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We have quite a clear opinion on when to allow a translation request:

There is consent that we do not allow peer reviews of no general interest.

However, ever so often there is a dispute when people ask for a German counterpart of an English phrase. Such phrase-requests can be highly upvoted, generate a lot of traffic, and have good answers, others get quickly closed or are being downvoted.

Recently we see an increasing number of such phrase-requests that catch close votes or got closed (some are not tagged as and will not appear in the list above).

People vote for them to be off topic using a custom close reason "Translation Request". This reason was meant for peer review translations and it may not be a good fit for a phrase request. It will not help to find out why a given phrase-request was off topic, and why another such request was not.

Therefore we need a better definition on what we consider to be an on topic phrase request, and what close reason would be appropriate if it did not meet these criteria.

  • The question was: So how would I say: "Yesterday I got stuck with fixing the code bug and still not done with it" How is that not a translation request? What the question has since become (completely without the action of the OP) is neither here nor there. – chirlu Mar 4 '16 at 10:09
  • @chirlu: The question in question was titled “How to say ‘I got stuck in fixing this problem’?” from the beginning. This suffices to deduce that the intention of the asker was not to have us translate “Yesterday I got stuck with fixing the code bug and still not done with it”. — On the other hand, I fully agree that this could have been made clearer and the question would be a translation request without the title (which is why question bodies should be standalone). – Wrzlprmft Mar 4 '16 at 10:17
  • @chirlu; the original question was How to say "I got stuck in fixing this problem"? - the sentence below was a usage example to give us context. It was tagged "translation" and "english-to-german" most likely because the OP was not aware of the tag "phrase-request" (this happens often). – Takkat Mar 4 '16 at 10:19
  • Was soll hier die Phrase sein? Stecken bleiben? Soll das einen Unterschied machen, ob man beim Bugfixen oder beim Entwerfen, beim Installieren oder Brötchenteig ansetzen stecken bleibt? Ist das nicht einfach ein bildhafter Ausdruck? – user unknown Mar 24 '16 at 1:22
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In my opinion, the line between bulk translation requests (off-topic) and phrase requests (on-topic¹) is a rather clear one:

If there is a realistic chance (from an answer’s point of view) that the question can be answered by something that would make for a single item in a reasonable dictionary, it is on-topic¹. Or with other words: If it is conceivable that a language developed an idiom to express something, it is on-topic¹.

Thus, if there is a single idiom that answers the question, it is automatically on-topic¹. However, if there isn’t, this doesn’t make the question off-topic; the answer is just something along the lines of: “There isn’t any such phrase in the German language.” In my opinion, the question should just stay unanswered in this case. In particular, if there is an idiom in another language that expresses the desired meaning, it is conceivable that German has such an idiom as well and the question is on-topic.

Two examples:

  • How do I say: “There is a phrase for what I want to say, but I can’t quite remember it.”

    This on-topic, because there is in fact an idiom, namely “es liegt mir auf der Zunge” that expresses the desired meaning. Even if the German idiom didn’t exist, it would still be reasonable for an asker to expect that there is such an idiom in German, because English has one, namely: “It’s on the tip of my tongue.”

  • How do I say: “Yesterday I asked a phrase request but the question was closed.”

    This not on-topic, because there is no reason to expect that a single phrase expressing this exists.


¹ in terms of not being a bulk translation request. We may still be consider the question off-topic for other reasons, in particular the general-reference close reason, i.e., being easily answerable by a dictionary.

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