I think we should standardize the idea that answers on this site have to have an explanation in English.

This point was not just inspired by this answer. I believe this happens now and again where answers are given which simply link to a Japanese resource, or include copies of text from Japanese resources, without explaining in English. Or even if original answers are given in Japanese without enough supporting English.

To be clear: this isn't about linking to off-site data, it's about presenting answers in Japanese only, with only Japanese references. (An English answer with a Japanese link would be fine.)

It seems self evident to me that if most, if not all, questioners on this site could read Japanese explanations directly from Japanese resources, they would not need to ask their question here. Maybe more importantly, answering in Japanese excludes a great deal of people who are using this site to learn, even if the questioner might be able to understand the references.

It seems to me that it isn't merely the de facto reality that this site discusses Japanese with English, that it is also a huge benefit. There are a lot of sites available already where discussion in Japanese about Japanese can take place. There are also many sites that offer very beginner level information on Japanese in English. There are few sites which offer the same level of in-depth analysis while still maintaining accessibility to many levels of English learners.

It's a missed opportunity when an answer is given such that it was an answer that could have been obtained from searching in Japanese anyway.

As such, it should be axiomatic that answers be first and foremost in English. Supporting information in Japanese is great, but only to lend credibility to the English explanation, not to supplant it.

At the very least, it seems questions in English should be reciprocated in English. Otherwise, it's a little like saying, "go learn Japanese, and then you can have the answer."

Now, to be clear as to what I'm proposing, I am not at all saying that answers in Japanese be blocked, or that those who answer in Japanese or speak Japanese should be discouraged on the site (to be double clear, I am not talking about who uses the site at all, but how the site is used.)

What I am proposing is only that it be understood that a question is not really answered until an answer understandable in English is provided. Put up all the Japanese reference you want, or copy and paste Japanese text in. It's just not done until it's comprehensible to more people on this site, beyond those who read Japanese with near fluency.

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    “This is a site for English speakers learning Japanese.” Yeah, this site is not for sawa or several other native speakers of Japanese. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 5 '12 at 2:57
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    @TsuyoshiIto: Perhaps my phrasing is poor, but the fact that the site is for English speakers to learn Japanese does not preclude those who participate in that goal by helping on the teaching side of it. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say this site is for learning about Japanese in English. – Questioner Jun 5 '12 at 7:31
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    @TsuyoshiIto sawa may be a native Japanese speaker, but he's also an English speaker, and he's still learning Japanese, isn't he? – Andrew Grimm Jun 5 '12 at 11:26
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    @Andrew Grimm: I would say he is studying Japanese, not learning Japanese. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 5 '12 at 11:27
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    I think what's missing from the general discussion of the problem I'm raising is that this site isn't just for people to get answers to their own personal questions. It's intended to be a resource site, a sort of FAQ in a grand sense, so that a wide variety of people can benefit from the information generated through the Q&A process. That's why questions can be closed for being "too localized". To me, answers in Japanese inhibit that mission by limiting the amount of English speaking Japanese learners on this site who can benefit from the answers. – Questioner Jun 6 '12 at 2:44
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    “What I am proposing is only that it be understoood [sic] that a question is not really answered until an answer understandable in English is provided.” I do not know what you call “really answered,” but of course a question is not done just because it receives one answer. If OP is satisfied, he/she accepts an answer, and even after that, other answers can be posted. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 8 '12 at 13:24
  • @TsuyoshiIto: Yes, it's true that the questioner could simply wait or mark another answer correct, but that sort of side steps the issue of having any policies at all. The issue is one of expectations, and especially with new users who are not familiar with the SE system. It took me a while to get my head around how it all works, so I can sympathise with newer members. If a newbie posted a question and got an answer that required near fluent Japanese ability to understand, they could easily think that's what this site is all about and not return to see if anyone else had posted another answer. – Questioner Jun 9 '12 at 2:28
  • Maybe it would depend on the specific question as to the sort of reply that would be appropriate, eg, a textual explanation, cf a phrase or sentence etc in written the appropriate Characters. Thank you :) – M H Nov 9 '20 at 10:44

This website is not only for learners of Japanese. I consider myself as an amateur linguist, and my participation in this website is from my interest in linguistics as Einzelsprachwissenschaft (linguistics about one language). If this website is really only for learners, I would not participate in it.

In my opinion, this website is a website in English, and therefore ideally all answers should be in English. If we had infinite amount of time, every answer should be self-contained, and every non-English text should be translated into English. However, a non-English answer is better than no answer. If anyone translates a non-English answer into English, that will be appreciated.

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    Agreed it is not for "learners" of Japanese. It is for "learning" Japanese. I want to stress as much as I humanly can, nothing I am saying in my question or anywhere else dictates anything about who can use the site. I'm only talking about how the site is used. The site (not the people on it) is (in practise, and my proposal is that it should be in guidelines as well) an English forum for discussing Japanese. As such, anyone, whether they are native Japanese speakers, teachers, learners, or merely curious bystanders, can be a part of it. – Questioner Jun 6 '12 at 2:28
  • I'm sort of in agreement here. I just think a non-English answer is better suited as a comment on the question. Then if someone takes that resource of information to build an answer understandable in English, then that is a fully fledged answer. – Questioner Jun 6 '12 at 2:36
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    @Dave M G: To repeat myself, this website is not only for learning Japanese. As for whether it should be a comment or an answer, I see your point, but I do not think that just because it is a link to a non-English answer, it should be posted as a comment instead of an answer. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 6 '12 at 16:38
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    I'm not being facetious when I ask this, as I sincerely want to know: It says in the FAQ that this site is for discussing the "finer points of the Japanese language". What would an example of that be that was not about learning the Japanese language? I really am curious to know because I can't think of what kind of question that would be. (In any case, I'm not against discussing something that might be about Japanese but not learning it. What I am really pursuing here is to what degree it is a missed learning opportunity when an answer is only in Japanese.) – Questioner Jun 7 '12 at 10:17
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    @Dave M G: Maybe you and I are using the word “learn” in different meanings. The linguistics about Japanese is a good topic on japanese.stackexchange.com, and for me, what linguists are doing is not learning a language, but studying a language. – Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 7 '12 at 11:25
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    @DaveMG: While it is probably true that having a firm grasp of Japanese linguistics would make you somewhat better at understanding the language, it's somewhat like saying a degree in botany would help you grow a garden. Sure you'd find more interesting things in the language than someone without that background, but it's hardly necessary. It's basically a divide between a theoretical and a practical skill. – jkerian Jun 7 '12 at 15:21
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    You did ask for an example... Tsujimura's book talks about whether: "ni in direct passives... [is a] dative case particle or a postposition." This matters quite a bit when you're trying to sort out and label the language, but not so much for the task of actually speaking it. Quite a bit of time in linguistics is spent comparing different theories (systems of organization) that try to explain how a language "fundamentally works". – jkerian Jun 7 '12 at 15:43
  • Tsuyoyshi, @jkerian, okay, I'm willing to put aside the semantic debate of what it means "to learn" versus "to study" and accept that there can be discussion which is about the language but not (necessarily) about helping anyone speak it better. Fair enough. With that issue settled, though, I still think the issue of whether or not an answer in Japanese is, on this site, really providing the kind of help that this site can (and I think should) do. I have updated the text of my question to hopefully clarify better. – Questioner Jun 8 '12 at 4:39

A quote from the external resource or a summary of the part that answers the question would dramatically improve those kinds of answers. A link alone is just redirecting the asker off-site with a link that can potentially break over time as external sites restructure themselves or go offline. Plus, in the event no translation is supplied, it narrows down the range of material to skim, making it easier for non-proficient people to find the answer on their own.

A link to an external reference that's purely in English also suffers from the same problem, especially if said reference is rather lengthy.


I think giving an answer in English for questions asked in English is preferable but not a hard requirement.

Usually a good-faith but imperfect answer is better than nothing, unless 1) it is misinformative or gives only part of the information needed or 2) it makes would-be answerers think that it's been answered when it hasn't been.

Providing a relevant link can be useful, because searching for information is often as hard as digesting the information.

In some cases, I've asked for a translation of an answer if google translate or a Japanese dictionary couldn't translate it well enough, for example here and here.


There are two issues muddled up in your example.

Answers should be more than offsite links

This is very much true, and the original language of the offsite link doesn't matter much here. Troyen's link is quite relevent to this discussion.

Answers should be in English

Actually... no. I would argue that the answers to questions that were asked in English should be in English, but I wouldn't attempt to make a rule about it. If someone doesn't feel comfortable answering the question in English, I don't see a problem with their answering in Japanese (on the other hand, I wouldn't expect many upvotes).

"It seems self evident to me that if most, if not all, questioners on this site could read Japanese explanations directly from Japanese resources, they would not need to ask their question here."

This simply isn't true. One of the simplest reasons would be not knowing what the relevant technical (or colloquial) terms are. Most of the questioners on this site CAN read Japanese explanations directly from Japanese resources. It would just take many of them (us) a significant amount of time to parse and translate (and correct) individual sentences in the explanation.

This is a site for English speakers learning Japanese.

Not according to the FAQ, or the mission statement of the site. "Japanese Language and Usage - Stack Exchange is for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language." I'd argue we discuss plenty of the 'less-fine' points of the Japanese language as well, but the point remains

  • On the first point, as I expressed in the question, this isn't just about when off-site links are given as answers. It's also when purely Japanese explanations are cut and paste into an answer, or even if someone answers with their own original Japanese without sufficient English explanation. – Questioner Jun 5 '12 at 7:34
  • On the second point, I would agree that the current phrasing in the FAQ allows for pure Japanese questions and answers. However, I don't believe the FAQ is written in stone, and perhaps that part of it should be revisited. The entire interface for this site is in English, and there are no questions in Swedish or other third languages, and all meta discussion is in English. It is created in, presented in, and moderated in English. How is there any reasonable claim that this site is not geared towards English learners of Japanese? – Questioner Jun 5 '12 at 7:37
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    There's a huge gulf between "most of the questions on the site are asked by English speakers who are learning Japanese" and "This is a site for English speakers learning Japanese". One is a statement of objective fact, the other is a mission statement that excludes several of our more prolific members. Frankly... it's fairly offensive. – jkerian Jun 5 '12 at 8:23
  • If you feel that the vote is going to be significantly different from: the previous meta-thread, by all means... propose away. That answer-series never did address non-Japanese-or-English questions, but I think mostly because people felt it was unnecessary. – jkerian Jun 5 '12 at 8:29
  • Nothing I am saying excludes any person from participating in anything. I'm only talking about how people participate. One of the whole purposes of Meta discussion is to propose and debate ways of ( in terms of how not who) using the site. So implications of being "offensive" come from you, not from me, and are way, way off base and take the discussion into pointless territory. – Questioner Jun 6 '12 at 2:24
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    Actually... that was exactly what you were saying. Although it may not have been what you meant. Also you actually ARE arguing we should exclude anyone who doesn't feel comfortable giving an explanation/asking a question in English. I don't have a really strong opinion on that myself, but the last time this was brought up the votes were pretty strongly in favor of allowing Japanese as well as English. – jkerian Jun 6 '12 at 4:02
  • Wow... it takes a lot of presumption to tell another person what they saying. Tell me, since you seem to think you know what I'm saying better than I do, exactly where I said anything about exclusion of any person? In fact, show me where I said anything at all about the people who use the site, as opposed to simply speaking about how the site is used. – Questioner Jun 7 '12 at 10:06
  • When you specify "how the site is used" in a way that excludes certain people, you are excluding people. Given that several people felt excluded because we don't allow resource or learning questions, we can probably safely assume ANY added rule will exclude someone. You are arguing for excluding:a) anyone who does not feel comfortable answering a question in English, but would feel comfortable answering it in Japanese (explicitly) and b) People who want to ask questions that are not helpful for "English speakers learning Japanese" (implicit by your insistence that this THE purpose of the site) – jkerian Jun 7 '12 at 15:52
  • @DaveMG: To separate the two a bit, I can understand going either way on (a). But the last time this was brought up, the decision was to allow questions (although answers weren't specifically discussed). Given that we haven't exactly been inundated with difficult-to-parse posts, I honestly don't see the point of adding this as a rule, and I doubt it would win in a straight-up vote. On (b), everything in your defined scope is contained in the site's actual scope (but not vice-versa), and I guess I don't understand why you're so insistent it should be narrowed. – jkerian Jun 7 '12 at 16:04
  • On (b), this has already been discussed extensively in your earlier meta question, and really is a distraction in this conversation. – jkerian Jun 7 '12 at 16:41

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