I recently came across an interesting and well-written answer by Alex B. about why the j in subicio seemingly disappears in Lewis and Short, but found that part of the evidence he provides in the answer is in German. As someone who does not understand German, but would still like to read the quote, I found myself unsure of what to do exactly. I used Google Translate (shudder), and understood the general gist of the quotes, but this is certainly not the best way to attain the true meaning. As a result of all this, I came up with a set of questions about the way in which one should cite a source that is originally in another language:

  1. In which language should quotes from a foreign source be?
    • Should the quote be in the original language?
    • Should the quote be in the same language as the answer?
  2. Does a translation need to be provided?
    • Should the answerer provide a translation into the same language as the answer?
    • Should the answerer provide both the original and a translation?
    • What if there is no official translation available, does the answerer need to translate the quote themselves?
  3. To what languages does this apply?
    • The lingua franca of this site is English, so should translations always be to English?
    • Some questions are written in Latin entirely, so should translations of quotes then be to Latin?
    • Do Latin passages or citations need to be treated in the same way, i.e. provided along with a translation?

Obviously, there are many nuances based on the question, but I figured this is something at least addressing.

  • Good question! I would say there is no need nor must; it's up to the answerer and common sense. But ideally, one would provide the original text and translate it to English/Latin as well.
    – Cerberus Mod
    Dec 28, 2017 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


Thanks for bringing this up! We cannot have a rigid policy across the whole site, because circumstances vary and we cannot really enforce it. However, discussion is useful.

The poster — be it in a question or an answer — has the freedom to do as they see fit, and others can express their opinions through comments and votes. The main mechanism for encouraging specific kinds of behavior is voting and commenting. If I feel that an otherwise good post relies too much on something in a language I don't understand, I might not vote up. If a translation is provided, the post becomes more useful to at least me and it earns ten (or more) points.

A translation from German to English will make the post more useful to a number of users. The same applies to other languages as well, even including Latin; not all users here have the proficiency to read long passages. If the original poster (OP) did not provide a translation, anyone else is free to. If you see something that you would like to see translated, act on it: give a translation yourself or ask for one in a comment. The translation can be hand-made or from a translation of the book or similar. As always, if something is quoted extensively, citation is required.

If you think you can improve a question or an answer without changing the message, go ahead and edit it. Providing a translation for a German quote is a good example of this. If the user dislikes the edit for some reason, they can easily undo it; I don't think there is a need to ask for permission. If you are unsure, you can always request that someone provide a translation (or transcription of an image from a book) or ask whether something is as intended.

If you have something more substantial to add to an answer, you can always post it as a separate one. (I wish there was a way to reward substantial improvements by editing other users' posts.) I am unable and unwilling to give any strict policies: just do what feels right and ask for help if needed.

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