Proposal: English Language Learners

Given that the site specifically caters to non-native English speakers, do we want to allow straight translation questions here?

  • 1
    Think about this. Right now it's very easy for me to distinguish email spam just by how it's written. I would hate to provide services that would allow spammers to up their ability to create authentic-sounding communique.
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:09

7 Answers 7


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.

  • @J.R.- See my comment on the main question.
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:11
  • 3
    Jim: good point. Maybe we could be more lenient toward users with established reps. (Put another way, maybe we'd try to exercise discernment, esp. w/ new users.) And any question asking for translation about a sudden inheritance in Nigeria would certainly get summarily closed.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 21:22

I think the problems inherent in translation questions are scope and the need for a bilingual person who can understand the OP's intentions.

Scope is easy to solve - we give a soft word limit.

Does the SE network have enough people to adequately support translation questions? We could limit it to languages that already feature on SE (as delimited by the xL&U sites). That would of course be reliant on us getting enough bilingual members from those sites.

In conclusion - translation is something we could add later if we have the users to support it.


If the question reports what the literal translation of the phrase is, and what the OP is trying to say, then the question could be acceptable.

For example, if the question is about a phrase that has the same meaning of avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca, but the OP doesn't say nothing else, then the question would not be acceptable, IMO. If the question say that literally, the meaning is "to have the barrel full (of wine), and the wife drunk," and it is used when somebody wants to get two things where one thing exclude the other one, then maybe the question is acceptable. It all depends from the details given in the question.

For sure, I would not find acceptable a question where I am required to know two languages to answer.

  • Just as an aside, an English idiom equivalent to your example is "have your cake and eat it too". Which you probably already know, but anyway. :)
    – Martha
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 23:39

I think, generally translation related questions are not suitable for this kind of site. Since, most of them are only getting the translated word from another word, they can be served by Google translator or something similar site.

Also, I think, translation related answers tend to be very long and can create long discussion, if there are more than one opinion about the exact translated word.

In short, My opinion is No, We should not accept translation questions?


I think some translation questions would be fine. The following bullet points summarize my opinion of cases where questions should be considered on- or off-topic.


  • Questions about understanding parts of the translation process
  • The asker does not understand certain phraseology that does not make sense in a literal translation
  • The asker needs help understanding English grammatical constructions in terms of the grammatical constructions of another language
  • The asker has tried Google Translator (or a similar tool), but a particular sentence or paragraph is incomprehensible


  • Questions such as, "Please translate this text because automated translation isn't good enough and I am too lazy to try translating it myself."
  • Questions asking for long translations, e.g. "Please translate this book."

Additionally, the FAQ should point out that we are not a translation service.


I agree with J.R. Google Translate aside, there are numerous other translation sites on the internet. Unfortunately, as many people know, computers are, as of yet, incapable of natural speech, and the phrasing usually sounds terrible, with the exception of a few language-pairings, and in some cases too lengthy, because they do indeed translate word for word without regard for context or even syntax.


I don't think thats a good idea. If someone needs to translate something, their first thought is never gonna be lets goto ELL and wait for someone to translate my sentance. Everyone just goes to translate.google.com/ and lets google translate the language, and make inferences on the possible meaning behind it.

I suggest we don't offer translations, but we provide a closed thread with a direct link to google translate.

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