As the editor/curator of a game fanzine, I have an agreement with the editor/curator of a similar fanzine written in Spanish that allows each of us to select articles from the other and translate to our own language. Generally, I use Google Translate and then ‘clean it up’ based on my subject matter knowledge and my own native fluency in English. My question amounts to “How closely must I adhere to literal translation?”. Would ELU be the place to ask, or would Writing be more approprate, or is there another stack that I should look to?

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    'must' is a very strong requirement for either.
    – Mitch
    Apr 11, 2023 at 23:23
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    You need a professional translator — Google and “clean it up” don’t cut it. To test this, ask a professional translator to translate your fanzine-partner’s translation of your text back into English. You will likely be horrified. Apr 15, 2023 at 3:23
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    @TinfoilHat - You misunderstand the situation: I am using Google-and-cleanup to go from original text in Spanish (which I don't know) into English (which is my native language), and I'm a "subject matter expert", so I know whether what Google is giving me as a translation is "in the ballpark sensible". I would never rely on Google to translate to a language I don't know; I'd rely on native speakers or professional translators. The editor of the Spanish-language fanzine uses his own translator (who may or may not be a pro) to go from original English material in my 'zine to Spanish in his. Apr 17, 2023 at 11:37
  • Do you have a specific question about a particular translation of a word or phrase? Just asking "how closely should I translate in general?" seems too vague and opinion-based for either SE, and will depend on a lot of factors such as what you're translating (medical texts must be translated more accurately than science fiction), precise contractual details/whether you'll get in trouble for misrepresenting the original author, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 18, 2023 at 11:23
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    @StuartF - It's definitely recreational SF rather than something technical; I'd characterize it as mostly being close to "If I translate «phrase» literally, it will be understandable and grammatical, but phrased awkwardly. Should I translate literally anyway, or would it be better to use the equivalent non-awkward English?". Apr 18, 2023 at 11:32

1 Answer 1


English Language and Usage: The Trees

ELU deals mostly with very specific questions. Single words. Phrases. Idioms. If your translation question can be distilled into a fill-in-the-blank problem, you can ask here. Note that you need to be able to explain the meaning of what you're trying to translate in English for it to be on topic (otherwise you'd have to ask about the meaning on the relevant non-English Language site first). Translation questions like these can end up with a lot of equally good answers, some of which may approach it from different angles (e.g., answering with plain language vs. an idiom).

Here's a good example of a translation question from ELU:

Writing: The Forest

Writing SE is about big-picture questions, which may also be more subjective than questions on other sites. While the Q&A is in English by authors who usually plan to write in English, most of the questions aren't about English as the answers would apply no matter the language asked about (and there are even a few that are about languages other than English).

Here's a good example of a translation question from Writing:


For your question, probably Writing, but that's just my opinion as the only person to ever be elected as a moderator both sites :p

  • Looking at both example questions, I think my question would be on the borderline for specific examples, though for the general principle, my inclination is to agree with your explanation, and that I should probably 'default' to Writing rather than ELU. Thank you. Apr 12, 2023 at 17:45

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