FORUM BEST PRACTICE: Remember the language barrier

Forum Ninjas Blog

Sometimes I read interviews, and it reminds me of important topics.

This topic was sparked in this interview with Tibor:

Here's the question in question (do you have questions about the question in question?)...


Do you have any tips for people answering questions on MSDN/TechNet Forums?

Again, hopefully just common sense. Stay calm, keep to the subject. Remember that English is not all poster’s first language. Do try to not take offense with what could be read as impolite responses – again the language barrier. And, please read the question twice and make sure that you understand the question. As soon as a reply has been posted to a thread, the likelihood that other replies are posted reduces drastically: “Oh, somebody is already taken care of this thread”, sort of. So if the person who wrote that first reply didn’t take the time to read and understand the problem, then he or she doesn’t really do the original poster a service by answering with a “sloppy reply”. Me, I tend to not answer if I don’t feel like I do understand the question – I don’t always succeed, but I try. Sometime, I just mark the thread so I get email on replies, so I can jump in when the discussion starts, if needed.


Tibor made several great points, but today I want to focus on this idea that English isn't the first language of many (perhaps most) of the askers (and answerers) in the forums.

We have people from all over the world in the MSDN and TechNet forums. Many are still learning English and are struggling.

So we need to show a lot of grace and patience. We should not assume that they aren't giving enough information on purpose or that they don't know what they're saying. We can kindly point them to articles that explain specific terms, which might help them articulate the situation better in English. Sure, it takes longer, but it benefits the OP (original poster) and everyone who lands on that page, trying to find the answer to their similar problem.

So special thanks to Tibor for bringing this up, and thank you to the community of answerers for your patience and endurance in helping non-native English speakers articulate their issues!

- Ninja Ed