Most of the questions that we have downvoted and closed as off-topic on the Japanese Language Stack Exchange site have violated one (or more) of the following guidelines.

Note that almost none of these are beyond debate on meta. If a strong majority that opposes any one of these rules emerges, these will be modified. I would ask, however, that users who disagree with any of these rules please open a seperate meta thread to discuss their objections, and keep this proposed FAQ entry relatively focused. (We can make a link from here to the discussion thread)

Also note that none of these are offtopic in the Japanese SE chatroom, and we welcome conversations about all of these topics in that environment.


6 Answers 6


We don't do translations, proofreading, character identification, or audio deciphering

We do not offer a direct translation service. Our resources page shows several dictionaries that could and should be used to look up individual words. Asking questions such as "What is X in Japanese/English?", "Can you help me identify this kanji/text?", or "What is this person saying in this clip?" are likely to be closed fairly quickly.

This can be somewhat nuanced however, since many questions on the site take the form of "I thought X meant Y, but that meaning doesn't fit in sentence Z". This is allowed, since these questions will usually reflect idiomatic or more complicated usages, and it's hard to describe them as "translation" questions at all.

At the phrase level, the community strongly frowns upon questions that can be summarized as "<long Japanese phrase here> What does it mean?" or "Please just check everything about this text". On the other hand, questions that display the asker understands most of the phrase, but is simply confused about how an individual word or grammatical structure fits into the sentence are encouraged. Sometimes the misunderstood part of the phrase will radically change the meaning, but that is not the asker's fault.

At the character/text level, we also take exception with questions like "What do these kanji on my shirt say?" or "What does this tattoo mean?" However, questions such as "I know this character is 喜, but it's written like 㐂... what the heck is going on here?", or "This kanji appears to be in cursive. What's the standard form it is derived from?" that indicate adequate research efforts will probably be acceptable.

Also note that context is vitally important any time you are veering close to a "translation question", and occasionally can redeem what is otherwise a close-worthy question.

Alternative Websites for Translations and Proofreading

  • Users who aren't interested in learning the Japanese language and simply want translations done for free may be interested in reddit's /r/translator site.

  • Users looking for proofreading or a check of the grammaticality of their constructed sentence(s) may be interested in Lang-8, or HiNative.

    • Lang-8 allows you to post long journal-like entries and the community will review and correct your sentences. You can also receive feedback through comments and messages.
    • HiNative allows question types such as "How do you say this?" and "Does this sound natural?". It is useful for asking about short sentences and phrases. For feedback on longer paragraphs you may want to consider Lang-8 instead.
  • italki is another language exchange website. After signing in, in the top bar you can access the COMMUNITY tab. Under that tab you can select Notebook and then Write a notebook entry and get corrections from the community.

  • Other options are listed on our resources list under Websites->"Conversation Exchange"

Related Meta Discussions

meta discussion on translation

meta discussion on proofreading / translation checks

  • 3
    In the same vein, I think there should be a separate close option for "We don't do audio deciphering". In my opinion, "tell me what they are saying in this sound clip" is akin to "tell me what they are saying with these written words", as thus is a similar type of "translation". See japanese.stackexchange.com/q/23680/78 as an example. I voted to close, but there wasn't really an appropriate option. Of course these can be nuanced as well, but overall, it just seems like another "service" we should avoid providing.
    – istrasci
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 23:01
  • 10
    We should probably clarify that using Google Translate doesn't count as making your own translation attempt.
    – user1478
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:34

We don't violate the general stack exchange guidelines (Theoreticals, Popularity Contests, non-questions)

The StackExchange-wide FAQ lists several types of questions which are not permitted. Here are the example bad questions:

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Depending on the individual guideline, questions could be closed as "too broad", "opinion-based", or just "off-topic".

  • 2
    Regarding “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”: I think this could be part of a question as long as it's not the main question. For example, from a recent question, you could ask "What is the meaning of ~んです?" and then explain what you think it is and ask if other people feel it means the same thing. I feel like a lot of parts of Japanese have subtle, hard-to-define meanings, so I don't think it would be wrong to include this with some questions.
    – atlantiza
    Commented May 5, 2012 at 3:08

We don't do "how do I study X?" questions

We are focused on the language itself, not educational methods or study systems. We'd rather not talk about flashcards vs sentence-memorization. We are particularly harsh on "how do I keep myself motivated?"-type questions, as these are well beyond the limits of the language. Some of these questions may be on topic on the language learning stack exchange site.

We do reference various methods and tools for studying Japanese on our resources page. Several of the resources explain mechanisms for studying different aspects of the language.

Once again, the chatroom is likely to be particularly conducive to these types of questions. Questions asked on the main site will usually be closed as off topic.


We don't do technical setup questions

We are focused on the language itself, not on computer software that is required to use the language. Super User or a more specific site (such as Ask Different, Unix and Linux, or Ask Ubuntu) might be more appropriate for such questions.

Technical questions about the site itself should be asked on meta. Allowed questions on meta include topics such as how to make the furigana system or URL forwarding (such as to amazon.co.jp or other Japanese URLs) work. Our site-specific features are at least briefly documented in the formatting FAQ.


We don't do purely cultural questions

The questions need to relate to the language, since that is the focus of the site. Language is heavily tied up in culture, and cultural context will often be an important part of the language discussion, but the question fundamentally must be about the language, not the culture.

Note that asking a translation question about a cultural item is frowned upon, but so far they have not been closed outright.


We don't do resource questions

Questions about resources are off-topic on this site. Asking for dictionaries, books, streaming audio and other forms of books/software/anime/etc will generally result in the question being downvoted (unnecessarily) and closed as off-topic.

To help new users navigate the wide world of japanese learning materials, we have created a list of resources that new users (and others) may find useful: Resources for learning Japanese.

Conversations about learning materials are very welcome in the site chatroom.

This decision came from a series of meta discussions as the site was starting up. If you have comments, please participate in those discussions or start a new meta question.


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