of us don't speak that other language. Many of our users aren't EFL/ESL teachers, multi-lingual, or linguists so we may not be able to make these comparisons. That doesn't mean our answers can't be good.

The important thing is being able to explain the concepts of the English language, not in partitioning our site into dozens of mini-sites, one for each language.

  • Furthermore, it's not really possible to badger everyone to include their native language in their question. Technicalities.
    – M.A.R.
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:00

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