The main issue I see with those questions is that they are too localized: It's rather difficult that those questions are really helpful for somebody else than the OP.

The other problems I can see with those questions are when:

  • There is no indication about who was speaking, which means it is not possible to understand in which dialect the speaker is talking.
  • The clip is to short to catch exactly which dialect is being spoken, or if the speaker is imitating a dialect that is not the one s/he speaks.
  • What understood depends on who listens. Considering the previous points, there could be a different interpretation, but normally people tend to interpret what they hear as if it is said in the dialect they speak. This is particularly true when part of the clip audio is not clear; for example the phrase said is "this car […] washed" (where "[…]" is a part that is difficult to hear).

Are questions about what heard in an audio clip always welcome?
In which cases are they not welcome?


3 Answers 3


I would say no, questions based on audio clips are not generally welcome, unless the asker provides a lot of context and background as you indicated:

  • who is speaking

  • what is the context of the speech

  • why the asker wishes to know

  • any research the asker did on the matter

The worst case video analog would be posting a screenshot and saying "I can't tell what's in this picture, can you?"


My first reaction on the reading the title was of course audio examples are welcome. But I see now your point about the kind of question that might come a long with it, how it is terribly localized.

However, I feel like the rules in place are good enough to already decide without a special rule just for audio clips. That is, we can judge whether the question about the clip is too local (your examples) or perfectly fine (e.g what is the dialect this person is speaking).

  • I am asking in which cases those questions are not welcome, not about new rules, as the existing ones are enough, and a question can always be closed as too localized, if it is effectively too localized.
    – apaderno
    Sep 1, 2011 at 18:33
  • @kiamlaluno: I was answering the first question 'Are questions [like that]....always welcome?'. And my answer was 'it depends as usual'. As to the second question, I agree that all three of your points are reasons to close: poor quality audio, poor context, poor specification of question. etc. I can't think of any more but I figure I'll be able to judge one way or the other with the next audio question.
    – Mitch
    Sep 1, 2011 at 19:38

There can be two types of such questions.

First type are "deciphering" questions-they request to decipher a phrase in the speech which is unclear, confusing to the asker. These questions should be closed because they are too localized. There is no benefit for them to the community at large.

The second type are those who use the audio file as a source for inquiring about word-usage, grammar or other aspects of English. They are fine. However, there are some problems:
-since the spoken language is more subject to variability and errors, more context is needed than for the written language.
-sometimes it is unclear what the speaker says. So the audio file has to be of very good quality. There is so such problem with the written text. What you see is what you have.

I do not think who is speaking, or what dialect is used should be emphasized. We do not impose that from the written texts (that is we do not impose information about the author and the dialect).

  • 1
    There is a difference between how a word is written and how it is pronounced. The same word can be pronounced differently for people living in the same country; if you hear that single word, you cannot say which word is being said without to know who is speaking.
    – apaderno
    Sep 8, 2011 at 22:02
  • @kiamlaluno As for the dialect, something similar can be said about written words. They might have different meanings, depending on the dialect of the author. But the ELU users are diverse enough to give or find out the differences. Sep 8, 2011 at 22:40
  • @kiamlaluno The only such audios on ELU so far that I know of belonged to yozloy His questions were of the first type basically. So about the second type we are talking theoretically here. Sep 8, 2011 at 22:58
  • Another one: english.stackexchange.com/questions/11510/… Dec 12, 2011 at 9:45

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