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On the Area 51 page about German.stackexchenge you can read this:

German Language
Beta Q&A site for students having questions about German, expert speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation questions from any language to German.

So when I read this, I might think it is ok to ask questions like this:

  1. What is the German translation for the finish word saippuakivikauppias? I've heard, that it is the worlds longest palindrome that is noted in a dictionary.

  2. Auf einer koreanischen Speisekarte ist ein Mann abgebildet. In einer Sprechblase steht 배고파. Was heißt das auf Deutsch?

But when I read the rules in the help center, I can read this:

Translation requests to German should always be of general interest and should provide sufficient context. Please understand that we can not be an individual translation service.

So is it allowed to ask my example-questions? Both of them provide all context that can be given, and »general interest« is a very vague and unclear definition.

Shouldn't there be a more precise definition which translation-requests are allowed? Shouldn't there be a note on Area 51, that not every translation-request is on-topic?

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    You should clarify why the help section and the related meta post on this topic did not help you in your specific concern. Both of your example questions would be off topic because they can easily be answered by a simple dictionary search. – Takkat Jul 18 '15 at 12:14
  • I often hear the argument »It is off topic because it can easily be answered by a simple dictionary search«. But I can't find this reason anywhere in the help section. And this is exactly what I mean: Shouldn't there be a more precise definition which translation-requests are allowed? – Hubert Schölnast Jul 18 '15 at 12:59
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    "If your question could be answered by a dictionary, a grammar book, or another general reference, consult these. Explain why this did not help you when asking your question." - this was added in 2014 as a the result of long discussions here on meta, in chat, and in hundreds of comments on closed posts. – Takkat Jul 18 '15 at 13:05
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    I believe what is said on Area 51 is simply outdated. Area 51 serves to give an initial definition for what a site is about, but after its launch, the scope can be further clarified and modified here on meta. – chirlu Jul 18 '15 at 13:19
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TL;DR: Translation requests to German should not be about understanding the meaning of a word or phrase from another language but sufficiently describe this meaning – we can only translate what we understand.

There is hardly any difference between the following:

  • A request for a single word or phrase that has a certain given meaning.
  • A request for the German equivalent of a given word of another language, if the word has a sufficiently clear and narrow meaning or the request is further specified for some meaning of the other language’s word.

The only difference between the two is that the desired meaning is not specified directly but by using a word in another language.

The central issue with such translation requests is that they should be about looking for a German word, and not about understanding the meaning of the other language’s word. In the latter case they first belong on the Stack Exchange of the respective language (if one exists). However, if the meaning of a word was successfully identified on another language’s Stack Exchange, this may form the basis of a translation request on our site.

English differs from other languages mainly by being well known amongst the visitors of this site; so if an English word or phrase is is not ambiguous, rare or exotic, it can be expected that a great deal of potential answerers understands it and thus that a further explanation of the word’s meaning is not necessary. With other languages, providing such an explanation is much more important, at least if you want an answer to your question.

That being said, the meaning of some words is very difficult to capture by means of other words (in another or the same language), e.g., the German word Heimat. So, if somebody understands the meaning of such a word and somewhat illustrates the problem of translating it (i.e., what does a dictionary say, etc.), it’s fine by me if they ask about it here. This question may not receive a good answer or take long to do so, but that does not invalidate the question – it’s okay or even good if some questions are difficult.

By the way, we have at least one translation question from a language other than English to German: Wie kann man 気持ちいい am besten auf Deutsch ausdrücken?

So is it allowed to ask my example-questions? Both of them provide all context that can be given, and »general interest« is a very vague and unclear definition.

I would vote to close them. There is no indication that you understand the respective words and it’s not clear to me that a general reference such as a dictionary would not have helped you. If you address these issues, the questions may be acceptable.

  • In conclusion, most translation requests (which tend to be closed quickly) could be reopened if phrased differently, i.e. if they described the desired meaning and not just provided the English word or phrase. English L&U.SX is full of such word requests, often by native speakers. – Crissov Nov 11 '15 at 9:47

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