I don't really have a good plan as to how. But a recent question: An interesting postcard struck me as interesting and valuable enough not to merit the usual vote close that we use to keep the wolves at bay.

Is there any sort of space on japanese.se for question related to hand-written documents that are difficult to read or for questions related to 書道-based issues or are these destined for the same heap as the normal "translation request"?

2 Answers 2


There's a clear difference between "how do I say blank in Japanese?" or "what does blank mean in English?" and questions like the postcard one that might actually warrant help from a specialized community. I don't think that anyone here would agree that copy/pasting a chunk of text or posting an image of a clearly legible word or phrase and asking for a straight translation should stay open. The postcard one, on the other hand, is asking for help deciphering handwritten text. It's not that the person doesn't know Japanese and needs help translating (or at least I assume). Rather it's a question that potentially requires special experience with or knowledge of how to read Japanese handwriting.

Does the question just indicate someone who doesn't know Japanese who is too lazy to research it or is just trying to use us as a translation service? Close it. Does the task require a special set of skills beyond what would normally fall under straight translation? For example difficult/nuanced words, idiomatic expressions, etc. that even someone with familiarity with the language might have trouble with. These should be, and it seems generally have been, allowed, so long as the asker provides enough information so as to prevent it from being "here, what's this mean?"

I think the most important benchmark is, however, whether the question as it stands would be valuable to the rest of the community. I feel that the postcard question is an interesting one, and it has gotten a lot of votes, and looking at the question and the answers, I came away with new knowledge about Japanese. That, to me, is the mark of a successful question.


I think it's still a decision of the community. The system is such that it's enough to find 5 people who will put in a close vote for a question to be closed. You (and anyone else with 500 points) can vote to reopen the question.

Being a regular user, I usually see off-topic translation requests closed in a matter of hours. At the time of writing of this post, the question has been there for 8 hours with only 1 close vote, 6 upvotes and 1 answer (with 6 upvotes). I'd think it unlikely that people will vote to close this particular question and questions which are of a similar nature.

Off-topic translation requests, like elephants, are "difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it". Of course one could put a "Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless the community deems them on-topic", but that is just awkward. Anyway, personally, I enjoy most such questions, as long as they have a high curiosity factor.

There are more questions, which strictly speaking are translation requests, but are still not closed (yet):

Typing Japanese text from images or clothing

I have no idea what my old shirt says. Can anyone help?

All in all, I don't think there is anything to discuss (yet).

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