We all know users on our PSE come from all parts of the world and it seems obvious that if someone is using the internet he/she must be writing and understanding English properly. But in some countries the web pages are purely in regional language and therefore users from those regions (of course, their mother tongue is not English) finds it hard to communicate in English.

I remember my father once told me about his viva (oral exam in Universities). The examiner asked him a question in English, but my father up to his high school studied in a school where regional language was used for instructing, so my father said in his mother tongue

"Sir, do I have to tell you the answer in English?"

To this the examiner replied:

"Language doesn't matter to me, I want to know whether you know the concept or not. You can answer in our language also"

I know the above thing applies only when all the communicators understand the same language.

So, basically I want to ask what can a user do to get the best of this Great Community while he/she is learning English, no doubt in that and I know that's the most important things, but what else one can do.

Any suggestions will be highly appreciated.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Useful: 1)physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/68/249968 2)physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/12459/249968 3)physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8878/249968 . ACM's answer on the following post is relevant here: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/9816/249968 $\endgroup$
    – user249968
    Feb 9, 2020 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ Is there proof that this user here gets down votes specifically due to poor English? $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2020 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Johan I liked @Peterh-ReinstateMonica answer in that last link. You know Andre-Marie Ampere had to learn Latin for studying mathematics because all Maths original works were in Latin only. $\endgroup$
    – user240696
    Feb 9, 2020 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Knight I don't see what is so good about Peter's post there. It doesn't actually say a whole lot about the issue, just vaguely implies some things. I'm not sure what point you were trying to make with Andre-Marie Ampere either. If you want to participate in a community that speaks a certain language, you typically have to speak that language as well, or communication doesn't really work. I also don't see how that oral exam anecdote is relevant to your question, we aren't testing anything, we are just trying to communicate information, and since this is an English site, we use English. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Feb 9, 2020 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @AaronStevens We have had, in last year, at least one user ask on Meta why so many of their posts were closed as "unclear what you're asking," and reveal in their Meta question that they were relying on a machine-translation website to read and write on our site. There's a region of the phase space where "poor physics understanding" and "poor English-language skills" can't be easily separated. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Feb 9, 2020 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @rob I completely agree. I just didn't know if the OP had specific examples/proof for this case. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2020 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ One suggestion for non-English speakers is to use the best machine translation software available. I suggest translating from your language to English and then back to your language. If the result is gibberish, find a different translation program. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Feb 9, 2020 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ I've removed an answer that speculates about the identity of the unnamed user described in this question, because we generally try to avoid calling out individual users by name on Meta. (The name wasn't actually used, but there was enough specific information to inspire amateur detectives to start sleuthing.) Let's instead use this question to discuss the general question of how the site can be accessible to people whose English-language skills are not strong. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Feb 10, 2020 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


To quote from an earlier answer of mine:

Language Matters. If your questions use unclear language, then they are more likely to be closed as Unclear What You're Asking, and they are more likely to be downvoted.

  • We close unclear questions because they direct answerer attention from other questions which do provide sufficient clarity to have unambiguous answers.
  • We downvote unclear questions because they are not useful to future visitors, so they should be ranked lower when search results are presented.

Those are core, integral parts of how the SE Q&A engine works, and they're one of the key reasons why SE shines in providing good-quality content. If these aspects bother you, then you should look for other platforms that don't have content quality as a key tenet.

The same holds for text that is not in English: the language of this site is English, and including crucial parts of your question in other languages is going to lead to a bad reception, from downvotes to closevotes to comments telling you not to do that. If you want to avoid that bad reception, then post only in English, and only include other languages when absolutely crucial and accompanied with a suitable, high-quality translation. To be clear: machine translation is generally not of sufficient quality to be posted directly, particularly on technical subjects like physics. You are responsible for the clarity of the language that you post here, and if it's unclear enough to merit downvotes or closevotes, then edit it to clarify it, or accept the response. Downvotes are not a personal indictment against you, they are indicators about the content of the post.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but this is an English-language site. If a given user has problems with using the English language, those problems will extend to using this site. We can and should do everything in our power to help users for whom English is not a native language to get their questions in good order, but it is ultimately their responsibility to ask for and use this help.

  • $\begingroup$ Please flag things that reveal specific users if you see them so we can remove it. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Feb 18, 2020 at 1:08

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