To me, it seems we're incentivising bad behaviour if we respond to translation requests with comments that they are against the rules, but provide a translation anyway.

Should we avoid providing translations so that we don't look like we're not enforcing this rule?

2 Answers 2


My personal opinion is that giving a translation in the comments on first posts is OK. We do communicate the rules of our community (simple translation requests are off-topic), but also communicate that we're willing to help. I think this is more important than a strict rule against such comments.

(Of course from time to time there are users, who try to use take advantage of this and repeatedly post translation requests, hoping for a response in the comments. But I don't think it happens that often, and the community quickly notices that they're deliberately ignoring the rules and most people become quickly less willing to help.)

  • 3
    Fair enough, I agree. Unless there are repeated abuses of this from the same posters, I guess the directive to be helpful is probably more important.
    – jogloran
    Aug 28, 2021 at 21:27
  • 1
    Yeah, many new users who make translation requests react quite negatively to neutrally phrased refusals that don't include a translation. I assume it's because they thought it was obvious that it would be an allowed question type and feel a bit defensive to the idea that they "broke a rule." Including the translation softens it quite a bit, and as noted, it doesn't usually end up being a repeat thing.
    – Leebo
    Aug 30, 2021 at 1:01

I've done this many times and I have to admit I never actually checked for repeat offenders when I probably should've. I agree with Earthliŋ that giving newcomers the benefit of the doubt is the way to go, not only to cultivate a welcoming community but also because the help center guidelines for asking good, on-topic questions is not obviously accessible from the JLSE homepage or even from the Ask a public question page.

Sure, there's a Helpful links section in the sidebar, but on my laptop screen it barely shows up in the bottom right corner of the monitor so it's easy to miss (see image).

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As a language Stack Exchange, it's not unreasonable to think that newcomers believe this could be a place for translations. That combined with the reduced visibility of this website's guidelines makes it unlikely that newcomers will actually notice the off-topic/no translations agreement on JLSE.

Moreover, rather than telling unaware newcomers that they should go to another platform and go through the hassle of potentially making yet another account simply to translate a Japanese image or birthday message, I think giving the translation in a comment is a negligible effort compared to the inconvenience put on the new user otherwise.

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