Most of the questions that we have downvoted and closed as off-topic on the Japanese Language Stack Exchange site have violated one (or more) of the following guidelines.

Note that almost none of these are beyond debate on meta. If a strong majority that opposes any one of these rules emerges, these will be modified. I would ask, however, that users who disagree with any of these rules please open a seperate meta thread to discuss their objections, and keep this proposed FAQ entry relatively focused. (We can make a link from here to the discussion thread)

Also note that none of these are offtopic in the Japanese SE chatroom, and we welcome conversations about all of these topics in that environment.

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6 Answers

We don't violate the general stack exchange guidelines (Theoreticals, Popularity Contests, non-questions)

The StackExchange-wide FAQ lists several types of questions which are not permitted. Here are the example bad questions:

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use _ for _, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if __ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “__ sucks, am I right?”

In particular, you might want to take a look at our local interpretation of 'too localized' (one of the close reasons offered to people when they vote to close a given question). Depending on the individual guideline, questions could be closed as "off topic", "not constructive" or "not a real question".

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Regarding “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”: I think this could be part of a question as long as it's not the main question. For example, from a recent question, you could ask "What is the meaning of ~んです?" and then explain what you think it is and ask if other people feel it means the same thing. I feel like a lot of parts of Japanese have subtle, hard-to-define meanings, so I don't think it would be wrong to include this with some questions. –  atlantiza May 5 '12 at 3:08
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We don't do technical setup questions

We are focused on the language itself, not on computer software that is required to use the language. Super User or a more specific site (such as Ask Different, Unix and Linux, or Ask Ubuntu) might be more appropriate for such questions.

The single exception to this is that we do allow technical questions about the site itself to be asked on meta. Allowed questions on meta include topics such as how to make the furigana system or URL forwarding (such as to amazon.co.jp) work. Most of these features are at least briefly documented in the formatting FAQ.

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We don't do "how do I study X?" questions

We are focused on the language itself, not educational methods or study systems. We'd rather not talk about flashcards vs sentence-memorization. We are particularly harsh on "how do I keep myself motivated?"-type questions, as these are well beyond the limits of the language.

We do reference various methods and tools for studying Japanese on our resources page. Several of the resources explain mechanisms for studying different aspects of the language.

Once again, the chatroom is likely to be particularly conducive to these types of questions. Questions asked on the main site will usually be closed as off topic

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We don't do translations

We do not offer a direct translation service. Our resources page shows several dictionaries that could and should be used to look up individual words. Asking "What is X in Japanese/English?" is likely to be closed fairly quickly.

This can be somewhat nuanced however, since many questions on the site take the form of "I thought X meant Y, but that meaning doesn't fit in sentence Z". This is allowed, since these questions will usually reflect idiomatic or more complicated usages, and it's hard to describe them as "translation" questions at all.

At the phrase level, the community strongly frowns upon questions that can be summarized as "long japanese phrase here What does it mean?". On the other hand, questions that display the asker understands most of the phrase, but is simply confused about how an individual word or grammatical structure fits into the sentence are encouraged. Sometimes the misunderstood part of the phrase will radically change the meaning, but that is not the asker's fault.

Also note that context is vitally important anytime you are veering close to a "translation question", and occasionally can redeem what is otherwise a close-worthy question.

meta discussion

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We don't do purely cultural questions

The questions need to relate to the language, since that is the focus of the site. Language is heavily tied up in culture, and cultural context will often be an important part of the language discussion, but the question fundamentally must be about the language, not the culture.

Note that asking a translation question about a cultural item is frowned upon, but so far they have not been closed outright.

A "Japan Culture" SE is currently being proposed in Area 51 as of October 2013. If becomes a site, it would be entirely unfair and wrong of us to "steal" what should be their content.

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We don't do resource questions

Questions about resources are off-topic on this site. Asking for dictionaries, books, streaming audio and other forms of books/software/anime/etc will generally result in the question being downvoted (unnecessarily) and closed as off-topic.

To help new users navigate the wide world of japanese learning materials, we have created a list of resources that new users (and others) may find useful: Resources for learning Japanee

This decision came from a series of meta discussions as the site was starting up. If you have comments, please participate in those discussions or start a new meta question.

Current meta discussion.

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