TL;DR: I suggest we ditch the current custom close reasons, and replace them by something in the spirit of:

  1. This question is not sufficiently related to the Chinese family of languages to be considered [on-topic].

  2. Text translation requests are expected to indicate (a) the OP's current level of understanding of the text, and (b) if relevant, why e.g. Google Translate doesn't answer their question.

  3. Image transcription requests are required to at least provide: (a) an image containing legible Chinese characters, (b) the image's background information, and (c) if feasible, an attempt at using a standard method such as OCR (e.g. Yandex) or hand-drawing characters (e.g. in Google Translate).

I'm seeking custom close reasons which:

  1. actually arise;
  2. are straightforward for less-familiar users (with the close vote privilege) to use;
  3. are reasonable conditions, which are largely agreed upon on meta and in practice.

This does not imply there are no other reasons for closure; if there are no applicable standard close reasons, then users can create custom close reasons.

What do you think?

At this stage I'm just after your feedback. But I'm hoping we can finally get this "done and dusted" at some point soon (it's been on the drawing board for years now).

(See How do moderators make changes to the site-specific closed question reasons? over at Meta.SE.)

Why? Currently we have two custom close reasons:

Why isn't this question suited for Chinese Language Stack Exchange?

  • Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn not provide a bulk translation service.
  • Questions asking for learning resources are off-topic as they can become quickly obsolete and are difficult to maintain. We do maintain a list of generally-useful resources for learning Mandarin that you might find helpful.


I don't like either of them, because...

    • It's needlessly impolite (which I expect encourages further impoliteness).

    • It conflates transcription and translation, and for a lot of transcription questions, it is not possible to show "prior research effort" beyond "I have no idea what to do".

    • There's been calls for explicitly recognizing "seals", "oracle bone script", etc., as on-topic (for which is virtually impossible to show effort; e.g. here; here; here). So there's at least some exceptions to the close reason (which are likely not obvious to users not active on meta).

    • In practice, it's used rather arbitrarily, e.g. this was closed despite the author practically identifying two of the characters: I did some research of some of the characters which got me to that of Qianglong ceramics; this was not reopened (and was eventually autodeleted) after the author added: I had tried looking at translation services and even the dreaded Google translate but was struggling with the second character in particular as well as the red texts as it didn't seem very clear. Simultaneously, no-effort-shown transcription requests like this and this are not only not closed, but are upvoted and answered. It seems in practice, the "unless prior research effort is clearly indicated" condition is ignored.

    • It gives no way forward (instructions for the OP to make their question on-topic, or an alternative site to ask their question).

    • It's basically not used (once in the last 90 days; I think it's this (now deleted) question); since we don't close them, we've effectively declared them on-topic. There's even a tag.

    • While its literal wording implies learning resources for all Chinese dialects are equally off-topic, people are interpreting it as only being applicable for Mandarin, e.g.:

      I think this question should not be closed because the off-topic rule says "... We do maintain a list of generally-useful resources for learning Mandarin ..." but this question is not about Mandarin. – Stan

    • If needed, we can already close a question as a duplicate of the resources question.

    • The reason "they can become quickly obsolete", in my opinion, is not justified: many sites have on-topic questions about e.g. software that will be obsolete. (It's also possible to use forward duplicates to overcome the "obsolete" issue. If someone asks a duplicate, and explain the previous question is obsolete, we can close the previous question as a duplicate of the new question.)

At the very least, the close reasons should be things we agree on, otherwise they're just going to be ignored.

The other issue is, we need a "not about the Chinese language" close reason.

Two further points:

  • Nowadays there are post notices, which means we should create different close explanations depending on who is reading. This is going to require further thought, but first I want to see if I'm "walking in the right direction".

  • At some point soon, I'm going to need to start actively preparing for the HSK6 (again), during which I won't be able to put as much effort into meta. Hopefully we can sort this out before then. (It probably should have been done long ago.)

I suppose I should also mention dROOOze's draft close reasons:

Questions asking for regular script and print material character identification are off-topic unless you have shown effort in providing a partial transcription. We have a guide to help you get started that you may find helpful. Alternatively, we continue to accept seal and calligraphy identification requests to keep the site as interesting and engaging as possible.

The issue for me is this is just too long and complicated. It's likely worthwhile including such details in a meta post (which we can link to), or even one of the "post notices", but not for when someone is deciding whether or not to click "close". I'm hoping users can use the close reasons without controversy.

The other thing is: I don't like using the word "you". This message is for people deciding whether or not to close, not the OP (that's another message).

Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service.

I'm strongly against the unnecessary snarkiness in the "bulk translation service" remark. A lot of image transcription requests ask for translations (such as Can this inherited seal be translated?), so it feels likely this will be used to close questions about seals, etc.

1 Answer 1


asking for translation

It depends on how easily searchable the words in question are. For straightforward modern Chinese characters that Google Translate can handle, I always close them. But some complex sentences or hard-to-read text that's difficult to even a native Chinese speaker to translate, I would leave it be.

asking for learning resources

I usually ignore this kind of closing reason because posted learning resources might become obsolete in the future, but are useful in the present.

"not about the Chinese language" close reason.

It is my most used reason. A lot of questions have Chinese elements in them but in effect are not related to the Chinese language, for example, "How many Cantonese people don't speak Mandarin" mentioned "Chinese" but is a statistical data question in reality

How do we delete a closure reason and add a closure reason? Certainly not a one person decision

  • Thanks! It looks like we're thinking along the same lines about the current close reasons---we know from experience that they're not always applicable (and often more "exception" than "rule"). (Are you able to give feedback on my proposed replacements?) Editing them is technically easy to do (mods can click the "edit" button on the "Why isn't this question suited for Chinese Language Stack Exchange?" page) but, of course, it requires getting everyone on board first.
    – Becky 李蓓 Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 4:39
  • The other issue is, nowadays, we need to provide different explanations for different users. The OP gets instructions as to how to edit their question to make it on-topic; people voting to close see what the close reasons means; people who are viewing a closed question get another explanation, and so on.
    – Becky 李蓓 Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 4:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .