Related question on Area51: Are requests for translation on topic or not?

The last thing I want is for this site to turn into a version of Reddit, where there are more tattoo translation requests than questions from actual students. So it seems wise that we come up with some guidelines around what kind of translation requests are acceptable here.

Some things to consider:

  • Latin to English vs. English to Latin: any difference in how we handle them?
  • What kind/how much research should be required?
  • 7
    One thing to think about: The OP and the answerer(s) are a tiny fraction of the people who will use the question. The vast majority of people who read a question find it because they were Googling something, long after the question was posted. I think an important question might be "How can we ensure that that translation questions benefit people who find them later, and don't merely benefit the OP?" Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 12:45

3 Answers 3


I think they should be allowed like questions about porting code on Stack Overflow are: If you dump a paragraph on us and say, "Make this Latin," that's off-topic/bad. If you say, "I'm translating this sentence in this larger body and I can't figure out how this word fits in", "I'm having trouble translating this sentence, is (blah blah) correct", "How is (word) translated in this context", etc., that's at least potentially a good question.

In short, language dumps bad, specific questions good.

To answer the questions at the end of your question:

  1. No. They're both translation.
  2. There should be obvious evidence that a serious attempt was made – even just "Here's the words I could define with the Internet, and here's how I think they maybe possibly go together" would count for research.

As an example of (what I consider to be) a good question, I posted this. It's garnered a few upvotes and no downvotes, so I think it's safe to assume that everyone agrees; that kind of question is acceptable.

  • 10
    I agree strongly that evidence of a serious attempt should be a prerequisite. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 3:43
  • 3
    This policy is similar to the situation on Japanese.SE. Questions about translating with an attempt and some thoughts are on-topic. Questions asking for translation work are off-topic.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 6:11
  • What do we think of this question about duco sanitas? It shows serious effort, but I can't help thinking that it is too specific as stated. Are we prepared to answer questions like: "How do I translated the waffle is in the toaster" if the OP shows serious effort? And no, that's not supposed to be a rhetorical question.
    – brianpck
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:25
  • 1
    I tend to think these questions should be stated in their individual components: "translation of waffle" "translation of toaster" "how to convey that item X is inside of item Y"
    – brianpck
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:26
  • @brianpck I think it's a bad question because it actually doesn't show much research effort. The asked is essentially saying, "I found two words. Make it good Latin", at least the way I'm reading it.
    – Nic
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:26
  • Yes, I was being a little generous--in this case, it's hard to define "serious effort" for someone who hasn't even studied Latin :)
    – brianpck
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:27
  • @brianpck WRT your second comment: I agree, but the first two are bad, because just Googling "toaster in Latin" would give some approximation of the right word. The third would use as an example, "Panis in toastero est", and then someone would answer, "That's (not) correct, and also here's a better word for 'toaster'". Note that while we want to provide information about Latin, we are not a dictionary, and shouldn't try to be.
    – Nic
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:30
  • 1
    For what it's worth, he only asked the question after he asked a different one and we answered it and told him that if that didn't give him what he needed he should ask another question. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 23:11
  • In my opinion, the question was clearly deserving of a good answer. Latin is a daunting language for anyone who hasn't had an opportunity to learn it, particularly since it has lost favour in the past decades in sixth form / high school. I find it far more useful for a question to have context and preferably references to ancient/mediaeval ideas, than to have someone post a ‘Here’s my research effort: I got a Google Translate for y’all’. This allows the community to be generous in teaching through good answers.
    – Canned Man
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 18:13
  • @brianpck What do you think about your "waffle in the toaster" stance now?
    – cmw Mod
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 0:37
  • 2
    @cmw I mostly think the same thing. I've taken to avoiding translation requests on this site for the most part, since a lot of them are made with a specific use in view (e.g. tattoos) and will rarely be of interest to anyone else.
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 17:27

On German Language SE, we have the following rules for translation requests and I do not see any reason why they should not be applied here as well:

  1. Translation requests must be about a specific issues, i.e., a specific word, phrase, piece of grammar that the asker fails to understand or translate. This ensures that the question is not too broad and useful for future visitors.

  2. Translation requests shall not be easily answerable with a dictionary or other similar reference. Stack Exchange is not suited or intended for replacing a dictionary. If we feel that a question can be answered by a dictionary, we can close it for that reason. To avoid closure for this reasons, questions can detail why a dictionary did not help – which is a good idea in most cases anyway, as this makes it easier to answer the question.

  3. Translation requests shall require expertise of Latin, and not another language. This means that if somebody alread understands a Latin word and seeks a respective English term, they should not ask here (but on a site about the English language). On the other hand, if somebody does not understand an English term, they should not ask for a Latin translation here (though I expect this to be a rather rare case).

Further reading on these policies on German Language:


I agree with what QPaysTaxes said, but also should like to add another reason: there's very few Latin texts out there that don't already have some English translation. As one example, there are sites like the Perseus Project that let you see the Latin and English side-by-side. We shouldn't be re-creating something that already exists.

  • 1
    For the record: this is actually completely false, unless you restrict yourself to silver and golden age classical Latin, which is a negligible subset (size-wise) of the written Latin corpus :)
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 20:51

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