This question arose from this post. However this is not the first time, and definitely not the last, that I've seen this issue, so it seems important to me to determine exactly how to treat those questions in the future.

It happens that people that do not speak english wish to use the stack to ask a question. Most often those people will use automated translation tools, either to help with their own translation or to entirely translate the question (worst case scenario, here).

This often results in broken english which makes the question very difficult to understand. This causes situations where we would often have to try to guess what the asker's issue is in order to even try to tackle the question.

Finding someone who can communicate with the asker for each case seems difficult, especially since there is no such thing as private messages on the platform. This most often leads to those questions being closed and forgotten.

Apart from the straightforward "close it until they speak english properly" answer, is there anything else we can do when encountering those kinds of questions, in order to attempt at solving the asker's issue? Or is closing those questions the right way to deal with them, for the sake of keeping a "clean english-only Q&A"?

Or to put it more bluntly : do we prioritise solving issues even if a language barrier makes it difficult, or do we prioritise keeping cleaner, understandable questions for future readers?


2 Answers 2


Clarifications, patience, and editing

We need to understand the question. That doesn't strictly require perfect english, though obviously when language makes things ambiguous we need clarification.

A trick that's often very useful is to ask an asker to confirm something. Eg. "I think you might mean ..., but I'm not sure". In general, 3rd language speakers are gonna be better at parsing than expressing. That might honestly go for everyone. Words are hard.

Mistranslation of names or terms should be fairly easy to correct that way. Be nice, and be patient, and it'll be fine.

If someone has a channel, language and time to help the querent and be a human translator for them they are free to so do. But that's obviously not a service we can reliably offer.

As long as the problem to be solved is clear enough to answer, the question is fine (ie. should be open). Any quirks of language or translation — say errant spaces in front of colons :p — should be fixed by editing. That gets us the best of both worlds, we help the specific user and keep clear, understandable questions for future readers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd also add that while waiting for the question to be clarified, it must be closed (put on hold) first \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Jan 12, 2023 at 14:44

For this particular question, translation does not appear to be the issue.

I left the initial comments and the first close vote (which S_E finished with his secret sauce), so I will give some motivation for it. In this case, mistranslation of terms isn't the issue; they are DMing a Curse of Strahd game and one of their players is a Gloom Stalker Ranger. The actual trouble here is that the only other things we were told in the question is how the Gloom Stalkers features function. Umbral Sight and Dread Ambusher make the Gloom Stalker excellent at fighting in the dark, which is what the question explains. But, the question doesn't tell us what the problem is. It just gives an explanation of how the features work, then asks what to do about it. We need to know what problems it is causing. I ventured a guess in my comment when I asked:

Are you having trouble designing appropriately challenging encounters for the party and suspect the ranger's features are the reason?

But there are a myriad of other problems that could be at the heart of the this person's issue, and they simply haven't told us what that problem is. I think my guess is probably right, but we can't know until OP confirms, and we should not assume what hasn't been stated. So for this question, the issue isn't translation. The issue is that we weren't really given a question.


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