These questions are supposed to help not only the original asker, but also anyone who happens to google upon the site or ask a duplicate question. This means that an answer that uses the asker's mother tongue, e.g. by suggesting such a translation, might not be desirable. On the other hand, such parallells could enhance an otherwise good answer.

Which best practice should we adopt?

As an example, if I were to ask what gemütlich means, would it be appropriate to reply that a Swedish direct translation is mysig?

  • Can you give an actual example? If the question is about a translation from German to Spanish, then a Spanish answer might be appropriate independent of mother tongue. If the question is about the etymology of a German word and the answer is given in Spanish because the asker speaks Spanish, it is inappropriate.
    – Phira
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 7:46
  • I think this question is a little too unclear. Can you please clarify what you mean by "take into account"? Perhaps with concrete examples?
    – deceze
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 7:46
  • @thei, @deceze: Q: "What does 'gemütlich' mean?" A: "I see that you are Swedish; it means 'mysig'."
    – Tim
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 7:52
  • 2
    Hmm, I don't see a need for a best practice here. People will try to guess what helps the asker, others will try to guess what helps the anonymous reader and everyone votes.
    – Phira
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 10:31

4 Answers 4


I'd say:

  • asking what a certain German word means in another language is fine
  • asking what the best German translation is for a word from another language is fine
  • the question can be phrased in German or the respective other language
  • if the question is phrased in another language, a German or at least English translation should be provided
  • the answer can be in the same language as the question, but needs to have at least a German or English summary (like the question)
  • the translation should be the one asked for
  • if no particular language is mentioned in the question, assume the language the question is written in as translation target

As an example, if I were to ask what gemütlich means, would it be appropriate to reply that a Swedish direct translation is mysig?

If the user asked for a Swedish translation, then yes. If he's asking for a definition then no, answer in English or German, depending on what the asker seems to be proficient in. In any case, provide a German or English version of some form. If you want, you can additionally leave a comment saying "BTW, the closest in Swedish in 'mysig'" if you know the user speaks Swedish, but it should not be the primary answer.

The spirit should be that:

  • German should be the primary language of the site
  • English is accepted as international lingua franca where necessary
  • other languages are accepted since translation questions are accepted and I see no point in favoring English while discriminating against other languages
  • in the interest of the community (and for getting answers to your questions), you should not form language ghettos that only a small portion of the users understand, so use either German or English in addition to any other language you may use

I think that this is an excellent example where the language of the asker is relevant:

Welche Eselsbrücken gibt es, um „dass“ und „das“ auseinander zu halten?

The advice given is clearly advice for German speakers, not for German learners.

  • That's an interesting question, because I think native speakers have a harder time with das/dass than learners do.
    – Tim
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 10:34
  • @Tim: Yes, I only started to make "native" errors in my foreign languages after many years of use.
    – Phira
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 10:36

Remember that questions on this site are supposed to benefit future visitors, too, most of whom will likely not be Swedish speakers.

In a case like you describe you should provide a full, satisfactory English-language answer, and then as an addition you can provide the asker's native-tongue translation: ".... I see you are Swedish. The Swedish translation would be ...."

  • @Peter yeah. Capitalization is my weak spot in every language, thanks :)
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 9:55

I'm still in favor of english as the language for talking, asking and answering. Of course it would be easier for everybody to just talk in their native languages, but then small groups will build up that only speak their language and the knowledge will be lost and decentralized.

If everybody speaks english, even if it's a bad one, everyone might add comments, new answers and ideas to a question. Even when questions are asked completely in german, I say the answers should be in english, not just for the sake of consistency but also because it makes it easier for everybody to participate.

Of course there will be loss when someone speaks in a non-native language (english) about another non-native language (german), but in very special cases, we could still tell the poster to write it in his native tongue so maybe someone else can translate it into understandable english.

  • 3
    I do not agree that English should be the central language. This is a site about German, meant to be used by anybody with an interest in German. It should not be mandatory for that person to also be conversational in English. It makes perfect sense to reserve English as a common fallback language, because it arguably is the international lingua franca today. Featuring English too prominently distracts from the core value of the site though, IMO. As such, German <-> any language should be the standard with English <-> any language accepted. Any language <-> any language would be chaos.
    – deceze
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 7:45
  • But what about the example above: "What does "gemütlich" mean" -> "I see that you are Swedish; it means "mysig"". Now, what if someone else also wants to know what it means, but not in Swedish, but in French/Italian/Japanese/InsertRandomLanguage? Should he open a new question? That would lead to an enourmus amount of questions for the same word...
    – F.P
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 7:56
  • german -> German. english -> English. E.g. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/German#English Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 9:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .