I've seen several questions in non-English, where a user (typically high-rep) puts it into Google Translate. Here's an example (Wayback Machine if it gets deleted). I do realize that post had other issues (THE OP USED ALL CAPITALS, for one). But most non-English posts tend to lack sufficient details for a meaningful/correct answer.

The current Meta consensus appears to be non-English posts aren't allowed, but if you see one, you can translate it if you know the language, and that the non-English part should be removed. Also note that that question/answer is more than ten years old, so Google Translate has improved since then. A newer, but less agreed upon (+24/-12) question proposes that we translate instead of VTC. The answer (+16/-0) says that they should totally be closed.

But, high-rep (more than 20k rep) users have been using Google Translate.

My personal opinion and this is similar to what @terdon said is that non-English questions should be closed and not translated. Here's why:

  • If the OP didn't post their question in English, the answers probably aren't useful to them
  • Google Translate isn't consistent. Can it be great? Sure! Is it "good enough"? I don't think so.
  • If someone that knows the language translates it after it is closed, they can always vote to reopen.
  • I find that non-English posts tend to be lack details, so one couldn't meaningfully answer them anyways, so translating a question, only to have the result "lack detail or clarity" isn't useful. Might aswell just VTC in the first place.
  • Non-English posts aren't allowed on Ask Ubuntu, so closing (and maybe downvoting?) them is better than using a questionable translation source to try to fix a question

But I think that immediately using Google Translate to translate non-English questions is bad.

So, should questions posted in non-English languages be translated (with Google Translate) or closed?

  • I don't personally have any preference, and I'm willing to do whatever the community decides. But I would at least argue that translations of answers are usually more "risky" than questions. If we find it okay to translate questions then translating answers should be reviewed separately.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 10:58
  • 2
    @Dan you're quite right but oddly enough, the one case I remember where something actually worthwhile was posted in another language was an answer which I ended up translating myself. But I did it myself because I spoke the language, I didn't rely on Google Translate.
    – terdon
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 12:04
  • 2
    Related: DeepL in my experience produces massively better translations than Google. If someone would still use automatic translation, it's probably the better choice.
    – Neinstein
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 8:42

2 Answers 2



Sorry, but no. If the OP is so lazy they can't even be bothered to try and use Google Translate themselves, then we should absolutely not do it for them. As you say, Google Translate translations tend to be bad, and an OP who isn't even willing to put in the minimum effort required to realize that they are posting in a language that is not the language of the page they are visiting is very unlikely to ever spend the effort of trying to understand any answers.

Posting in other languages is rude and inconsiderate. And don't get me wrong, I have spent most of my adult life living in countries whose language I speak as a foreigner. I completely understand and empathize with people who are trying to communicate in a foreign language. But I do expect people to at least try and not just dump their question in their own language with no consideration or effort.

I am one of the most prolific editors of both AU and U&L and on most of the sites I participate in, precisely because I know how hard it is to write in a language that is not your own. I have nothing but sympathy and patience for people whose English is limited and who try to use the site. But if they are so lazy and inconsiderate as to not even bother trying, despite the existence of tools like Google Translate, then my patience is at an end.

Finally, as I said in my answer to one of the linked Meta Posts, I have yet to see one single example where translating the question resulted in anything useful for the site or for the OP (I have found one where translating the answer was useful since the answer was actually good but posted in Spanish). People who are too lazy to notice that this site is in English are also too lazy to add the necessary detail to ask good questions.

The way I see it, translating the OP's post using Google Translate is actively harmful. It just adds more garbage to the site, the OP won't be able to provide any details, no clarifications will ever be given and we have just added one more bad, useless post to the site. Please, please do not do this.

Instead, if you speak the language, you can leave a polite message in that language explaining that we only accept posts in English and perhaps recommending another place where they can ask. But don't just dump the post into Google Translate and hope for the best, that really isn't helping anyone.

  • 3
    Nocens sum. Bene notavit.
    – chili555
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 22:39
  • 8
    @ShambhavGautam sorry, what? "prolific editor" simply means I do a lot of edits. As you can see in the links I provided, I am in the first page when sorting users by the number of edits they have performed. That doesn't mean anything, of course, only that I edit a lot of posts. Prolific doesn't mean good, it simply means you produce a lot of whatever it is you are prolific in. I didn't include this to make anyone believe me, I only included it to indicate that I actually have a lot of patience and empathy for users for whom writing in English is hard. That's all.
    – terdon
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 12:00
  • @terdon What's the definition of "a lot" though? lol, there is none.
    – Shambhav
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 13:54
  • 9
    @ShambhavGautam I... honestly don't understand why you got so hung up on this particular point, but "a lot" means "appears in the first page of users when sorted by the number of edits". Specifically, I have done 1804 edits on AU and 5359 on U&L. In any case, the only reason I mention this is to show that I am quite willing to edit people's posts to help improve them. No more, no less. This doesn't mean my opinions on edits are more valuable than anyone else's! It simply means I am not someone who objects to editing. You seem to think that I am bragging, but that isn't the case at all!
    – terdon
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 15:22
  • 1
    – terdon
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 15:23


Editing posts on Ask Ubuntu has a long history, (even though it can be considered a form of plagiarism, ie taking credit for another person's work).

Remember, If editing a question on Ask Ubuntu changes the original meaning of the post significantly, then it may be considered plagiarism if it is done without the original author's consent or input.

I think that it would be a noble act to translate a post using Google and then edit the results in order to make it useful to English speakers who need this information.

Using Google Translate, etc, can be considered the first step in editing a non-English post.

However in my opinion ChatGPT does a better job of translating than Google Translate:

"I recently installed Ubuntu 20.04 on my new notebook, but I seem to have lost both my cable and wifi network connections. Unfortunately, my new notebook does not have an old network cable input, RJ45, so I cannot connect to the internet in any other way. I even tried using my phone to create a hotspot, but my notebook doesn't seem to recognize it. Can anyone please provide me with some assistance to get my network connections back up and running? Thank you!" - ChatGPT

But this approach using AI is against the rules of AU and can lead to a permanent ban.

Compare this translation to the translation on cocomac's link

ChatGPT also does a good job answering this question but I do know that posting those results is against the rules of Ask Ubuntu and can get a person permanently deleted.

Perhaps it is better for non-English speakers to forget Ask Ubuntu and consult ChatGPT first.

  • Just to clarify: it is not illegal to post such material on AU, it against a rule that has been put in place. A fine point but an important one. As well those who post such material on AU can receive simply a warning Mod email or alternatively a suspension from AU (with a varying time limit); there is no ban put in place as such.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 3:32
  • @andrew.46: Will not a person who repeatedly submits AI material be permanently deleted? ie Ubuntu Help states: "Moderators can place users in timed suspension, and delete users if necessary". Is being deleted not the same as being banned? Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 11:18
  • I guess that is a possibility but in the real world this has never happened on Ask Ubuntu for ChatGPT abuse. The Mod team has never gone further than a second suspension and even this was eventually withdrawn.
    – andrew.46 Mod
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 1:09

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