The bottom line summary of this answer says

Ideally, the answers should be in the same language as the question. However, I don't think we should down vote or limit these other-language answers because of their language.

The basis for that answer was taken from French.SE:

Answers should be in the same language as the question; however, no answer should be rejected or down-voted because it is not in the same language as the question.

Has anything changed in the meantime? That answer was written back in 2011 (in the Stone Age).

Although this question might seem like a duplicate, I would like to see this question get a fresh look and some constructive discussion here at Meta, in view of some recent polemics about a question written in Spanish and an answer written in English.


3 Answers 3


I agree with the conclusion drawn back in 2011 in general. However, I think we should all be sensitive to special circumstances. For example, once in a while we get an OP who is a raw beginner with Spanish, but who makes a special effort to ask a question in Spanish. In that case, I think that any answer written in Spanish should be written in simple Spanish. This is analogous to the simple English version of wikipedia.


I agree with aparente001's answer about "simple Spanish", something that I try to practise whenever a user is clearly trying to use Spanish but has a limited grasp of it. It certainly makes things more difficult, though. The thing is, unless the user has specified it in their profile, there's no certain way to know what their native language is, in case one wanted to shift to it. That is, if a user chooses to ask a question in obviously limited or broken Spanish, I feel myself compelled to reply in Spanish, but I have no idea if the user will be able to understand my answer, and I can't simply answer in English, because the user might actually not speak English very well (if at all).

It also happens that some linguistic or lexical quirks of Spanish have equivalents in other languages that I know and the user might know as well, or something in Spanish invites a comparison to some feature of another language. But without any hint about the user's knowledge of other languages I can't proceed with those examples.

Given the above I feel there should be some suggestion, at some point, that users let us know what their native and/or preferred language(s) are. Of course the user profile has a place for this, but maybe it should be incorporated in welcome templates or something (I'm just thinking out loud here), not as an obligation, but as a strong hint that things might be easier for everyone if we know where we stand.

  • I like that idea a lot. In fact I proposed something similar at ELU: english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/13233/112436 // I have a couple suggestions for you in light of the frustrations you described. When the OP writes a question in limited Spanish, I think that after you've written a simplified answer in Spanish, you should feel free to write some material in English as well, as optional supplementary material. Even if OP can't benefit, maybe someone else will be able to, later on. If there's something that connects especially well to some third language, it can't hurt to add some... Jul 5, 2019 at 2:32
  • optional material relating to that language, as well. Jul 5, 2019 at 2:33

About English posts in general

StackExchange is a knowledge network of sites about different topics.
As a network, it is possible and even encouraged (via HNQ and featured Meta.SE posts, for example) that users from any given site visit and/or join other sites that may also be of interest to them. And, as such a network where everybody is allowed to roam free, there is one common language that is shared and used by all sites in the network; the network's "native" language, which is to say: English. A common language is necessary for a network to function like such. To have users be able to jump from site to site, to have the same rules for all, to make sharing knowledge easier, to allow question migration, to have CMs be able to interact with any community. The user interface is in English in every SE site. Network-wide announcements are made in English. So, by default, everybody should and does use English to communicate within the network.

The network is huge, though, and so there are indeed some StackExchange sites about topics that are closely related to a language that is not English. Sites about specific languages, like French.SE, Russian.SE, Japanese.SE, Latin.SE; sites about religion, like MiYodeya or Hinduism.SE.
To make discussion of their topics easier, some of these sites also allow questions and answers written in their particular language, like most of the language-related ones; while others do not, and stick to English for questions and answers, like Russian.SE, Mi Yodeya or Hinduism.SE.

Spanish.SE is one of those sites where a different language, besides English, is allowed; namely, Spanish. Being a site about the Spanish language, and with over half a billion potential Spanish-speaking users, it is very convenient for us to allow questions and answers to be made in Spanish, especially the most technical ones which tend to be written by people for whom Spanish is already their native language, but also in general to avoid cluttered posts with lots of quotes and italics and such.

However, that doesn't and mustn't mean that English questions or answers should be frowned upon. Good questions and answers written in English are one of the best ways we have to share our love for Spanish with other users in the network and make them join our community. They are also one of the best ways to make it easier for learners of Spanish as a second language to find answers to their questions when they use a search engine like Google, Bing, DDG or even our own Spanish.SE search box. And, given that we are part of a network and this network's vehicular language is English, we definitely cannot forbid network users from posting in English, as that'd be akin to ostracizing ourselves from the network itself and would probably end up causing issues with mods and CMs.

About answers written in a different language than the question's

As noted before, Spanish.SE is both a site about the Spanish language, and a member of an English-speaking network of sites. As such, it is expected that most of our users will have some degree of knowledge of both English and Spanish. Posting a Spanish answer to an English question or the other way around, then, shouldn't be a problem.

There will be cases where the OP might not understand the answer, though. Whether it is an answer in Spanish to a question in English made by someone who is just learning Spanish, or an answer in English to a question in Spanish made by a native Spanish speaker, the solution is the same both ways: a comment by OP to the answer at hand, saying either "I don't understand, could you please translate?" or "No entiendo, ¿podrías traducir, por favor?"
Such a comment should suffice as a cue for the OAP, or any other user with enough skill, to edit the answer and include a translation.

With such an easy solution, I don't think any kind of down-voting or criticizing is necessary or called for.
If we come across a good quality answer and the only issue we have with it is that it's written in a different language than the question's, we can leave a comment asking if a translation will be provided and offering ourselves to do so, if needed. Or just edit the answer to add our own translation, if one was already requested by OP but never included.

Of course, some people might disagree with this, and not be OK with answers in a different language, and show their disagreement with a downvote. I am OK with this. It's up to the user to decide the reasons to use their downvotes and I'm against chastising them for doing so in ways that we don't like, as long as their reasons show they are voting based on the answer and not on the user (i.e. brigading and the like should not be accepted).
What is not OK is to be disrespectful to a user only because we don't like that they didn't include a translation. Better yet: what is not OK is to be disrespectful to a user, period.
Want to downvote an answer because it's in English and the question is in Spanish? Cool. Want to add a comment explaining why you downvoted it? Nice of you! Just keep it civil.

  • 1
    What you said about "To make discussion of their topics easier" etc. is interesting. Can you share an example? // I don't understand "in point." Can you explain what you mean by that expression? Thanks. // OAP? Does that mean OP? // What's brigading? Jul 3, 2019 at 18:09
  • Thanks. You wrote, "Sites about specific languages, like French.SE, Japanese.SE, Latin.SE; sites about religion, like MiYodeya.SE or Hinduism.SE. To make discussion of their topics easier, some of these sites also allow questions and answers written in their particular language; while others do not, and stick to English for questions and answers (though they allow quoting of non-English text)." I'm curious to know an example of one of those sites you listed, where English is required for the questions and answers. That is interesting. // So brigading is like dogpiling? Jul 4, 2019 at 3:25
  • I see. That makes sense, that discussions about a religion be in English, but with other language quotes allowed. Jul 4, 2019 at 12:31
  • What a wide, wide SE world it is. Jul 4, 2019 at 12:33
  • 2
    This is totally tangential -- but because your English (a second language for you, as I've understood it) is so strong, I'll just let you know that "at hand" wouldn't really work in that context. At hand: 1. Nearby; physically within one's reach; 2. currently in need of addressing; 3. impending or imminent. I guess you're thinking 2 fits but if you look at a dictionary's example sentences I think you'll see what I mean. Jul 6, 2019 at 16:03
  • I guess it's okay. I looked at the definition and the sample sentence again. It still sounds awkward to my ear but I can't think of a reason not to use it, so I guess that means it's okay. Jul 7, 2019 at 18:52
  • 1
    In my experience, a more accurate description of language use on Mi Yodeya would be that the default is heavy code switching with English for the structure and Hebrew (or perhaps Yiddish: I don't know enough of either to distinguish Yiddish from transliterated Hebrew) for all the key words. Aug 12, 2019 at 7:52

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