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Which language do you use when answering questions on italki?
Italki is a very useful website for learning languages with people from different countries.
Sometime I can discover really interesting questions about my native languages, realise something I would never consider by myself. In my college, I helped some international students to pass their mandarin exams. Their language skill is pretty good, however I have to explain some words or phrases in English to help them understand, the exams are more tricky than daily or casual talk. Lanugue learners here are with various levels of language skills, normally I would answer questions about my native language in the questioners' native language, it's not just easier, in my opinion, for them to understand the difference or to get the key point, but also a practice for myself. I think writing or using another language is a very good way to learn it. But when it comes to writing, I usually don't know what to write about. Therefore, I think it's a very beneficial way for everyone to learn and practice. After all, people are here to help each other rather than just ask for a favor.

Shockingly I've met an user who commented my answer to his question with very aggressive and cursing words, not because my answer is wrong or poorly edited, but simply because I didn't reply in the language he wants to learn, which I didn't see any request about the language he expects, The thread link is as below:
I've reported this but gotten no reply yet. I appeal eveyone to use better words and appreciate other people's help, even it's not in the perfect form you expect. Though, it's the first time, I've encountered such unpleasant situations on the website.

Now I'm wondering, does this community have any rules about using which language to answer a question, that eveyone has to follow?

Another question here is, which language do you prefer when you try to answer other users' questions?
May 17, 2020 7:58 AM
Comments · 7
There's no rule in which language to answer the questions. I normally answer in the language, the asker used. So, if I answer a question about German and the question is in German, I answer in German. If the question is about German but in English, I answer in English. If I know the language of the asker and think they would benefit from an explanation in their language as their level in German and English is both low, I answer in their language.

I can relate a bit to feeling frustrated when I ask a question in a target language where I have a rather high level but I receive answers in English. That would give me the feeling that others don't regard me as capable to understand the explanation.

But I looked at the link you provided and the asker was extremely rude. That's a violation of the communitypolicy: That falls under "hate speech and offensive language".

If he's not happy about your response he should have just ignored it. Attacking you like this just because you used a little bit of English in your reponse is definitely not ok.
May 17, 2020
I can claim any level I want, for any language. It doesn't mean I actually am at that level.

Should I list French as one of my languages because I know a few words? To me, I'm not actively using it, and I am concentrating on other languages, so I choose not to list it.

I don't even know what my true level in German is. I know my writing is better than my speaking, so should I go with that level? or should I be more conservative and choose the speaking level?

If I choose to be conservative, and pick A2 for my level, then I am more likely to understand someone who replies back to me in German if they communicate based on the level I indicate.

I could go and choose to mark myself as C2 in Chinese. However, if you started a conversation with me in Chinese you would see my claim to be false. Then, you would have the right to question my other levels.

I have seen people who mark a high level in a language, yet communicate poorly in the language. I've also seen the reverse (as with Miriam).

I wouldn't expect someone who is a C2 level to be asking basic questions about a language. Now, I'm excluding vocabulary from this, because vocabulary is dependent on where you live and what you do during the day. Specialized workplaces require specialized vocabulary at times. While words may overlap at times, definitions can vary from field to field. A computer "core" is different than a "core" set of classes you must take in school.

I choose to be realistic with my language levels. I didn't even change my German level until more recently. And even then, I went with the more conservative level I was told.

So, perhaps C2 is his goal for Chinese, and not his actual level.

And, given the choice between him and you, if I needed a Chinese question answered, I would pick you. And the Native vs. C2 wouldn't be the deciding factor.

I'd choose you because of the attitude behind the answer. While he wants people to know the answer, it seems you want people to understand the answer.

May 17, 2020
While I don't know Chinese, looking at the link, I can make a few observations:

  • The user is C2 in Chinese and Spanish, and native in English
  • You provided answers in Chinese and supplemented the answers with English.
  • Miriam looked at the link and said his responses weren't appropriate.

Perhaps he wants to show his mastery of Chinese, and so English shouldn't be used because then he can't display his mastery. I would expect you to know more about Chinese than him. You have the advantage of culture and knowing how certain things need to be communicated.

I recently wrote a poem in German and used the word Gedenktafel. Some people asked what I meant by it. When I said "plaque" they were confused by what a plaque is. Did I choose the best word in German? I don't know. However, this is an example where my target language and English were helpful to convey my thoughts. If I insisted on only communicating in German, people might still be trying to answer me.
May 17, 2020
If I think that my answer can help several italki members, I use English, because it has the widest audience.

Sometimes, if the answer is really specific, I use the the poster's native or target language, if I know it.
May 17, 2020
@James S-C

Thank you for the trust, LoL.

Sometimes I think it's necessary not just to use one single language to explain anything. Taking "gefallen" in German as an example, it's easier to explain in Spanish or Russian, as there are corresponding/similar words. In terms of Chinese or English (not sure), it appears more difficult to accept such concept. Also one word or one ambiguos sentence in one language could have several meanings in another language, it's easy and comprehensible to expain in another language. Another example is: "Frühstück" is "breakfast", or it's "am Morgen, am frühen Vormittag eingenommene Mahlzeit". I don't think the latter explaination is necessarily better, it doen't help with understanding or memorising.

I've passed a German exam with B1~B2 level long ago, but I feel my speaking technic is still awful, and never have the courage to adjust my German level.

Showing off language skill is especially not a smart thing to do here. Every newly mastered language, although through hard work, is just someone else's daily doing. And most of the time, it's a virtue to be modest.
May 17, 2020
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Russian
Learning Language
English, French, German, Italian, Russian