Related to my previous suggestion: We should have a way to know if someone is a native speaker.

I was wondering is it ok if we have an option to indicate something along the lines of "please only reply if you are a native speaker" in a 100% less rude way and as such only native speakers will be able to give answers (though perhaps others could contribute in comments too).

Well of course if we explicitly tag "Please reply only if you are a native speaker" to our questions that would seem just too rude.

So i was thinking perhaps a checkbox for us to indicate our desire to have people reply only if they are native speakers, but of course even if they are not, they are 100% free to answer the question (it's an optional thing, just to politely indicate our desire you see)


7 Answers 7

I would be against this proposal on the basis that it (inadvertently) puts down the non-native speakers of this community even if the checkbox was ticked with good intentions. The checkbox also ultimately discourages a subset of the community from participating even if they are still welcome to do so.

Also consider the scenario where a non-native speaker answers a question correctly and thoroughly, perhaps he or she just learned the concept yesterday in class. Should a native speaker who stumble on this well-written answer just upvote it? What if this answer has fifty upvotes and no other answers? Would it give the impression that only this one "random" person seems to know what he or she is talking about? But this person is not a native speaker, how much weight should a reader put on the credibility of the answer then? Would the reader feel that people were just upvoting it based on blind faith?

Also, I would like to point out that in my experience, a lot of Japanese people are not prepared to answer questions about Japanese, much like before I was an English teacher, there were things about English that I never thought about. On the flip side, the professor who taught me how to translate was the most 詳しく日本語分かる person I've ever met. She knew the language inside and out because she had studied it longer than any native speaker had. So I also would have to be against this proposal. –  Jeshii Jun 9 '11 at 16:51
It's certainly true that native speakers are not always prepared to answer questions about their native language, but the same is true of learners of a language and merely having a checkbox is not going to make either kind of person more likely to answer against their better judgement. Some non-native speakers will be good at answering and some native speakers will be good at answering. Neither is better or worse in all cases so it's completely a side issue. –  hippietrail Jun 10 '11 at 4:06

I think that it is rude to ask a question in the community consisting of both native and non-native speakers and say “please only reply if you are a native speaker,” no matter how you say it, because by saying so, you express your prejudice that non-native speakers lack the ability to answer your question in a useful way. Even if it is a checkbox, it is still rude. So let’s not have a checkbox like that.

Or let’s have that checkbox, in which case I will skip all the questions with it checked even though I am a native speaker. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 9 '11 at 19:40

Count me too against this proposal. Having an option to ask for a native speaker's opinion would just encourage naive newbies to check it, and by that they would limit themselves to answers from a very small percentage of the community - and not necessarily the answers they are looking for.

But even if the asker is prepared to greatly limit the range of potential answers and even if they are looking only for the answers that native speakers would give - I'd still say no. The whole idea of Stack Exchange is that anyone is free to answer, and that the quality of answers should be judged by votes, reputation and the user's common sense. You should never have to say: "This is for native speakers only" unless you want to make a poll, and I don't think this site is the best place for a native speaker poll. For all other purposes, we'd rather have variety, and let the community sort out the best answers.

And variety is good, since usually native speakers and non-native speakers tend to give different kinds of answers - and it's good to have answers of both kind. Native speakers usually has superior intuition, and no one can produce naturally sounding sentences better than them. Non-native speakers, on the other hand, usually have better understanding of the grammar, since they've had to learn the language consciously, while native speakers never had to think about it (since they've learned it naturally).

+1 for your third paragraph. –  hippietrail Jun 10 '11 at 3:58

I don't think any enforced website feature would be good, mostly because it's a community website and lots of members of the community don't like it.

But I also think that if people ask in good faith questions of the form "How would a native speaker say XYZ" that is perfectly acceptable.

I for one know the difference when asked a question about English whether I am answering based on my native gut feeling for my mother tongue versus the knowledge I have acquired from linguistics study and I feel both are very valuable and it's worth knowing which is which.

my suggestion is an optional one and not an enforced one –  Pacerier Jun 10 '11 at 3:21
@Pacerier: Oh sorry I guess I was really replying to the overall recent topic of native speakers on ja.SE and having a checkbox as part of the UI would be enforcing this decision process with each question. I favour instead an informal way by including it in the wording of questions where the asker feels it relevant. –  hippietrail Jun 10 '11 at 3:54

I definitely see where you're coming from with this, in some ways. But I don't think that it's a good feature for the site. What good does it do to discourage people from answering? Less answers? If you don't trust the answer, don't select it.

One of the great things about the selecting an answer aspect of SE: the criterion for "correct answer" is up to you. If for you it's whether or not this person is a native speaker, then more power to you--go ahead and only select answers from native speakers. If you don't know from their profile whether or not they're a native speaker, don't select it.

For some types of questions, a native speaker's answer will always be more reliable than a non-native's. For others that is not the case. Overall, I really don't see the point in discouraging answers.


I am sure all we non-native speakers have experienced enough prejudice along the lines of "what would you know about this you are not Japanese", combined with frustration explaining our questions to Japanese teachers handicapped because they can't see the question from a non-native speakers perspective (and possibly assuming there is something wrong with us) to say, we like our JLU as it is - open to all.

PS I always feel grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my posts and offer a constructive comment.


I support this idea as long as a couple things are understood:

1) Sometimes but not always, native speakers do not know the answer because often a non native speaker has done a lot more linguistic study of the Japanese language than a native speaker. My wife is Japanese and often learns a lot about her own langage from me O_o

2) Non native speakers are encouraged to try to answer anyways and you might find their answer preferable in some cases. I actually had a Japanese student who had a PHD in English Linguistics and I learned some things about English from him, though he was Japanese.

*but I definitely favor the idea of somehow notifying that you are a native speaker or not and letting the community decide how that weighs in on their judgment of the answer.

i agree linguistics aspects native speakers are usually really lousy. Like i speak english all my life but i got no idea how to explain what's the difference between I've had or I've have had, i simply use the one i think is right without thinking about it. However in some cases the input of a native is invaluable –  Pacerier Jun 10 '11 at 3:23
I think one point to take into account that only native speakers that feel they can contribute a better answer that your example would be likely to do so. –  hippietrail Jun 10 '11 at 3:57
If "Non native speakers are encouraged to try to answer anyway" then there is not much point in having the box: helpful comments will usually say "as a native speaker", "based on my experience...". [My intrinsic response to this "encouragement" is "Gee- thanks, it is so good of you tolerate my humble efforts. As I am not a linguist .. perhaps there should be flag to indicate "only native speakers and qualified linguists aswell?"] –  Tim Sep 16 '12 at 3:46

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