This question has been closed as Off-Topic (I cast the final vote). There is this discussion on Area51 in regards to translation questions but there doesn't seem to be a definitive guide on whether we should consider these on-topic or not.

The highest voted answer on there is:

I don't think this site should function as a translation site. However, online translators often translate word-for-word, and the resulting translations often sound notoriously unnatural. So I could see presenting a piece of translated text, and then asking if that translation sounds on the mark, or asking if it flows naturally, or if could it be improved. Such inquiries might be very legitimate.

This answer seems to be on the fence saying that we should accept some, but not others.

So should we accept translation questions and if so, what are the guidelines for them?

  • The Area51 discussion was about translation of sentences or paragraphs, rather than individual words, right?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 10:37
  • 1
    @AndrewGrimm - The thing is that presenting the translated text in "English" (along with the context perhaps) is very much acceptable (and we would try to correct it as much as possible) but providing a specified word/text in a foreign language as a main subject of the question is not acceptable.
    – Mohit
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 10:44
  • @AndrewGrimm - I raised it here on our meta so that we can discuss and as a community agree on whether we accept individual word translation questions, or none at all :)
    – Deco
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 10:46
  • As long as someone is not asking for word by word translation for lengthy sentences/paragraphs, then I’m fine with it. I don’t see a problem when someone is asking for a better English word translated from other language. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


I think it depends on the information given in the question. If the question is about the translation of a word, explains in which phrases the word is used, and gives an approximate equivalent in English of those phrases (even if it is not the literal translation), then the question could be fine, as long as answerers don't need to know the language from which the word is translated.

Suppose that somebody asks the following question:

I am looking for the translation of the Italian cantone, which Google Translate translates as canton. What is a better translation?

Such a question would not be acceptable, as it doesn't explain in what context the word is used; users who answer would have to know Italian.

(To explain why my example question is not acceptable: Cantone in Italian can also mean "the corner of a room," which is the meaning the word has in stai nel tuo cantone; it is also used to mean a remote place, or a place frequented by few people. Without giving any context, it is impossible to say what is a better translation for the Italian cantone; the answer is then known only to who knows Italian.)


I don't see anything wrong with the A51 answer. It's basically saying:

  • Is the question asking us to translate something? If yes, then it's off topic.
  • Is the question asking us if something sounds natural? If yes, then it's on topic.

For a question of the second type, it's not even necessary to provide the original text (which makes it not a translation question)


Translation questions are fine, as long as the question is about the ENGLISH used in the translation.

A question such as, can you translate this (German) Marlene Dietrich song into English, is not OK, because somewone would have to know German to do this translation.

But IMHO "Here is my English translation of this (German) Marlene Dietrich song, how does my ENGLISH read?" would be ok.

  • 1
    Sort of. Proofreading is also off-topic for ELL (so here's my text - tell me where the errors are) is going to be off-topic as well. On the other hand, if the OP's question is specific (like should this verb go over here or over there in this sentence) then it might be on topic.
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 11:53

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