Is it wrong or unethical to ask questions in English using Google Translate? What is the correct procedure to ask questions in the English language when you do not know the English language?

  • Statistically, most of the languages ​​are poorly supported. If the matter is simple enough, the translation is, however, moderate. Again, this is a Google translation. <-- "fair" also suggested as an alternate translation for "moderate", but you'd have to know to look for it.
    – tripleee
    Aug 20, 2012 at 5:01

4 Answers 4


As long as the question can be understood, is not overly broad or open ended and otherwise fits within our guidelines, we'll take it. That being said, using a translator is going to put you at a distinct disadvantage for many reasons:


If your question needs further clarification, or requires you to interact with other members in comments, you're at the mercy of Google Translate. As your original post contained the word 'pregunta', I'm guessing that your native language is Spanish, which Google does a pretty good job of translating. Just keep in mind, Google will in essence be speaking for you

Understanding answers

Like comments, you'll (hopefully) receive answers that may clearly explain the problem and solution. Things can get lost in translation. Again, Spanish is a language that Google speaks rather well. It does not, however speak Tagalog (Filipino) well at all, or Malaysian and many other Asian languages - at least at the time of this writing. My point being, you may not walk away with as much knowledge and understanding as you would have otherwise.

Additional scrutiny

There are some in our community that are put off by questions that are not asked in at least close to proper English. I hate to say it, but it is a fact. You may ask a perfectly valid question but receive down votes, negative comments and possibly close votes simply due to the quality of writing presented. In a perfect world, you wouldn't .. however we have to come to grips with the fact that we don't live in a perfect world. Put on flame retardant clothing.


With that being said, this is what I recommend:

If Google does not do a reasonably good job of translating your language, don't try it. The only thing on this planet that speaks more broken Tagalog than me is Google. I would not try using it to post on a Filipino forum.

You can test this by copying chunks of English text and ask it to translate those chunks into your language. Is the translation readily comprehended without many glaring mistakes? Remember, the English Google is going to give you is going to be the reverse of what you're seeing. Try to find someone that speaks at least a little English to verify the quality of the translation, at least to the best of their ability.

If, ultimately you do use Google Translate to help you ask a question, involve a moderator at the first sign of things going badly. We may be able to help you edit for additional clarity, or intervene if you find yourself facing hostility solely due to your lack of English comprehension. Keep in mind, we're not going to intervene on a question where you did not do your research or include all of the relevant details. If you go this route, poor English needs to be the only problem with your question.

It would be better to find someone that can speak English to help you, but I understand that's not always possible. If you try it, make sure your question is otherwise solid. Work as hard as you can to improve your question based on feedback you receive, and don't take negative feedback too personally.


Stack Overflow is about providing answers to programming questions. It is not about teaching English.

Use whatever means you can to formulate a reasonably intelligible question (one that is clear enough that others will understand what you are asking). If Google Translate helps you do that, by all means use it.

If others can understand the intent of your question but the wording is not good, you may find that someone edits your question to make it clearer or to improve spelling and grammar.

Poor English is not a reason to downvote a question, as long as the English is clear enough to be reasonably understood.

  • 13
    That said, using a translator puts the OP at a sharp disadvantage, as there's no way to be sure what he is writing is being correctly translated in an idiomatic way. The same is true for translating the answers back to the OP's native language. It's already difficult enough to write a good question when your first language is English.
    – user102937
    Aug 20, 2012 at 2:21
  • 4
    Yes, I know stackoverflow is for programming questions, I do not end here to learn English. I want to ask questions about programming but do not know how well the English language, wanted to know the best way to ask questions in English, when not fully mastered the English language. Thank you. Aug 20, 2012 at 2:46
  • @RobertHarvey: Sure, but if he's using a dictionary as an alternative, the same caveat applies.
    – Eric J.
    Aug 20, 2012 at 3:52

Unethical? Hardly. Impractical? - very much so. Unless you only use automated translation as aid or dictionary, it is very easy to formulate question that after being auto-translated would mean something very different or even completely opposite, rendering other people unable to meaningfully help you until you clarify it.

Actually some of auto-translating patterns are very recognizable and even if people won't downvote you, many will simply choose to skip over your question.


Extremely poor translation or construction of the question will get it down voted.

If you have limited English then I would advise you state that early on in your question, readers will then accommodate that where possible and they should also be nice enough to edit your question into shape.

However if you just bang your question into Google and then use the result it will be a lottery. Do you know anyone who could help formulate your question before you post it?

  • 1
    Google actually does a fair enough job with certain languages, at least fair enough to get something that can be understood and answered formulated. Spanish, French .. it may fly. SE Asian dialect? No chance at all. It really depends on how smart Google has become with the given language.
    – Tim Post
    Aug 20, 2012 at 2:58
  • And/or state that you are using Google Translate, so responders can make appropriate allowance. Aug 20, 2012 at 5:53

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