As a learning exercise, I wrote out my own German translation to a (12 line) American song (and have benefited by all the corrections to my version).

I was under the impression that this site did not like long passages, so I initially asked the question only about the idiom (Aladdin's Lamp) and the two surrounding lines that most troubled me (and did not link it). That had the opposite problem, because people lost a lot of time figuring out the context.

My (mis) understandings are as follows:

All other things being equal:

1) Shorter passages are preferred over longer ones.

2) English to German is preferred over German to English (except for fine language nuances in German).

3) "Is my (self-worked) translation correct/appropriate?" is preferred to "Please translate this for me" (without any effort on my part).

So was a twelve-line, self-worked translation question from English to German (with relevant links) appropriate for this site? Where is the limit?

  • I have written a long answer to explain my reactions to your questions, but I have to add that you engaged in dialogue with everyone and adapted your question and you seem to be reasonably satisfied with the outcome. So, I don't see a big problem here.
    – Phira
    Jun 15, 2011 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


The following is my personal opinion and "should" refers to "I think that you would have gotten better answers and overall everyone would have been happier":

Your question should have started out with some context. The first line in the OP here would have been a good example:

As a learning exercise, I wrote out my own German translation to a (12 line) American song

You should spell out silent assumptions. In particular, you assumed that "Aladdin's lamp" is not well known in German and since you didn't spell out this assumption in the beginning, it was hard to understand your point.

I don't think that the length of the fragment is the deciding issue here.

I sing a lot and I hate bad lyrics translation to German with the heat of a thousand suns, so I wasn't very benevolently disposed to the general idea and I think that in most cases good translations are always made by people who translate to their native language.

In some sense, you should have asked yourself what images and feelings "chills run up and down my spine" evokes for you and then asked us what images and feelings your translation evokes and then you could compare.

  • Having received an answer to the question, I deleted it after you showed me why it bothered people. To answer your question, years ago I joined a German-American club where everyone had to be either German, German-American, or be married to one. I was allowed to join after pledging to marry one. Then I wrote the poem. (Haven't married one, but haven't married anyone else, so I haven't broke my pledge.)
    – Tom Au
    Jun 16, 2011 at 20:58
  • @Tom I am very aware that there is a cultural difference here in many of your questions, but I am not sure what to do about it. I think that it would be preferable if you undelete the question and add this explanation to it. Personally, I find it interesting and it explains your poem. I would never have imagined this explanation.
    – Phira
    Jun 16, 2011 at 21:28
  • @fzwo: Interestingly enough, thei was of your opinion until he saw the explanation above. After he did, he actually asked me to undelete the question for further discussion. I was wondering what you think?
    – Tom Au
    Jun 17, 2011 at 13:54

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