I would like to have some text translated from English (or another language) to Latin. I don't know any Latin myself. Can I ask my translation question on this site? If yes, how should I do it?
You don't have to know any Latin to be allowed to ask questions on this site. If you have a translation question, please answer all the following questions in your question:
- What is the text you would like to have translated?
- Where is the text from? It can be something you came up with yourself or something you found somewhere. There might already be a translation out there, and context helps.
- What do you exactly want to convey with the text? For example, the motto "above the clouds" will get a very different translation if it is for a commercial airliner instead of someone escaping domestic violence to fantasy world. Give the same thought in different words. Translation is about ideas more than words, so make sure we get the idea.
- What would the text be used for? Carved in a wedding ring, tattooed on you, written on a greeting card, or something else?
- What have you done to translate the text yourself? If nothing, just state it frankly. If you have found a similar phrase somewhere and would like to have it adapted for your purposes, that helps a lot. Please consider browsing any online Latin dictionary and looking for suitable words even if you can't quite put them together into a sentence.
- If you have a suggested translation, where is it from? You, a Latin text book, Google Translate, or someplace else? Don't just say "a book" or "a website" if you know more.
- If you have a suggested translation, are you uncertain about something specific?
Including all this information in your question can be done in 15 minutes. It is a small chore in comparison to what the people giving you an answer might do.
If you have something to add, please edit your question. Don't just post comments, but edit and improve the question. You can always do that as long as you have access to your account, which is why it is a good idea to register your account.
If your question was closed or put on hold, edit it to improve and it can be reopened. Explain and give context.
We realize that if you don't know any Latin, you can't easily offer your own translation. But you can elaborate on what you would like to have. The better your question is, the more likely you are to receive useful answers.
Anyone giving you a translation on this site is a volunteer. Be respectful and help them help you. If you want us to put effort into it, show us that you've put some effort into it too.
(I realize the below is controversial and somewhat against the current praxis of the site, but it's my opinion and perhaps ought to be explicitly stated.)
The guidance in our Help Center about on topic question includes the following among questions should generally not be asked:
translation requests or etymological queries that show no serious research effort using readily available online sources)
The German help center goes a little further:
Translation requests to German should be of general interest and should provide sufficient context. Please understand that we can not be an individual translation service.
I am of the opinion that one-off translations of mottos/tattoos/etc. should not be permitted on this site. Given that a huge majority of the questions that involve no knowledge of Latin are such translation requests, I think they should almost never be in scope.
The reason I say this is that I believe the following made-up question handily meets the criteria outlined above:
I would like to translate the phrase, "winged pigs forever." I came up with the text myself, and I just want a literal translation because it's fun and quirky. The only thing I've done is type it into Google translate, which gives me: "quod reptat et porcos in sempiternum." Is that right?
I think this kind of question should be rejected, since it has no general interest and doesn't ask any question that a Latin learner of any level could benefit from.
I realize that defining a translation of "general interest" is harder in Latin than it is in German, since it's often an interesting and controversial issue figuring out how to translate even common English phrases.
I think it lowers the quality of the questions on this site, though, to permit questions that ask for extremely specific translations that do not meet the minimal bar of asking some question of general interest, e.g.
- Is X or Y a better translation of Z?
- Can I use the dative in this way?
Perhaps I'm just being grumpy, but I don't want this to become a tattoo translation site.
The answer by Joonas Ilmavirta covers all the bases on ‘how can I make my translation request valid on Latin SE’. My general thoughts on the matter are simply that ‘If it shows effort, it is valid.’ By effort, I believe following Joonas’ list should be considered the gold standard.
My main issue is with us claiming some right to state what is and what isn’t interesting in and of itself. We might not have a particular interest in the word or sentence requested; but it could hold value to the asker, and the why of this, really is none of our business (though there certainly are other interrogative pronouns which are). One of the main goals of this sight is to be a welcoming site for anyone showing an interest in Latin and the study of Classics, and I believe that should be our guiding star, more than what could be perceived as willy-nilly downvoting – one is tempted to say: discrimination – of some unusual question.
Even a single word can be quite interesting in and of itself, such as ‘What is “blue” in Latin?’ Though one could be tempted to simply reply ‘We are not a dictionary’, answering a question such as that can be very challenging, given that that very word is the colour which gets its name the latest in almost any given language. If the user lists suggestions and context for this, we have a way of understanding how to answer it and quite the interesting challenge ahead of us – one which surely will reveal linguistics, history and culture to us.
Further, I do not consider it a problem should we be a source of tattoo translations. I myself have a tattoo which I am very proud of and which holds great personal value to me, written in Elvish with great help from cand. philol. Helge Kåre Fauskanger. Key to this translation was our communication back and forth, which gave him the context, the source, its context, what I personally wanted to communicate with it, what it would be used for, the very few things I had found myself using online sources and the book itself, and thus my not very helpful attempt at a translation, and thus why it would be too uncertain to even try to base anything off of it. (Yes, this of course retrospectively perfectly matches the list above; I believe my point has been made, though.)
In summary: If it shows effort (i.e. Joonas’ list), I believe we should allow any translation requests. The details of it may not be interesting for the user, but I have yet to come upon a translation which has not yielded some interesting linguistic secrets to me. It is my hope that we will update the site’s introduction to include Joonas’ list.