Recently we had two questions where the askers had heard some strange German words or phrases and wanted to know their meaning. In both cases it turned out that the other person had said something else and the asker had heard it wrong. While one of these two received 4 close votes and a lengthy discussion whether it was off-topic, the other just passed silently to this regard.

Is there a reason (that I do not yet see) why these two questions got such a different reception? How should we generally handle questions where the asker heard something that most likely is not what the other person said?

There already was a discussion here about questions that were caused by a simple typo. One could argue that what I am asking about is kind of an "acoustical typo". Should we handle both cases equally?


1 Answer 1


It is probably a similar approach to these question as has been adressed before:

The points I made there need little adaption only, so I may repeat myself here.

We should allow questions on spoken German, including questions on understanding spoken German. 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 narrow possible correct answers.

Providing context may be hard because we can not upload sound samples for listening. 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. A poorly understood phrase may be frequent, and the reasons for any misunderstanding may be the same for many people. Only in this case we may ask here.

Good or bad examples

  • You heard something but you did not understand it. If it was a very commmon, well known phrase it may be of general interest but at the same time we will then have little trouble to find a correct transcription. There is little we could add to what can be looked up by searching internet sources for a similar context.
    Don't ask.

  • You heard something 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.

  • You missed something in a conversation you could only partly follow. Only in case we had enough context we may eventually be able to guess what you may have missed. Still, there may be too many possible alternatives leading to an endless debate. This will be beyond the scope of the site. Don't ask.

  • Why did somebody use this words and not different ones? Well it is the art of good conversations. 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.

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