Reminder about different language backgrounds

Postcrossing language is English, and it’s told in the guidelines, which is good.
Also here in forum, in the “common” area the language is English.
Both these I find good.

But I suggest, when there is “use English”, there could be additional sentence for example “but remember, even when members use English, it’s often not their native language, and they come from different culture, so show understanding” or something like that.

I came to think this suggestion when some members thought my English is better than theirs, and they are afraid/unwilling of writing here, because with my “better than theirs” English I have few times been “accused” of rudeness and publicly analysed and determined how I am as a person, because of the way I write. Or not even what I write but the tone I use.

This type of expectances, that one should know and remember to use all politeness words and correct nuances used in some part of the world, scares away possible forum members. I know we still are allowed to be representants of our own countries and cultures, even when using English, but does the use of English cause English native speakers actually assume we would not only use “their” language, but we also try adopt their cultural habits? Maybe this is what causes them think people are rude?

I think this is like international airport. You don’t go pointing someone rude just because they act different than in your country, but most likely you think they don’t know something, or it’s their habit.

So: the “use English” is good, but I suggest something in addition there, so it would be maybe more welcoming to those who are not so good in English, and a reminder also to those, who are, that we are not trying to be in their country or imitate any manners. So even when we use “their” language, we are not on their ground. If someone is more skillfull, they can meet the other one halfway.

Problems here is, old members don’t necessarily read it anymore.
Maybe a pop up, like when a topic reminds some other topic? Or a reminder?


I support this idea, because a reminder of this kind could possibly prevent some escalation. :+1:


Yes, I can support this. There are people who use Google translator or similar applications. They might be good, but overall they can not translate every subject in the proper way.
For example: “Happy seasons” is translated to “Frohe Jahreszeiten”, which makes no sense in German. While this apps make a good job for translations English <-> German, they don’t do a proper job for Finish language. And I know a lot of Asians use such applications, and complain about their not correct language is just ridiculous of people who are born in English environment and never made a serious effort to learn a second language.

I can only say, people take it more relaxed and stay open minded.



Right on! :slight_smile:
I am from Japan and although I have learned English for a long time now, I still make lots of mistakes in English even when I hope to be able to communicate more better in English on the Postcrossing forum, for example.

Understanding itself between Postcrossers worldwide is definitely needed, especially when things seem complicated everywhere in the world and we live in a rather difficult time.


Rudeness in itself should never happen in a forum like this. I appreciate that the language is English as many of U.S. Americans can’t speak another language. If we do, it’s often Spanish as that is what is more prevalent here in the states and many of us forget that after high school from non use. I applaud you all for speaking more than one language or going through the effort to use a translator.

Btw, my personal opinion of cultural appropriation is that it just divides us and the entire phrase needs to go away. The way I was brought up is that imitation is the best form of flattery.


There is a lot to unpack here. But for brevity sake, I will say a few thoughts. I believe that native English speaker -NES -for the most part, are more forgiving and understanding with nonnative English speaker -NNES’ translations. A message may appear rude or downright confounding to a NES. But no worries. It’s part of Postcrossing!

With that said, I don’t think all English language countries believe they “own” the English language. Certainly, not me and many English speaking postcrossers. From conversations I’ve had, we are very aware and forgiving of any translations that appear strange.

One last thought, NNES should never apologize for not having strong English skills for the site. Perhaps with AI translations may improve exponentially.


That’s a good idea!
I’ve encountered situations of both kind: non-English speakers seemed ‘rude’ because structurally languages are different and up until near-native level people tend to use sentence structure of their own language; English-speakers seemed ‘rude’ because of using certain phrases or idioms which have commonly perceived tone between native-speakers but reading literally sounds rude.


Good idea. Once again, there will always be an element of “lost in translation” but also cultural tones and courtesies. French Canadian can be different from European French and Mexican Spanish from Spain and so on. Some languages/cultures are very direct and to the point with no pleasantries that some would perceive as blunt or rude. It’s not always the case and Postcrossing can teach us a lot.


Here is an example where a non-native speaker sounded rude to me, though it’s subtle enough that I could let it go …

They wrote: ‘an old retired person …’

I would prefer to see: ‘an older retired person …’

The use of ‘old’ here seems age-ist, dismissive.


-ists and -isms are also different in different countries :woman_shrugging: I would use the same wordings without thinking too much and without any intent to be dismissive or condescending

We just are people with basic simple English, which we often learnt without cultural background of the language.

I’m sorry to say but your remark @Johnk60 belongs to a language forum as a reply to a non-English speaker who asked about appropriate polite usage of old/older. Right here in the topic about tolerance and understanding for each other linguistical skills and a cultural background and a shout for an additional reminder of being kind, quoting someone’s inproficiency in English and implying that in some situations you probably couldn’t let go and still be offended by someone’s words, when person didn’t mean it and did a mistake unknowingly, would scare the non-English speakers. Are you sure about your own skills in French and Spanish, that you never ever offended a native-speaker and they let it slide never mentioning it publicly? Doesn’t your message, being okay overall, also illustrates the topic a bit (as an example of something said by native English speaker could be perceived as little bit rude but subtle enough to let go)? :thinking:

I wrote that as a bit of reflection illustrated the topic by the way, I hope it didn’t sound too rude or anything :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


Out of curiousity I checked what dictionary tells (yes, I don’t trust it)
older is told to mean similar to our “haahka”, as in aged woman, and being vulgar

(but if I would think myself, “old person” would be old, “older person”, a little younger than old, even I know it doesn’t make sense, but it would mean, older than young - but maybe this is just thought translated from my language)

Things like these show, even when one would try to use the correct word, they might choose the wrong if they follow a dictionary.

I think the example is good, how so little thing can make the meaning worse.
And also, to understand the writer might not have a clue about such meaning.
And definitely, hopefully, no one would call this rude and ageist because of that.


I’d prefer “gently aged” or just “senior” person :thinking: but yes in fact I am as old as dirt.


Oh, this is the same in German (and maybe some other language?):

means “eine alte pensionierte Person” and

means “eine ältere berentete Person”

In the end the same but the second one sounds much friendlier :blush:

1 Like

Firstly, @S_Tuulia I am sorry, if I read your post correctly, that part of your joy in postcrossing was diminished when someone implied you might be rude. No one wants their character criticized, and we should not do so here.

Secondly, not seeing faces is also a reason we misunderstand each others’ tones. A reminder to be kind might help, I don’t know for sure, but I guess people are going to be grumpy occasionally and lash out inappropriately.

Thirdly, I don’t expect other people to adopt my culture just because they write in English. A great deal of the charm in participating is learning other ways of being.

Finally, concerning the word “old,” it is better to me to be more precise, for example, write the word “octogenarian” and let people decide what that means to them; however, I know from experience that that might be off putting, too. My point, again, is that some people are going to be grumpy no matter what you do. Here are some U.S. sayings: “Haters gonna hate” and “You be You,” meaning we can’t control others sometimes; don’t let them “get you down” or change your core self.


I read the reply of @S_Tuulia to @Johnk60 regarding the word old or older, and i feel it does belong here. Both of them simply explaining how the word is perceived in their own country and culture, and neither of them taking offense.

I thought that is what this topic is about?

For me, here is a perfect explanation, example, and reminder of how a simple word can appear to be the same, but actually has a much different meaning in different languages.


Now it does of course! I have no problem with anything @Johnk60 said, don’t get me wrong :slight_smile: I tried to be meta and I feel I’m being meta again here xD

I was just thinking that the topic-starter was about this too:

and then uncalled language advice without request also might be rude for some! In some cultures publicly pointing out mistakes of someone is super embarrassing and stressful. But in many other occasions it’s not rude and many postcrossers use any opportunity to learn English better from their own and others mistakes which makes an interesting discussion like Avoiding cross-cultural faux pas, there should be a topic of ‘Avoiding linguistical faux pas’

EDIT: My input about old/older/other words discussion is that it seems words mean different things to different people even if they are native speakers. So my personal conclusion for the word usage: I would avoid using words like old/young (and many other similar) altogether to characterize people, because using this word as a characteristic describing someone is already ageism and rude imo. And using ‘old person’ or ‘redhead person’ to describe someone (not in a book, but in a dialog) seems not much of linguistical faux pas, but more of empathy/politeness failure


I would like to say that on Postcrossing guidelines, it already says to be friendly and to be polite and respectful.

While I understand I cannot judge people online at first glance, I admit that I see some or more posts by some or more people on Postcrossing are written in English by “stuck-up” and more straight-forward attitude, no matter they are native English speakers or not, which in Japan generally is a taboo in public.

Perhaps, it is normal in other cultures in the world, but I am sometimes puzzled on the forum, especially when reading in English, which is not my mother tongue.

But if there is also a line on the guideline to ask people to show understanding, I guess I will understand more.

Anyway, understanding each other on an international platform like Poscrossing is definitely needed.


I mean to me, I would try my best to write to postcrossers in their preferred language (eg French/ German). In most cases they do speak English or are comfortable reading the card in English. But in some cases they would state that their English might not be at a level high enough for them to read it, so I would use French or German to write to them instead. Improves my proficiency in the language and the other party can understand it, killing two birds with one stone.


As an American, I actually feel bad/am kind of embarrassed that it’s not common here to become fluent in at least one other language, if not more. The 2 years required in school isn’t really enough and quickly forgotten.

FWIW, I fully understand that not every Postcrosser will have strong English speaking skills. I appreciate everyone taking the time to send a postcard, and if the English isn’t perfect, that is totally fine & understandable and there will be no judgement on my behalf!!

I wish those individuals felt safe posting. They belong here just as much as English speakers.


Well said!! I’m half American and did Spanish at school (Mexican Spanish). I knew enough to get an idea of what a conversation was about but it is different to Spain’s language. Here in the UK they have to take languages in school but if you don’t use it, you lose it :frowning: We just take it for granted that the rest of the world speaks English. We should try harder.