I am a Chinese user and I learned International Journalism back in University, during school class, I gradually developed an intrest on translation, but there is no such language-oriented QA community in Chinese websites, so I find it quite intriguing when I find english.stackexchange.com ;

but, when I read the FAQ about "what questions can we ask?", I found it forbidden asking questions about translation, I really want to know why,

can any of the admins here offer an explanation?

  • 3
    Welcome and congratulations on reading the FAQ! This question is about the site itself and belongs on Meta. Moderators should be able to move it to the right place.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 30, 2012 at 6:31
  • 3
    The answer is really simple. Let me illustrate it. Can you, Jenny, translate "высокоавтоматизированный"? Are you fluent in Hungarian, Basque, and Old Church Slavonic? Are you interested in translations from Afrikaans at all? The site would need a critical mass of active and knowledgeable users for every language of the world, not just Chinese and English. Failing that, it would be chock-full of too localized, ignored, unanswered and unanswerable questions. A useless and deserted site.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 30, 2012 at 9:25
  • @ЯegDwight Google Translate is highly automated, but it does get things wrong sometimes. Which is where ELU can help, of course.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 31, 2012 at 17:48

3 Answers 3


This is a site meant for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. If we open the door for translation, it would then be flooded with all kinds of translation questions that are not what it is supposed to be used for. Nonetheless, you may ask a question asking for a word or phrase provided you define exactly the meaning the word or phrase is intended to have. You may also ask questions about whether a sentence is grammatical provided you do some research first and show clearly what the cause of doubt is.

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    +1 for provided you do some research first and show clearly what the cause of doubt is. That's extremely good advice for all newcomers to this site: do the research first, and include the results of that research in your question. That benefits everyone because (a) we can more easily understand where the confusion rests, and (b) we can see that you made an earnest attempt to solve the problem before asking it here. Both of those factors will make your question be appreciated more.
    – J.R.
    Aug 30, 2012 at 8:46

The basic reason we don't do translation is as ЯegDwight commented: in order to do a proper translation, you really need to know both languages well, perhaps even fluently. If we were to accept translation questions, we'd need to dig up experts for every single language, and that's almost impossible to do. And then we'd need to find additional expert or near-expert speakers of each language, in order to vote on answers, because you can't judge the accuracy of a translation if you don't know what the original said.

That said, you can ask translation questions here, as long as you can state them as a different type of question. In other words, translate the word or phrase yourself — describe what it means and in what context it's used — and then ask about the part you're not sure about. For example, ask if there is a more idiomatic equivalent, or whether the word you came up with is actually correct for the intended concept (sometimes words or phrases don't mean what they sound like they ought to mean).

As with all questions, do your research — look things up in a good dictionary and/or thesaurus, make sure your question isn't covered in the first chapter of your grammar textbook, etc. — and, just as importantly, describe what your research found. We're not mindreaders.


你好Jenny and welcome to EL&U.

What Will said is important, providing research effort is the key. This way, even an apparently simple question would be accepted, because it would mean that despite this "easy" factor and your efforts, the question could not be solved easily.

Note also that asking for a translation of a long text, it might not be the case. If you have a long translation, don't ask for all of it. Try translating it, and then come here to ask for assistance for the most hard parts, (again) provided:

  • you tried it yourself
  • you show it in your question
  • you give detail and context

Enjoy your stay. :)

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