There was some debate as to whether questions asking for the meaning of a spoken dialogue heard in a movie are on topic.

What would we accept as a valid question? What should be included to make such a question answerable, and of general interest?

2 Answers 2



We should allow questions on spoken German, including questions on understanding spoken German. Such questions may also include a dialogue from a movie, a scene in a TV show, song lyrics, or other sources. They will help understanding differences from colloquial vs. elaborate German, and they will also help to understand dialectal influences to pronunciation and grammar.

But like all other questions those questions will have to follow basic rules we established to make them on topic too:

  • they should not have been asked before.
  • they should show some research effort.
  • they should be of general interest to other people who may come here.
  • a context should be provided to make possible answers correct.

Providing context may be hard because we can not upload sound samples for listening, and the audio source in question may not be available to a general audience. But we always do need the context to figure out possible meanings. If we can't provide enough context we may better not ask such a question here.

The quote should be of general interest too. This site is not a good fit for asking to translate random sentences into English. Whenever we feel it is a narrow topic, or a hardly reproducible issue we should not ask here.

Good or bad examples

  • You heard something in a famous movie but you did not understand it. If it was a well known movie it may be of general interest but at the same time we will then have little trouble to find the dialogue in the subtitles, or in a script. There is little we could add to what can be looked up there.
    Don't ask.

  • You heard something in a famous movie but you did not understand it. You did some research in subtitles or scripts but what you read there does not fit at all to what you heard. The dialogue appears to be important enough to be of general interest. Ask.

  • What did Mr. X say in movie Y at 1:37:03? You may be lucky and somebody had access to the same cut of the movie. Then it is the single word or the sentence spoken at this very position you may get. Other people with another cut of the movie will hear something different. Then only this one answer may be possibly correct, all others will inevitably fail (for you). If you did not ask for more, or did not provide context it is doubtful that this will be of general interest.
    Don't ask.

  • Why did Mr. X use this words and not different ones? Well it is art. There may have been a reason, or not. We may try to figure out good reasons for putting the words in this way, but there may have not been any.
    Still, ask.

  • You heard a dialogue using an expression you never heard before. You also failed to look it up anywhere. Still, you have the feeling that it may be a very common colloquial thing. It then may be of general interest indeed.

  • There was a funny dialogue but you did not get the pun. A profound knowledge of German may be needed for that.

  • As already mentioned in chat, I somewhat disagree with the premise of your first examples: Subtitles, scripts and transcripts are surprisingly often not available or wrong – in particular about something that is difficult to understand or translate.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 9:59
  • @Wrzlprmft refined answer.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 10:12

I address the several arguments against such questions separately:

  • Not of general interest: I think individual movies are of sufficiently general interest for a Stack Exchange as they are consumed by a wide audience. With Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & TV and Anime & Manga, there are at least three Stack Exchanges which accept questions about individual scenes or similarly detailed aspects. Also, with the same argument, we would have to ban questions on individual sentences from books, such as this or this. Though I think that not every movie might be sufficiently relevant (e.g., an amateur movie who is only available on YouTube where it has been watched by ten people, certainly isn’t), I do not think that we need to define a criterion here.

    Another aspect that ensures some general interest is the language expertise required for answering (see below): If somebody whose knowledge of German suffices to understand most of the movie cannot understand a sentence, it is likely that other viewers have the same problem.

  • Not about the German language: The question linked in the question is certainly about the German language, as it is about identifying and translating a German word. Of course, questions about the content of a movie that can for example be answered from the English version of the movie should be off-topic here.

  • »may possibly lead to an overlong debate as to which word was actually meant«: Obviously, the occurrence of the word should be sufficiently specified, e.g., by given the exact time (and edition, if applicable) or enough context. This is basically the same as for books, where you should give sufficient context.

Other prerequisites that come to mind:

  • Previous research effort: The questions should not be answerable e.g., by subtitles or available transcripts or scripts.
  • Requirement of expertise: The asker should at least be able to understand the majority of the movies dialogue.

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