What is the level of English language skill one is expected to use on workplace.SE if one is not a native English speaker.

Is the minimum bar so high that the members here are not able to enter into constructive action before threatening to close and inciting down votes (followed by at least 4 of them so far) and on hold already?

Back story:

I often read workplace.SE Q&As and have come across both praise for a non-native English speakers questions as well as some rather weak support for those that do not have a very good command of the language. The praise is often reserved for those who are at a very high standard sometimes higher than native speakers but what comes out of a translation program is held in poor regard.

I asked a related question in a somewhat humorous way earlier but it was not taken very well by the community, I do not expect to see much useful information there at this point.

I deliberately worded the question poorly using tools that a non-native would have available. Suggestions to correct the question are rather off point as it hides the problem.

I put in a spoiler to let people know that it was not an altogether serious question and hope to prevent later claims of misrepresentation but this did not sit well with many and simple etiquette was dispensed with.

This is what my spoiler said, when translated:

I can communicate well in English, I used translators for this question to see how the community answers badly formatted questions

It was a peculiar experience for me on SE.

  • 9
    People often edit clearly non-native English speaking posts to be more readable. People normally downvote, close, and delete questions intentionally written to troll the community, however.
    – enderland
    Sep 23, 2017 at 1:00
  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Are the Downvoting police too active? "This isn't some grade-school essay contest where you get points just for completing the assignment - if your question or answer isn't accessible and understandable by others, it's just noise..."
    – gnat
    Sep 24, 2017 at 6:22
  • 1
    I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think I've even once downvoted a question that's simply unclear due to the writer's English proficiency. I only vote-to-close (for this reason) if I literally can't make sense of the question. I've edited questions to improve and clarify them for others hundreds of times. I do downvote posts that are largely attempts at humour or experiments that waste our time though. Sep 24, 2017 at 21:59
  • 2
    I edited in the translation of your comment, which adds a lot of context to why your question was received the way it was.
    – enderland
    Sep 25, 2017 at 16:06
  • 3
    I apologise for wasting your time. I had read through a few workplace.SE Q&As just earlier and had again felt the pain of people who had been treated poorly due to their language skills. The reason I posed my question as I did (with the spoiler to explain what I was doing so people would not get upset) was because I had forgotten about meta, I only occasionally visit any of the meta sites as mostly SE just works so I forget the value it provides. I also apologise for not reading the specific rules of workplace.SE and discerning the humour ban. I am wiser now.
    – KalleMP
    Sep 28, 2017 at 19:16
  • It is ok @KalleMP thanks for taking the time to respond and actually being interested in learning your ways here. Just try to remember that in the future, before trying any experiment or meta question in the main site, where the community will surely downvote it to oblivion again.
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Sep 28, 2017 at 20:50

4 Answers 4


You asked a fake question that was deliberately poorly translated, which you admitted up front, and you're surprised that it got a negative reception? Really? This is the Workplace, not Puzzling and we have a reputation for not responding well to humour. The etiquette of SE, if you must know, is that you try your best to make good and high-quality posts. That means we're very forgiving of people who are struggling to translate and do what we can to improve their posts. But foolish nonsense like what you came up with is downvoted to oblivion, as it should be. Your actions were so incredibly and stunningly misguided that I'm honestly surprised that you've failed to realise that you're the problem in this, not the way the community responded to a question designed specifically to waste their time.

Questions are not the place for social experiments. If you want to discuss how we handle questions on the main site then by all means start a question here. Don't act the fool.

Additionally, some of your comments in the responses were rather unkind. Please keep our Be Nice policy in mind as you interact with this site and its users.

  • 1
    It does rather seem as you share the majority view that my post was designed to waste time. This was not my intention. It was a somewhat light hearted (against the rules I have now found) attempt to try and find out if the problem that I have noticed was deliberate or inadvertent. I now realise I should have started my enquiries in meta.
    – KalleMP
    Sep 28, 2017 at 19:20
  • @KalleMP Well the main reason I said that is that it's hardly a social experiment if you tells up front that's what it is. Don't get me wrong: it would still have been annoying if you had posted deliberately badly translated questions (which would have been closed unclear or rescued) but that wouldn't have resulted in the kind of backlash you saw. But I'm glad to see that you realised meta was the better place for this. If you want to raise issues with how people were treated meta is the right place but you can also flag such cases if they're over the line or step in yourself.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Sep 28, 2017 at 20:47

First I would like to refer you to this Meta SE post (actually a FAQ): Do Posts have to be in English on Stack Exchange.

There, they explain some reasons why English is the official language for questions in the Trilogy Sites (SuperUser, StackOverflow, ServerFault). Most other SE sites (like TWP) usually follow this policy, except the ones like StackOverflow in Russian, and others, for obvious reasons.

Now, regarding your question:

Is the minimum bar so high that the members here are not able to enter into constructive action before threatening to close and inciting down votes (followed by at least 4 of them so far) and on hold already?

No. This in a way is an undue generalization, as not all users here behave like that; I would even dare to say TWP is really tolerant compared to other SE sites.

Besides, in case a post is not perfectly written (as happens in most cases), any user can edit posts (or suggest edits) to improve their quality, correct spelling, grammar, etc. This can be done manually on the post or through the Review Queue when there are available posts to review.

In the case of the question you posted as some sort of "experiment", it was closed as unclear what you are asking. This was mainly because your post lacked an actual question, and provided really few details on your situation. Not to mention the comment you added...:

Spoiler alert - Voin kommunikoida hyvin englanniksi, käytin tätä kysymystä varten kääntäjiä, että näkisin, miten yhteisö vastaa huonosti muotoilluihin kysymyksiin.

...which is really confusing by itself.

Instead, if your post were about an actual question you would surely include more details, and the explanation would make more sense in general. If you did that, but still your question had spelling, grammar or other mistakes someone will surely edit your post solving this problem. Do have in mind that we are not genies and can't read the Asker's mind; if a post does not make any sense then there is nothing one can do about it.


Well if you are looking for a job teaching masters or phd level english then you probably need a PHD level of English(though with unions maybe not). If you are looking for a job gutting fish for a cannery its a far lower expectation(possibly none at all).

And that is the problem with that question on a basic level. The needs vary by position. One position may have very low requirements and the exact same position at another place have impossibly high standards.

At a more direct level what type of skills should I learn(do i need) questions are forbidden explicitly by The Workplace rules. Language skills and the level needed, is literally asking what skills do i need to learn to do a job. And not just a job by the scope of your question any possible job. So you violated a Core Rule of this SE.

But now I will answer this question. Really not a very good one is required. If you have the ability to have translated the rules of the site, and read them and make a modicum of an attempt to follow them, or show that you read them, we will help you out. Your question may get put on hold, but if you communicate with us, we will get your question looking first class and asking a helpful question for you.

But you didn't do that. This may not have been your intent, but this is how it appeared to those of us that care about this site and the community: You came in ignoring the rules that make this site a resource, and spray painted your graffiti on our wall by posting a unthought out question that does not have an asnwer and is against the core rules. Then you came here and instead of asking for help you accused us of bigotry implicitly, in this meta post.


There is no minimum, but there is a point where it is useless..

I deal with non English speakers every day, they would not pose a question using google translate, they would find someone who could help them for two reasons.

Firstly they want their question answered, secondly they want to be able to UNDERSTAND the answer.

Please stop wasting our time with this non-problem you have created out of thin air.

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