16

I believe that in Area 51, it was discussed that questions in the format above would not be accepted. Are we still doing that?

17

Yes, these questions should be allowed.

They're about conlangs; they're perfectly answerable (either by an actual translation or by a demonstration that no such exists); they're the type of question that someone studying conlangs is likely to have, and that an expert in conlangs is likely to be able to answer. They seem to tick all the boxes for what 'should' be on-topic here. What problems could they possibly cause?

To me they're like sprouts. I don't like them myself but I don't see any reason why people who do like them shouldn't be allowed to eat them.
Sprouts are bleh. But I wouldn't want to ban them from vegetables.SE because of that.

-- AE, a wise user on Puzzling SE

... as long as they don't overrun the site.

Answering my own question: a potential problem with questions of this type could be that they start to form a majority of the site's questions, pushing more advanced and hard-to-answer questions out of attention. But unless and until that becomes a problem, I don't think they're causing anyone any harm. They're

like... The cabbage, radishes and shredded carrots that some sushi shops put on the platter before stacking up the meat & rice. They make the plate look nice and full, and they're something to chew on once you've eaten all the meat [...] Like those slivers of carrot, such questions can potentially give answerers something to chew on while they're waiting for the meat... But you still gotta have plenty of meat.

-- Shog9 (in relation to a different discussion, but a point which I think applies well here)

We can judge their quality by voting.

Now I'm not saying that questions like "how to say 'hello' in Sindarin", which can be immediately answered by a quick Google search, should be welcomed with open arms. I just don't think that all translation requests should be banned as a category; some of them are actually hard to answer and require some real expertise in the topic. We can distinguish these two types by voting: downvote easy or poorly researched questions, but upvote those of higher quality.


For the record, Science Fiction and Fantasy has had a largely very positive experience with questions about translations from fictional languages. The relevant meta discussion had a strong unanimous consensus in favour of allowing such questions, and some of them have attracted both very high scores and very interesting and well-thought-out answers.

  • 1
    Obviously, they are by default allowed, I was more about the second point. But yes, you are correct: I was quite worried they'd overrun the site. – VortexYT Feb 6 '18 at 23:57
  • 2
    I already consider them to be overrunning the site. I also feel like they’re setting a bad precedent. I don’t find them to be absolutely unjustifyable, but as @curiousdannii wrote they should definitely show that their own research has not yielded any results. – Adarain Feb 7 '18 at 1:17
  • I do agree that the site shouldn't be allowed to be spammed up with questions like "how do you say 'carrot' in Esperanto?" and the like that can be answered with a simple Google search or other basic research. However, if there is a reason that a given translation is particularly tricky, I wouldn't consider it off-topic. For example, the toki pona "right/left" issue is apparently interesting enough to cause interminable arguments on Facebook and elsewhere at relatively regular intervals. On the other hand, that also makes it hard to get a solid answer... – kristan Feb 7 '18 at 6:54
5

I think that most of the language sites don't allow them, and I think that would be wise here. On ELU they're a blight that cannot be expunged.

Even if the community decides they should be allowed, I propose that it is absolutely essential that these questions show their research/work. That means citing dictionaries, both official and unofficial, and showing why the answer can't be found elsewhere.

  • Unlike other languages, and their sites, most conlangs do not have a massive online and offline reference established after centuries of use. There are some resources, and a simple question that Internet searching would answer should be voted down, into oblivion hopefully. That's not the same as off topic, which I do not think applies here. – user4 Feb 7 '18 at 1:42
  • 1
    +1 to this. I don’t mind translation requests that actually require the input of an expert and can’t just be found by searching the right wiki. – Adarain Feb 7 '18 at 1:50
3

Yes.

Even after a translation has been provided, different and potentially better or more accurate translations can still be added by users with further expertise that know more about the language than the current answers have provided.

I believe that a type of question is valuable to this Stack Exchange site if:

  • It's on-topic based on a very vague definition based on the site name; translations into/from natural languages such as French or German belong to those respective language sites.
  • It provides content that can help future users with the same problems.

Additionally, since other language Stack Exchange sites such as french.SE, allow translations, I believe that conlangs.SE should do the same.

  • Please ping me in chat to disagree or suggest improvements to avoid cluttering the comments. If you strongly disagree but have no particular reasons, please downvote this post and move along or upvote a "No" post if/once one is made. – HyperNeutrino Feb 6 '18 at 23:20
2

I'd say it depends. If it is just a boring translation request then it should not be allowed. For example How to say "strong woman" in Toki Pona? should be considered off-topic as it is something one can learn from courses and books.

On the other hand, questions requesting translation in a specific (cultural?) context should be on-topic. For example How would you say “good morning” or “hello” politely in Klingon? is a fine question as it requires extra knowledge about the cultural context of the language to provide a good answer. In this particular case a person posting an answer has to provide an explanation of why their translation of hello is considered polite in Klingon, which gives a much deeper view into the conlang than a similar question asking for a translation of hello to Klingon would give.

  • 4
    Is there a clear line between these two types of question? Personally I think it's a distinction that can be drawn by voting: DV your first example, UV the second, but don't deem either "off-topic". (By the way, sometimes voting is very skewed in the private beta stage, so don't draw too many conclusions from how questions like this have been voted on so far :-) ) – Rand al'Thor Feb 7 '18 at 0:00
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor I'd say that we should upvote a question if it asks about something you cannot easily derive from a grammar book and a dictionary. :) – Mateusz Piotrowski Feb 7 '18 at 0:04
  • If it is a simple translation request, "how to say friend in elvish", the it deserves a down vote: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful" is what I see as the tooltip for a down vote, and that seems to be perfect for such questions. It's not off-topic, it's also not a good question. – user4 Feb 7 '18 at 1:34

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