2

While editing, I frequently come across posts introduced by the typical disclosure:

I'm a native Chinese speaker

...or one of the many variants. Then the post proceeds to answer the original question.

Personally, I don't have any particular problem with this. So far I don't think I've removed any from a post. But it does add some noise. I mean, being a native speaker doesn't automatically guarantee the correctness of the answer, does it?

On Stack Exchange, and particularly Stack Overflow, there's definite community consensus about removing phatic expressions1 from posts.

Anyway, this being a sub-site about a natural language, I feel all this is less relevant, but still, in the spirit of Stack Exchange quality-driven Q&A, I wonder if this is an acceptable, or even desirable, editing practice.

At the end of the day, if an answer is good, it's not necessary to reinforce it by stating what your mother tongue is.

The questions are:

  • is it okay to edit out expressions like "I'm a Chinese", when that isn't relevant to the question?2
  • if it is acceptable, should editors prioritize it when editing a post? "Prioritize" as in "I might edit a post for the sole reason of removing this" (high priority) versus "I might remove this while editing a post for other reasons" (low priority)

1: If any linguist is reading this, yes, "I'm a Chinese" is not actually a phatic expression. In fact, it does convey information, and even more so, it implies that what follows should be given more credibility because of it.

2: Of course when the question is somehow specifically targeted at native speakers, disclosing your native language is indeed relevant.

12
  • I never start a post with "I am a native Chinese speaker" I only use this term when I have to state my perspective. For example, "As a native Chinese speaker, I never study grammar from books as foreigners do" – Tang Ho Aug 9 '20 at 23:33
  • @TangHo Thanks, I'm definitely not talking about you here. This is really a very generic question, to build up some community consensus. In general, it seems to me that those who introduce themselves with "I'm a native..." are new users. In particular, I decided to write this post after seeing this answer, but there's many more like it. – blackgreen Aug 9 '20 at 23:39
  • Yes, being a native speaker doesn't automatically guarantee the correctness of the answer. Even being a professor of the Chinese language doesn't guarantee someone's answer is correct. For example, a professor translated The Cantonese term '一身蟻' as ''ants in your pants' which is totally wrong. The equivalent of '一身蟻' in English is 'in deep shit' or 'in deep water'. And the Chinese counterpart of 'ants in your pants' is '如坐針氈' – Tang Ho Aug 9 '20 at 23:56
  • "I'm a Chinese" also sounds peculiar. – Becky 李蓓 Aug 10 '20 at 0:03
  • @ Becky 李蓓is it the correct link? – Tang Ho Aug 10 '20 at 0:11
  • Yes, it's the same problem for "I'm a Japanese" too. – Becky 李蓓 Aug 10 '20 at 0:36
  • such “declaring” is a significant warning signal, don’t remove it while editing posts; if the answer is not good, just downvote it. – 水巷孑蠻 Aug 10 '20 at 13:18
  • @水巷孑蠻 what do you mean with "a significant warning signal". Signal of what? – blackgreen Aug 10 '20 at 13:19
  • a signal that the answer is inferior 😼 – 水巷孑蠻 Aug 10 '20 at 13:21
  • @水巷孑蠻 No, sorry. Let's not "judge a book by its cover". As much as "I'm a native Chinese" is not proof of quality, it's also not proof of lack of quality. It's just noisy (unnecessary) – blackgreen Aug 10 '20 at 13:27
  • i see, then treat the above comment as my opinion :) – 水巷孑蠻 Aug 10 '20 at 13:31
  • chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/40621/… : As a native, I know the answer, but I cannot provide backup ... – fefe Aug 10 '20 at 15:50
2

Why is it problematic to say "I'm a native Chinese speaker"?

  1. People say "I'm a native X speaker" for the purpose of indicating expertise, not realizing it also indicates a total lack of experience learning X as a non-native language which is often more relevant.

    I'm a native English speaker, but I cannot explain why we ask "where are you?" instead of "where is you?". I learned this when I was a toddler and no memory of studying this aspect of the English grammar. If you want to know why, you're better off asking someone who is not a native English speaker.

    People confuse being a native X speaker for being a language X teacher, but they are distinct. I made this mistake too when I first went to English Language Learners (which was a bit embarrassing).

  2. "I'm a native X speaker" is sometimes used to justify not providing evidence. Rather than provide links to reliable textbooks or other resources, rather than provide concrete examples, rather than give a detailed explanation, they just say "I'm a native X speaker; [foo] is correct". This is a significant quality issue and not fixed by editing out the phrase "I'm a native X speaker".

    (I downvote such useless answers, but people sometimes annoyingly add comments like "why was this downvoted? it's correct +1". Correct or incorrect, it's still not useful.)

  3. Saying "I'm a native X speaker" is indeed often noise: it doesn't help the reader understand the specific language problem. I like to imagine this scenario:

    1. I ask a question.
    2. I read the answers.
    3. Someone else asks me the same question. How do I answer them?

    I should be able to answer this question after reading the answers, right? But I can't---I can't explain to someone else that "it's [foo] because someone on the Internet said they were a native X speaker and said it was [foo] (they even got four upvotes)". (Also, what if I get contradictory answers from native X speakers?)

There's also the relatively minor issue of it being commonly misphrased:

I don't really know why this convention exists, but saying 'I am a Chinese' to a native speaker would be very strange for them.
smartboyhw's answer to Why is “a Japanese” offensive?, English Language Learners


Should it be edited away? It depends...

  1. Sometimes an answer benefits from the expertise that comes from being a native speaker, in which case it should stay. For example, there is a distinction between:

    I'm a native Chinese speaker, and I've never heard of that word before.

    I've been studying Chinese for a week, and I've never heard of that word before.

    Here, we're proving a negative: it's a case when absence of evidence is used as evidence of absence. Only the second claim is based on ignorance.

  2. Sometimes an author's background affects the applicability of the answer, e.g. this one, in which case it should stay.

  3. I don't think it should be edited away from questions, such as this one; it seems relevant to forming answers.

  4. It can be deleted when included only for temporary meta reasons:

    I'm a native Chinese speaker so I apologize for my English mistakes

    I'm a native Chinese speaker and can only express my answer in Chinese

    It should be deleted after correcting/adding the English (if applicable).

Beyond this, we have many unevidenced (or poorly evidenced) answers like:

  1. I'm a chinese. For my point that stroke order is necessary but not very important.It's a way to write them just like we write English. And the last question, I think less people could know

  2. I'm a Chinese, We always say 学校餐厅的开支增加了,这样一来,餐厅就会涨价. Because it's weird to call particular thing like "食物/food". And a restaurant always provide food, It's not necessary to say "增长食物的价格"(wordy)...

  3. I'm a native Chinese, I know the right pronunciation is 我(wǒ)爱(ài)你(nǐ). Maybe your friend are learning 粤语 or 广东话, the China official language is Simplified Chinese that is 普通话。

  4. I'm a native Chinese speaker. I can't agree with 'Red Wolf's Husband'. I can't explain too much from grammar point of view. But I can guarantee you that "一个半月" is the correct way to express 1.5 month. "一个月半" can also be understood by native speaker though. "一个月半" sounds not that smooth especially in oral Chinese.

Whether we edit it away or not, they're going to remain essentially unevidenced answers. Edit it away if you like (and if the author doesn't like it, they can add it back in), but my instinct is that we shouldn't squander too much of our users' time tweaking low-quality posts (we can downvote and move on instead), so I'd consider this "low priority".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .