Recently I have notice that the site is having more and more asking for translation questions as well as some other off topic ones. This makes me feel bad for contributing to the site as the quality of the questions are going downhill. I would therefore really suggest us be more serious on those questions and make the site better.

I would like to ask for your opinions on this.

Also, could the moderators clarify if the questions below are valid

Please may someone tell me what this symbol means?

What does my tattoo mean?

Need translation please

What language is this tattoo? what does it mean?

I really could not imagine anyone other than the original poster who is going benefit from those questions. Our site and members are not serving as translators! Why do we allow those questions to exist in the first place?

Any discussion is welcome!

  • I would recommend taking a look here first: chinese.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1558/… • translations requests are generally off-topic but in an attempt to be more welcoming we’re letting them ride for a bit longer than normal.
    – Mou某 Mod
    Dec 16, 2018 at 0:04
  • 1
    @user3306356 Certainly I saw that question weeks ago, and I was convinced by then. However, I am feeling tired seeing questions asking for translation showing neither effort nor interest in learning Chinese. Should we attract people by lowering our standard? I would doubt that, if people are generally not interested in learning Chinese, no one would be attracted anyway. If people are indeed interested, only a site with good questions would attract them.
    – zyy
    Dec 16, 2018 at 0:09
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    Well, we’re not necessarily trying to “attract” people, we’re just trying to not be jerks. Anywho, you have a valid point & I’m interested to see what response it gets.
    – Mou某 Mod
    Dec 16, 2018 at 0:13
  • @user3306356 Yes, that is the point I am asking this question, I would really like to hear from others too!
    – zyy
    Dec 16, 2018 at 0:16
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    People should know there's rules even on the internet. Parents and teachers told them, we don't. The best thing to do is to close them and leave a link to rules. Of course, we have the responsibility to make rules clear. Dec 16, 2018 at 1:04
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    I think the basic principle shouldn't be changed. Posts asking translations without any efforts should be closed and deleted. These questions usually only get answers like "This is xxx, period", they won't benefit any future users.
    – user4072
    Dec 16, 2018 at 3:58
  • I'd highly encourage users who answer character identification questions to provide their method of identifying the characters - I know this is a lot of work if done properly, but this should encourage better character identification questions in the future. We need something on chinese.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/405/…
    – dROOOze
    Jan 5, 2019 at 9:24
  • @droooze I agree, but, it is however, in most cases, hard to just say things like I know this character.
    – zyy
    Jan 5, 2019 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


The problem of effortless questions arises on basically every StackExchange site in one form or another, and each community needs to decide on a trade-off of being welcoming and attracting new users vs. maintaining a respectable level of quality.

My impression is that the best approach is:

  1. gradually raise the minimum quality threshold as site activity grows [increasing it too fast or too slow are both problematic]; and
  2. ensure good-quality questions and answers are consistently highly upvoted (Vote Early, Vote Often!) and judging from the Chinese.SE voters, voting needs to be significantly encouraged here.

At this stage, I suggest focusing on exemplifying and encouraging high-quality content (i.e., the pearls), rather than weeding out low quality content (i.e., the sand).


Suggestion for What does X say? questions

If the simple solution answer the question, don't upvote it, and move on is not considered a suitable approach...

Perhaps create a general What does X say? question, and give a high-quality answer to it, listing typical examples, and giving a self-help guide for how to translate arbitrary Chinese text (e.g., tattoos). Afterwards, close specific What does X say? questions as duplicates of the general question.

Why suggest this?

On Islam.SE, we did this: we get many questions of the form Is X halal? (i.e., permissible in Islam). These questions are often effortless and uninteresting to experts, and we generally felt they were lowering the quality of the site.

The approach taken at Islam.SE was to create a general Is X halal? question, and simply close specific questions as a duplicate of the general question. There's two main benefits I can think of:

  1. While the question gets closed, the OP (along with the question's audience) is directed to a reasonable answer to their question---it's more helpful than declaring their question "off topic" (despite being about the Chinese language) and linking to site regulations unrelated to the question.

  2. The question gets marked

    This question already has an answer here: ...

    instead of

    This question does not appear to be about Chinese language [sic] within the scope defined in the help center.

  • Good point! We might be able to create a master posting area where people can just post all their translating questions.
    – zyy
    Mar 29, 2019 at 16:29
  • Hey @Becky, you should have just gotten an email from me inviting you to a pre-screening session hosted by Stack Exchange. We've got a date this upcoming Monday and Tuesday, so if you are interested, could you let me know what times might work best for you?
    – Slate StaffMod
    Jul 21, 2023 at 23:02

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