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This question was asked sometime between today and yesterday. The first sentence is in English, the remainder is in German. (It looks a little bit like what I text friends if I’m learning their language, but that is beside the point.)

Usually our community consensus is to answer English questions in English and German questions in German; if the user provided a translation of the question (i.e. asked the same question twice in both languages but one post) we can choose.

However, I am entirely unsure how this type of mixed-language question is supposed to be handled. One user decided to answer monolingually in English, I decided to answer in both (i.e. translate my answer, effectively having a double answer).

From all I’ve seen so far, our community is very helpful towards those attempting to ask in German if its their foreign language; correcting errors, rephrasing, and often even pointing out why something is wrong in the comments (or sometimes in the beginning of an answer).

So how do we want to deal with mix-language questions?

Do we want to encourage them?

  • If so, in what language should we answer?
  • If not, would it make a question close-worthy to have mixed languages?
  • would it make a question close-worthy to have mixed languages? – Why close a question for something that can be fixed by a lot of people? You might rather want to ask whether we want to edit such questions to make them monolingual. – Wrzlprmft Sep 19 '15 at 18:48
  • @Wrzlprmft Yeah, exactly, I was hoping for people to explicitly say ‘this is not close-worthy’. I tried to word the meta question as open as possible as to not confound possible answers with my opinion ;) – Jan Sep 19 '15 at 20:33
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Questions may be written in

  1. English
  2. German or in
  3. both languages.

There is little dispute about case 1. and 2.: they are fine.

Mixing languages in a post may only be of advantage in cases we want to address both, speakers of German and speakers of English and provide a translation for convenience. This is usually not needed.

There was a proposal from the early days to always translate posts into both languages but it did not find much love over time. We don't do this today.

Rarely people are confused as to what language they should write their question or answer in. This may lead to German titles but English text bodies or vice versa, or rarely to entirely mixed up posts.

In these cases editing the post to put it into a consistent language will help a lot to increase clarity and legibility. We may in addition politely comment to say that we accept both English, or German posts but we prefer to not have them mixed (with the exception of complete translations).

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I would led not want to encourage mixing of languages, but I would also not edit such question to make them monolingual.

If someone is more comfortable writing in English but likes to throw in a few German sentences then I see no great harm in that, so I would just leave the question like that. If that leads to answers in a language that would s not the one that the OP would have preferred, then that is his problem.

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As the asker of said question above, I thought it only appropriate to chime in from a newbie point of view. I definitely fall in the "comfortable writing in English but likes to throw in a few German sentences", but the problem is that my German isn't very good (yet?) so, as Jan pointed out in the original question comments, it can be badly phrased and make answering the question difficult.

However, the issue in this particular case is: at what point does one's German (or English, if we reverse things) become "good enough" to mix in? I would suspect (and expect) that the onus is on the poster to make sure their question is intelligible and should expect responses in inverse proportion to the amount of gibberish in either language. ;)

Another way to look at it... I would like to think that I could one day pose question entirely in German (learning German via German would be nice). But if multilingual questions were prohibited that would mean the entire question could be all screwed up though (inflection issues breed like rabbits) since at some point I would have to just flip a switch in language! :)

In the end, given my particular abilities in German, it already takes someone who's good at both languages to 1) understand the question, 2) know what the answer is in German, and 3) present the answer back in English. So, if one can accept that I might sound weird (which I've finally accepted is a fact of life when learning a language), and given that any respondent must be at least somewhat bilingual already, I just assumed multilingual questions were a natural occurrence.

  • 2
    For you, an approach to this could be to ask in English (the language you are familiar with) but also provide an attempt to translate it to German in a separate paragraph. In case you make errors in the German part we can easily fix it because we know what you wanted to say from your English paragraph. You could also try to entirely ask in German. By this you may learn a lot because we usually correct errors you may have made. Note that questions written in English will preferably be answered in English, German questions will get German answers. It's all your choice :) – Takkat Sep 20 '15 at 9:11
  • Well, mixing languages will likely not be prohibited (since nobody is suggesting it so far, and I think that suggestion would be downvoted anyway if it were made. My personal view is that you should be encouraged to attempt the whole thing in the foreign language. But seeing the texts I write Finnish people (see OP) I understand how hard it can be xD – Jan Sep 20 '15 at 17:55
  • My concern with posting in German is that I may not be able to understand answers if they are somewhat involved. I suppose I will have to consider that before posting complex questions. :) – Tom Sep 20 '15 at 18:55
  • The thing is that you start off your question in English (title + first sentence), then switch to German to ask your question and finally you translate your question into English. If I've seen the question right away, I would've deleted your German sentences. I'm still tempted to do so. I think it's absolutely fine to write a question in both languages, but then please separated into two distinct parts (e.g. by using a horizontal line). – Em1 Sep 25 '15 at 12:57
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Short answer:

A question should either be entirely in a single language (German or English) or it consists of two distinct parts, preferably separated by a horizontal line.

Translate a question that contains a few sentences that are in a different language.

For a question that is more or less completely translated (even though some parts may be missing in the translation), make sure that there are two distinct parts. Both parts should then be consistently in German or English, respectively, and both parts should also be complete.


Long answer:

This very question is quite a rare exception, because it starts in English, switches to German and finally translates into English again.

Usually, questions with mixed languages are still mainly in one language and only a few sentences/paragraphs are in a different language; or even the title only is inconsistent to the body. And though, the questions are clearly intended to be in one language.
Although it is irrelevant why this happened, here are a few reasons though:

  • OP was not able to phrase a specific part appropriately and switched to the more convenient language.
  • OP has "forgotten" he was writing in the other language, e.g. after doing some research or after giving some examples. Note that examples are often in a different language than the question itself. Examples may even be in a language other than German or English.

Whenever a question is intended to be in a single language, the respective parts should be translated into the dominating language. So, if 4 paragraphs are English and 1 paragraph is German, translate German to English. Make the question consistent.

However, questions that are deliberately given in two languages, should stay multi-lingual. But the English and German parts should clearly be separated.


In respect to the linked question, the question appears to be intentionally multi-lingual but there's no clear cut between those languages. Thus, I would want either the German part to be deleted or two distinct parts to be created, one of which is in German and the other in English.

  • Basically Takkat’s answer only putting it a bit more strictly. +1. – Jan Sep 25 '15 at 13:44

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