I recently answered a question on SF.stackexchange; the story which required identification was originally written in Italian and seems to have never been translated to English. However, it was translated to French, and this is the version I had and that the person who asked the question was looking for.

Since SF.SE is English-speaking, should I try and translate (even approximately) the quotes, or leave it in French and have people take my word that it is the right story?

2 Answers 2


General Case

In the general case I would say it is usually preferable to translate the quotes, even if it is just using an online service. However, when doing so (and this is a practice I've seen done around the site) you should leave the quote from the original language and include the translated one too. That way it helps everyone and people can spot mistakes in the translation if necessary.

I think though generally it should be treated on a case by case basis. A lot of times what makes sense in one question/answer doesn't make sense in another.

You might want to look up these questions for further reading:

Specific Case

In this specific case I don't think it is entirely needed. questions are a bit of a special case in that they only really exist to help the user who asked the question whereas most questions and answers on the site are more applicable to the larger audience.

In this case as well, as you mention, the OP was looking for the French translation of the work so arguably the French quotes are better here than the English translations.

Further, for a question the most important part of an answer is that it includes the work name. Sure, it wouldn't be a good answer if it only included the work name but it would still be an answer to the question. As such any further effort is mainly secondary, even if pretty much mandatory.

So, you could go to the effort of translating the quotes and including them but I don't think it is entirely necessary in this specific case.

  • 1
    I personally try to provide translations, even if machine translated, since it makes those words searchable as English (which most search engines are better tuned towards, since Google started in the United States).
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 22:09
  • Well, taking your answer and @FuzzyBoots comment into account, I guess I'll go and try to translate. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my question.
    – Orlahm
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 15:35
  • 1
    In this case the asker came back and accepted the answer. It all too often happens that we never hear from the OP, and in those cases translating the quotes would help us all to decide if it's a good answer.
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 6:49
  • 2
    Also, contrary to what you said about story-ID questions only existing to help one individual user, we often get multiple questions about the same story, and the next user who comes looking for this story may have read it in some language other than French, maybe in the original Italian. In searching for this answer, it would be helpful if we could get by with English search terms, instead of having to try various languages.
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 6:53

You should translate. Both for the sake of future non-bilingual readers, AND as another comment noted, for search purposes.

You should also make it clear the methodology for translation - is it copy from officially translated work? Your personal translation as a biligual person? Google Translate without fixing? This way the reader can gauge the quality of translation.

Personally for Russian stuff I tend to try to do high quality idiomatic translation, when I have the time - you can see examples in [night-watch] tags.

  • Given the global feedback I decided to translate the best I could. Not sure of the overall quality, but better than nothing. Thanks a lot for your insight.
    – Orlahm
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 8:51

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