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Certain shopping questions might not be about shopping at all.

For instance, questions asking whether a particular work has ever been translated to a particular language.

One example is this question on Mythology SE. One other example is hypothetical question asking about the Witcher series being translated to English (hint: they're not).

Questions like this can benefit a large audience, and fit the Q&A format. We also should embrace non-Googlers.

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    I'm not sure yet. And those questions likely also age badly. – Helmar Jan 20 '17 at 15:44
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    @Helmar How the heck does it age badly? Once there's a good translation, it will remain a good translation, until perhaps another master like Babits is born and teachers a whole circle of followers for how to write translations of such high quality that all the existing ones will be considered aged. – b_jonas Jan 20 '17 at 15:46
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    @b_jonas every no, there isn't/just bad ones has a decent chance to be toppled. – Helmar Jan 20 '17 at 15:47
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    @Helmar A decent chance? Translations of literary works aren't easy. There won't be new translations coming out every year. The Q&A format of StackExchange has worked fine for asking about software or Star Wars canon, topics that change much more frequently than the availability of translations. – b_jonas Jan 20 '17 at 15:49
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    @b_jonas with all due respect, that's just not true, everything that gets remotely popular gets translated. Especially away from English. Since the direction is not part of the question I can tell you as non-native speaker that translating books is a rather big industry and stuff like that does change a lot. – Helmar Jan 20 '17 at 15:51
  • @Helmar: Becoming an industry is exactly the problem. Since around 2002, publishing books, even in low volume, got so cheap that everyone publishes all sorts of crap. As a result, many bad translations are published. Really bad ones, as in, ones that made me decided not to continue reading a series of books I'm interested in after they changed from a good translator to a bad one. The situation is even worse for when the original is under public domain. – b_jonas Jan 20 '17 at 16:01
  • @Helmar So how about I restrict my question to books published before 2002, since any newer ones are unlikely to satisfy me? Then the answer can't change. – b_jonas Jan 20 '17 at 16:01
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I don't see anything wrong with a question asking whether a particular work has ever been translated to a particular language.

First off, such questions are likely to be of practical use. Like identification questions and reading-order questions, they might actually help someone with a real problem, as well as just satisfying idle curiosity. To take your example, I'm interested in the Witcher series but am not fluent in Polish, so whether it's been translated into English is a fairly important question for me.

As b_jonas notes in comments, these questions have lasting value: if there is an existing translation, it won't suddenly disappear, and if there isn't, that answer will stand until someone creates one (which isn't likely to happen overnight). Stack Exchange fields questions about much more rapidly changing things than this on the various software-related sites.

They can also add to one's appreciation of a work. If a book written in French which is well-known in France has never been translated to English, there's likely to be an interesting reason for that. (I've heard of some examples of this kind of thing happening, for various reasons relating to the work itself and possibly political in nature, but I can't remember any offhand.)

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    As detailed in chat, the lasting value of the no there isn't might vary a lot depending on the target language. Otherwise I agree. – Helmar Jan 20 '17 at 16:30
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TL;DR - Off-topic as all "shopping questions" are.


Questions asking for translations and may meet the requirements of a good question, but if we break it down some simplicity does arise:

  • Have have a practical use - OP would like to know how/where to buy something.
  • Have lasting value - any visitors may want to know the same information especially if they have similar interest or live in the same region as the OP.
  • Add to one's appreciation of a work - OP needs to be able to consume it to appreciate it.

Also, as seen on prior Lit.SE meta, M&TV, SFF, Academia, Arqade, Arts & Crafts, and possibly others because it does seems to be a policy of the network from the beginning, shopping questions have been deemed off-topic (although certain exceptions do apply) as they essentially become questions looking for lists or recommendations.

Now, I am not an expert of these sites meta policies (except maybe SFF), and there is at least one site dedicated to shopping, Hardware Recommendations; but I do see a trend...

I say requests for translated works would fall under shopping questions and should be off-topic as:

  • answers may be too localized - websites may not be accessible or go dead, hard copies may not be available for purchase in OP's region
  • high probability of drive-by questions - OP needs a certain work in certain language for something specific, needs the answer quickly (in a few hours or a day), and they do not get one (or even if they do) will not be seen again (unless they have another shopping need)
  • high probability of low quality link-only answers - it is easy just drop one line and link saying "here is what you need at xyz.con"
  • multiple correct answers - a work maybe be available from any number of sources, but which is one is "the best"? Sure the OP may let us know by an accepted answer and the community by up-votes, but this may just be FGITW factor.
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    I think our answers here are based on different understandings of what kind of questions we're talking about. Perhaps because the OP is too vague, not linking to any specific examples here on Lit. Note that my answer above is specifically about questions asking whether work X has been translated to language Y, which is quite different from the more "shopping" type question where to find Y-language translations of work X. – Rand al'Thor May 4 at 20:41
  • If we look at the post that is linked in the OP, it's just about whether a Y-language translation exists. The answer to that question is not localised, and there aren't multiple correct answers. Also I wouldn't say there's a high probability of drive-by questions: these are unlikely to come from "homework"; the OP probably wants a translation so that they can study the book, after which they may come back and ask more good questions about it. – Rand al'Thor May 4 at 20:51

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