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How would you translate "以前の問題" in the next sentence: 作文が上手かどうかは、日本語能力以前の問題である。

Thank you! )

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「Word or phrase + [以前]{いぜん}の[問題]{もんだい}」

means "a matter to be considered prior to (word or phrase)".

What that means is that there is an underlying matter which is more essential (and possibly more important) than the matter at hand.

The sentence 「[作文]{さくぶん}が[上手]{じょうず}かどうかは、日本語[能力]{のうりょく}以前の問題である。」 suggests that whether or not one is good at writing compositions in Japanese depends more on something else than on one's Japanese ability.

What is that something? Only the author could answer this, but if I were to take an educated guess, s/he would probably be referring to one's ability in one's first language.

  • "What is that something?" It could also be referring to how the logic, premise, or argument of the writing is fundamentally flawed. No amount of linguistic acrobatics could save that. – akj May 27 '15 at 2:30

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