I think it's time we set a policy about questions that ask us to transcribe a piece of audio or video.

Should we allow such questions or not? If yes, what should be our policy?


3 Answers 3


I would say: first if the question asks to transcribe a whole song or a whole scene in a movie, it's too broad. But if it asks to transcribe or explain a word, or a line, that's ok. It really is the sort of thing one would legitimately ask on a language site. Words in songs can be hard to make out, even to native speakers.

However, “what is said in this sound bite?” is not a good question for Stack Exchange, for a different reason: it will not be useful to future visitors, because there's no way to search for a sound bite. So there should be a requirement that the sound is identified in a meaningful way, in addition to providing a link for the audio. For example:

  • What is the first line of the third stanza in [song title] by [artist]? It's around 1:44 in [link to mp3]. → ok
  • What does [character] say in [movie title] after he [description of the scene]? It's a little after 3:00 in [link to video]. I think I heard [words] but it doesn't seem to make sense in context. → ok
  • I recorded this in the street, what was the guy saying? → too localized
  • Thanks. I think that it's kind of useless to reinvent the wheel. If this is working for you, it should work for us to. I say this is our line, but I wait for more people to express their concerns/opinions/etc. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 17:31
  • @Alenanno This hasn't come up much. The guy who asked this on French Language Meta didn't come back to ask a question, and in fact I don't remember offhand that we ever did have a question with a sound bite. So I think this policy is reasonable in theory but I can't claim any practical experience. Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 17:45
  • Oh it's ok, it sounds reasonable to me too. And we can always improve it. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 17:52
  • +1 for this one. Indeed, we should think about how it can be useful for the rest of the Community.
    – shabunc Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 19:47

I do believe that such questions are special kind of "translate from Russian" questions if there are stated something like "Hm, I hear something but have no slightest idea what does it mean?". Therefore, such questions shouldn't be accepted by all means.

On the other head, questions like "I've heard something like 'трезвевальник' (not sure) - what does it mean, I have not found this word in dictionary" is a slightly different story. There has been indeed some effort to understand the meaning.

But! There is great danger to get a lot of questions like: "I've heard a beautiful Russian song, but can't get, what it is exactly about". For example, on English SE, as far as I know, such questions are discourage.

So, as for me, in most cases such questions should be closed.

  • Yeah, while at first I was in favor, right now I'm starting to think they're too localized. I've asked other Language-related mods for help. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 11:15
  • I agree with you. It is a question and answer site, not an online language learning \ translating facility.
    – Olga
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:55

Out of interest, I googled the title of the movie as given by the link.

The very first page leads to English-subtitled version of the cartoon on Dailymotion.

For the sake of this very discussion we'll leave the copyright issues aside, but this is quite a popular cartoon and the answer to this question may be discovered within minutes even by a non-Russian speaking person.

  • Can you include your insight for future questions like this? Both, "transcribe this audio for me" and "I understood this word from a show, but couldn't find it anywhere, what does it mean/is it slang?".
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 11:31
  • "transcribe this audio for me" is not a bad question per se, as long as it is accompanied with a research effort. Neither is slang of course.
    – Quassnoi Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 11:35
  • 1
    I don't know, it sounds quite Too localized to me...
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 11:35
  • @Alenanno: other rules apply too of course. I wanted to say that the mere fact of a Russian quote being presented in audio form does not make a question bad by itself.
    – Quassnoi Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 15:21
  • Ah I got it. :P
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 15:22

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