According to our faq we do welcome translation requests from any language to German.

However there was some debate on when such a request may be too trivial.

Before we vote to close questions as off topic we have yet to define what we consider to be such a trivial request.

What would be our threshold to consider a translation request as off topic?

3 Answers 3


If I understood Em1's answer correctly, he thinks that if the OP provides some things, the question can be accepted. And I agree (+1).

I want to re-word this thought to make it simpler, saying that:

  1. We could accept all translations requests as long as there is some research effort (clearly showed in the question itself). In this case, even apparently easy questions can be accepted, because the OP clearly tried to translate it but couldn't despite the research and despite the fact that it was an easy translation.

  2. If the translation is hard (such as idioms, rare/unusual expressions, dialects, informal/colloquial usage, etc.) less research can be tolerated but still highly appreciated.

  3. In all cases, context must be provided. Let's face it: a translation without context is not a translation, it's a guess. We're not here to guess, we're here to provide quality translations, and if the question lacks quality, the answers unavoidably will as well.

  4. Translations "Language X ⟶ German" are safe ground, because natives here can understand the nuances better.

  5. Translations "German ⟶ Language X" are harder to judge, and I think they'd fit better the language-related SE site.

I think it's all for now... We can implement something like this in the FAQ.

  • 3
    Brilliant answer :) Where do I find the +10 button?
    – Em1
    Feb 10, 2012 at 14:16
  • To put it straight: In 3. In all cases, context must be provided the must is too hard, because their is one exception. The figurative meaning of phrases makes them independent to a context in general. Of course, this does not fit for all. But one simple example are the raining cats and dogs. The context is implicit.
    – Em1
    Feb 10, 2012 at 14:30
  • 1
    @Em1 +10 button? :D Ah yes, yes. But, for example, by context I also meant that if you say where you read a sentence, or who told you a certain idiom, it would help natives a lot.
    – Alenanno
    Feb 10, 2012 at 16:16
  • +1 it is a must we implement something like this in the faq.
    – Takkat
    Feb 10, 2012 at 20:32
  • @Takkat Should I post this there? I can adjust here and there to make it look better. :P
    – Alenanno
    Feb 10, 2012 at 21:26
  • @Alenanno: dunno - seemed a possible place to me. But this meta post is not really active.
    – Takkat
    Feb 10, 2012 at 21:30
  • 1
    Besides that the other SE language site may do not allow translations, I do not see the point, why German->X is harder to judge. For a good translation you need knowledge in both languages. Best would be to have an native speaker for both languages and they team up for an answer, but that's utopian. So I see no problem with German->X translations if the translator thinks he knows X good enough. Feb 10, 2012 at 21:49
  • @JohnSmithers True, but if you have only one knowledge, the target language is preferred. You need less knowledge to understand a sentence rather than the one required for writing the translation.
    – Alenanno
    Feb 10, 2012 at 21:51
  • I totally agree with @JohnSmithers. All kinds of the above translations are on-topic as long as context is provided.
    – user508
    Feb 11, 2012 at 8:12
  • @Gigili Well if you think you can handle also the #5 it's ok. I didn't say it's off topic, but that it's harder to do as a translation.
    – Alenanno
    Feb 11, 2012 at 10:40
  • @Alenanno: That's why I +1-ed your post!
    – user508
    Feb 11, 2012 at 10:57
  • @Gigili Ahah yes yes I noticed, thanks. I was just saying that it's harder, unless you have a native in that target language. But for example... I know English but my native language is Italian. I know English very well, tons of study, etc, but it'll be always easier for me to use Italian as a target language. Just look at the combinations done by interpreters and translators. :D
    – Alenanno
    Feb 11, 2012 at 10:59

It is scarcely possible to confine the range in where a question is a general reference. There will always be some questions that are on the brink. On top of that, everyone will have a different opinion of what is on-topic or off-topic.

We have to consider different cases of translations request.

  • Asking for colloquial words or dialects

    I think this is not easy to define for a non-native. Of course, Duden often mentions the usage. A good question would contain the translation you expect and outlining your thoughts. But even if not, a trivial translation for one of those would be on-topic.

  • Asking for idioms, figurative meaning, etc.

    These question should be always on-topic, though you can find explanation to those idioms that are used often. For most idioms, non-natives are not able to recognize the meaning and we shouldn't discuss which one are easy to understand and which aren't.

  • Asking for an unusual word

    Here I put neologism, slang, rare used words etc. together. You will only find a couple of sources and most of them are very rudimentary. On-topic.

  • Asking for word-choice

    If you're asking for the best word in a special context, it is on-topic. Again: Non-natives don't have the feeling to choose the right word. Best practice would be to mention your best guess to show that you had thought about it before you asked.
    This is also valid for synonym requests to a word in given context.

  • Asking for any translation for a word, sentence, ...

    Off-topic, if it does not fits into one of the previous groups.

Note: It's likely that my list in incomplete. But for now, I don't come up with any more.

Regarding the question, why you post this one:
It is off-topic, because he is asking for any possible translation, giving no context or nothing else. I could give about 50 possible translations for this sentence. Some are good, and some are not. Anyway.


The rule for the FAQ has to be short to be read. Nobody will read a 5m bullet list (except me). What Alenanno wrote about research effort is the essence. The FAQ can't contain every border case. My suggestion for a short rule:

If the translation can easily be found in most dictionaries, it is off topic.

That's it.

  • 2
    I'm not the one who down-voted, but I wanted to say that what you say is theoretically correct, but it's too simple. I mean, it's true sometimes, but other times it's not, so we need to specify something. My opinion is that if users can't read a page of FAQ, then they deserve to have their questions closed. :)
    – Alenanno
    Feb 13, 2012 at 13:10

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