I was talking with @E_net4 about this question elsewhere on meta. The proposition is:

The site is open to discussing translations from X to PT for any language X (provided the discussion is conducted in EN and/or PT). Translations from PT to EN are also on-topic; and "closest word" questions; but all translations from PT to X =\= EN are off-topic.

The only clause anyone might dispute is that

Translations from PT to EN are on-topic, while those from PT to X =\= EN are off-topic

I'll put my argument against this below so it can be voted on alongside any arguments in favor. I think it's worth clarifying and I won't be offended by downvotes on the position I advocate below.

  • Feel free to edit any answers below with additional justifications.
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 12:45

3 Answers 3


Finally here's the default choice, copied from the question:

Translations from PT to EN are on-topic, while those from PT to X =\= EN are off-topic

The arguments are:

  • English is widely understood and considered to be "the language of the Internet". A significantly large number of us are fluent in English can attend to questions in that language, as already demonstrated throughout the stage of private beta.

(If there's some other argument, feel free to edit it in here.)

  • Translations from PT to EN are on-topic to user know the meaning of a Portuguese expression or sentence.
    – Jorge B. Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 16:16
  • 2
    "the language of the western Internet" - otherwise there would be no ptSO ;)
    – ANeves
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 16:42

Here's my argument for allowing all PT to X translation questions:

  • They're harmless. Questions of translation from PT to other languages are harmless; why not allow them, so long as the Q&A is conducted in Portuguese and/or English? Sure, we may find that (1) no one is qualified to answer these questions and (2) that folks at X.SE are better qualified, but so what? We can determine that on a question-by-question basis, and advise folks if we think their query would be more fruitful over at X.SE.

    We don't have to say those questions are off-topic here. If no one can answer them here, presumably folks will stop asking them; and if not, we still have the Roomba that will delete them sooner or later. I think it likely that at least some such questions can be answered here, so why preclude them?

  • The default is terribly inconsistent. (See my other answer with this claim.)

  • 1
    Calling them harmless is a misjudgement, IMO. They will just clutter up the site when left unanswered (decreasing the answered question ratio), and are useful to a much smaller audience otherwise.
    – E_net4
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 9:51
  • PL are not a dictionary.
    – Jorge B. Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 16:13
  • 2
    I still stand against this, and I still hope to see this proposal fail. What makes it flawed is mostly the single point (1), that potentially no one is qualified to answer these questions, and that the site does not invite, nor does it pose any interest to specialists that would have been capable of answering them. Furthermore, such questions are more useful when converted to significado.
    – E_net4
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:13
  • 5
    If I know a language other than English, I would do my best to ask in English about translating from X to PT. Wanting to know how to say firmeza in Russion on a Portuguese site doesn't really make much sense to me... Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 22:40

Here's an argument for allowing no PT to X translation questions (not even to EN):

  • There are other sites that could answer better. For

    "What does PT word Y mean?"

    we can answer that; but

    "What is the best translation of Y into language X?"

    is better dealt with elsewhere. At X.SE, you can provide a thorough definition of word Y, detailed enough for the X-language experts to discuss translations. In particular, this could be done for the question What's an approximate translation for the phrase "correr atrás"?

  • The default is terribly inconsistent. Why should we allow "What is the best translation of X into EN?" but no other languages? Sure, English and Portuguese are the languages our Q&A must be conducted in, but why extend that asymmetry beyond where it must be applied.

    And the primacy of English on the SE network won't last forever. As SE gradually becomes a world wide site, this policy of special treatment for questions about English (and not only for questions in English) will seem stranger and stranger.

  • Maybe you should have created separate answers for your opinion, since you seem to be biased towards two extremes.
    – E_net4
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 0:55
  • 1
    @E_net4 Okay, thanks. Done. They aren't just biased towards the extreme, they are at the extremes :) I've also put the default answer up (of the compromise of giving EN special treatment and banning any other PT=>X questions). Feel free to edit it to add any reasons in favor of it. I doubt it will require any, and the consensus will be in its favor. If you post another answer arguing for that compromise, I'd be happy to delete mine. Having all three alternatives up just makes the voting easier, I figure.
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 1:19
  • 1
    I'd actually agree on following this rule, although it's being neglected right now. This would not prevent anyone from asking the meaning of something in PT, which would result in much better answers than a direct translation.
    – E_net4
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:07
  • 1
    @E_net4 I agree entirely with the two comments you posted today and would vote accordingly if I hadn't posted these answers myself. I don't think we should accede to the top-voted answer until (1) it has a big lead over its rivals in terms of votes and (2) any concerns about it have been addressed/discussed. I was hoping we could resolve this quickly, but we may have to wait until the public beta and people start trying to post such questions before users care and know enough to vote here.
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 23:16

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