I'd like to discuss the close reason post notice for when a question is closed for being off topic under the translation/transcription/proofreading reason following the discussion in chat.

I'd like to discuss 2 main points:

  1. Editing it to sound less harsh and more helpful

  2. Issues I think "prior research effort" may be causing

This is the current post notice:

Questions asking for translations, transcriptions or proofreading are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not to provide a bulk translation service nor to proofread your translations or transcriptions. See: We don't do translations

The meta link not only explains our policy on such questions, it also suggests alternative sites to help solve translation requests.

However, I feel that the link is not inviting enough to be clicked on. Right now it feels like it is saying "it is off topic, here's why" which doesn't sound very helpful to a person that is new to the Stackexchange Q&A site format and is just innocently trying to find a quick and/or simple solution.

So, what if we edited it to convey "it's off topic, and here's where you can go instead" :

... ... For our site's policy and alternative solutions, see: We don't do translations

I feel that by making that link more inviting, it may help mitigate the problem I'm about to point out below (translation requests turning into proofreading requests), since we can include explanations or suggestions to help improve such questions in that meta post. (Because the close reason blurb is at most 400 characters long and we can't fit it all on it so I think the meta post is a good place to put such information)

Now for the second issue. I think "prior research effort" may be the best phrase we can come up with but it doesn't stop the problem I'm about to illustrate.

I feel that many translation questions end up on this path:

  • Asker posts a translation request
  • Comments are left to encourage user to make "their own attempt" at the sentence
  • Translation request is updated with a customary "own attempt"
  • Question is now essentially "I want to convey ~, my sentence is ~, is my sentence correct?" which is a proofreading request and still off topic as defined under the close reason.
  • Question gets closed or stays closed, asker feels he didn't receive any help.

There are two ways I think translation questions eventually turn out. The first kind just gains a constructed sentence to fulfil the "prior effort" criteria and the user asks if it's correct or not (which is not entirely unlike proofreading). This generates answers of this type: "your sentence is good", "your sentence is bad", "use this sentence instead".

The second kind has a useful answerable question. The asker not only constructs a sentence, but lists the alternative words or phrases that were considered, and asks why these words/phrases were appropriate or not appropriate. Or, the asker sets up a specific problem he faces by explaining the context or circumstances that require him to respond in a certain way. This generates answers of this type: "you can't use this because...", "you have to use this because..."

Here's where I appeal to the community for discussion on this topic:

  • How can we edit it to be helpful? Do you think it is fine as it is?
  • Do you think the current phrasing "prior research effort" is useful in preventing translation/proofreading and translation→proofreading requests? Can we improve it or is it fine as it is?
  • I think it is fine as it is. Most of users who ask for translation or proofreading don't come back based on my experience on English and other language sites. We don't need to be more friendly. I think the close-reason on Japanese SE is far friendlier and less harsh than that of English Language and Usage.
    – Rathony
    Nov 8, 2016 at 19:04
  • I think this is a good question. Sometimes, you can see, OP needs not the "literal" translation, but the help about "how to express **** kind of situations" things. I think or hope there would be some room for ugh, something like ugh, "how to express" tag.
    – user7644
    Dec 9, 2016 at 11:30

1 Answer 1


Edit. Incorporating @snailplane's suggestion in chat:

Questions asking for translations, transcriptions or proofreading are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified.

See How to ask translation questions for how to improve your question to be reopened. Also see Alternative websites for proofreading.

The first link is would be to a meta post "How to ask translation questions" (with a better title).

This post would explain what I find myself repeating over and over again in comments: a good set of pointers of how to improve the question. Something like

  • Give your own attempt
  • Show us what you found (dictionaries, ...)
  • Explain why you think this sentence is different or more difficult (e.g. context suggests more idiomatic usage, translated straight doesn't make any sense, etc.)

This way, the post notice would give not only the rationale behind closing the question, but also the concrete steps to improve the question. (This is also often done in comments: "have you checked the entry for *blah* on http://jisho.org/?") I guess that many of the easy questions may actually be answered by OP himself, which is often the case now. And more difficult questions are welcome to stay if stated more concisely, including "background research".

  • How about a translation request with only a few words? We may see people who insist "I can't read Japanese at all, but my concern is this small text as a whole! How can I be more specific?"
    – naruto
    Nov 27, 2016 at 8:06
  • @naruto What do you mean? Do you think translation requests of only a few words should be on-topic? Or that they are off-topic, but this is not explained well in the draft of the Close Reason?
    – Earthliŋ Mod
    Nov 27, 2016 at 8:33
  • The latter. People who posts questions like this one may not understand why the question was closed from this draft. Maybe we can add "source of concern ... is clearly identified through your own research effort"?
    – naruto
    Nov 28, 2016 at 1:39
  • @naruto I'm not convinced adding "through your own research effort" is clear enough. Maybe something like "unless details of your own efforts are given and a specific source of concern is clearly identified". In any case, the post "How to ask translation questions" (which hasn't been written) should contain all the details.
    – Earthliŋ Mod
    Nov 29, 2016 at 6:51

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