I am a native English speaker with essentially zero understanding of Russian. I visited Russia once, and in preparation for that trip I taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet, so I'm able to "read" words in Russian which produce English cognates after direct letter-for-letter transliteration (imagine my moment of epiphany when I realized what ресторан meant!), but that's it.

However, I'm in sort of a unique situation, which requires me to do a real translation. Someone (I know not who) signed me up for a kind of interactive theatre experience. I get "mysterious packages" in the mail, consisting of correspondence of a recently-deceased (and fictitious) uncle who got involved somehow in time-travel and left me a bequest.

My job is now to solve the mystery of his death, and collect the treasure. I have to do that by piecing clues together from his correspondence. One letter was hastily scribbled on the back of an article written in Russian:

mysterious article written in Russian

I could just type it all into Google Translate, of course, but if I do that, I worry I'll miss some finer clues hidden in the language, which machine translation could neither pick up nor convey.

Can I ask for a translation of this article, here?

Saying I may not ask for one-off translations on the site which don't pertain to Russian idioms or the language proper is perfectly fine, of course. I would close them on EL&U, and you guys have the same perogative to do so here.

I only ask because I see from searching on the site and this Meta that you do admit some Russian-to-English translation requests, and have some relevant tags, but I'm just not sure what the boundaries are.

Please note that this whole mystery is probably very googleable, but I have chosen not to do that, lest it spoil the fun, so I'll ask anyone here who goes looking on the web for details of the game keep any spoilers to himself. Or at least discuss them in Russian ;)

1 Answer 1


The boundaries are "does it make a question interesting enough for the others Russian language enthusiasts to read?"

If you are asking to translate something, you should clearly indicate how is this interesting for the others.

If it's a postcard your Russian aunt has sent you, there's a good chance that you two would be the only people on Earth who would find this translation interesting. This is not a good fit for this site.

However, if the text you are trying to translate deals with some meaning subtleties, or a world play unique to Russian language, or deals with Russia specific concepts the other languages just lack the terms for, then by all means go for it.

But even then, you should not ask "how do I translate this" but rather "what does this term or phrase mean", and present the rest of the text to provide the context.

In your case, I would have made an attempt to translate this piece of text using Google Translate or some other online service and get the overall idea of the text. If you start by translating the proper names (those starting with a capital), you'll get there very fast.

I doubt the game masters would require you to go any farther than that, but in case you'll be having troubles with individual words, just briefly outline your attempt and why you don't like the result, and we'll probably be able to help you out.

  • Thanks, that does make sense. Appreciate the feedback. I did a little machine translation and research and it appears the 'article" is really a flyer from the Winter War where Finland is urging Red Army soldiers to surrender. I suppose you already knew that, but placing the date (c. 1939) and location is a helpful clue in my quest.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 26, 2016 at 21:26

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