The following question:

was not only closed as NARQ but also receievd 4 downvotes at present, which makes it one of the most downvoted questions here.

The question was not really brilliant as it lacked a context to resolve possible issues on translation from English or a dictionary entry. Still, I feel it was not that bad. It could have easily be salvaged by adding some context. It even has a good and upvoted answer.

Other than a snappy comment

"Aus 6 Begriffen kann man 21 Paare bilden - sollen wir die alle gegenüberstellen? Welche Unklarheiten hinterlässt die Konsultation eines Wörterbuchs?"

no effort was taken to salvage this question.

What did we want to say with closing and downvoting? Are a beginner's questions no longer welcome here? Will the site survive after we had chased off all people that actually try to contribute by asking?


The question in question was actually the one that brought me to German SE and the top answer that was given was exactly what I was looking for and was extremely helpful for me at the time. –  thekeyofgb Dec 27 '13 at 6:05
I googled "besorgen vs erhalten", received the question in question as the first google result, clicked on it, thus visiting the German SE site for the very first time, and found exactly the answer I was looking for. In short, I was delighted. But I was also told that this was "not a real question". –  Todd Ditchendorf Jul 6 at 15:25

4 Answers 4

The question ran afoul of both written and unwritten rules about posting.


It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.


We expect askers to do a minimal amount of research before posting a question here.

In this case, consulting a paper or online dictionary to look up the definitions and English equivalents for each of these terms. Possibly that minimal research would have sufficed and the question would have been moot.

But what if that research had turned up an inconsistency? What if a reputable dictionary had given the exact same English "equivalents" for two or more German terms? Now that would have been interesting! For example, it could have sparked a lively discussion about congruency (or not) of the semantic fields covered by these words in German and English, perhaps coupled with a review of how these differences came about historically.

yeah, that's what I was thinking when reading this question. It could have been turned into an interesting discussion on finer points on how or when to use different German synonyms for to receive, to obtain. Instead, we heavily downvoted it, made an incomprehensible comment, and closed it. Why after that should the OP feel motivated to come back in order to improve their question? –  Takkat Mar 20 '13 at 9:12
Your concern is touching but probably misplaced. Besides the Question in question (haha) this Asker posted four other questions around the same time, which received 1, 2, 3 and 6 upvotes, respectively. I see no reason to believe that we chased away a promising contributor. Remember, the closed Q has not been deleted and the Asker may improve it at any time if she or he chooses. –  Eugene Seidel Mar 21 '13 at 6:56
I've researched the similar question (googled the difference between bekommen, erhalten and kriegen). Where did I come to? Right, to heavily downvoted question. IMHO, the question is crystal clear. There are verbs which are nearly synonyms or at least their meanings is very close (they all mean "to get" for foreigner). And dictionary doesn't help much. It's a pity that people decided to downvote instead of helping not only the OP, but hundred other people who would have the same question. –  Dmitry Osinovskiy Aug 15 '13 at 0:44

The list of words (verbs) in the question seemed to be "random." I can see a beginner reasonably confusing "bekommen" and "behalten." (In her auto biography, Maria von Trapp related an amusing story of the confusion a GERMAN speaker created when trying to use their "false friend" English equivalents, become and behold.)

I can see grounds for confusion between "entgegennehmen" and "emfangen." Again these words might be similar enough to the "untrained" (foreign) eye for one to mix them up.

I have been known to confuse "verdachtig," and "verdachten" which do not exist in German, with the correct word "verdächtigen." Not all of these can be found in the dictionary, because two of these forms don't exist. That might be a typical "foreigner" problem that the site is equipped to address. What is the difference between "verdachten" and "vermuten"? At least I knew enough to "mix up" word forms.

But the more words the above questioner adds to the mix, the harder it is to believe that mere confusion is at work. From the apparent look of it (to someone who is learning himself), it seems that the learner is just throwing out a laundry list of German words without even trying to sort them out in his own mind.

Thus, it seems that the questioner has crossed the line between mere "confusion" between a few choices and asking people to translate large number of words. And "lists" are something we aren't supposed to have to deal with on this site. Moreover, the questioner didn't provide a context for why these words were chosen, so that we can't reconstruct his thinking. These are probably the reasons why the question was considered "bad."


I just googled besorgen vs erhalten, received the question in question as the first google result, clicked on it, thus visiting the German SE site for the very first time, and found exactly the answer I was looking for.

In short, I was delighted. But I was also told that this was "not a real question".

So I was simultaneously impressed with the Stack Exchange concept (of which I'm already a huge fan), and annoyed by the SE "super users" who always seem more willing to close a flawed but promising question than to improve it. This pattern is all too common on SE, as has been discussed ad nauseam, in various settings.

I'd also like to defend the general concept of word comparison questions for foreign language SE sites. I think such word comparison questions can be extremely useful and are maybe even one of the primary ways a foreign language SE can help a language learner.

Here's an example:

I'm currently learning German. I'm using no fewer than three different dictionary resources, and have come across multiple verbs that are all defined very, very similarly: erhalten, bekommen, besorgen, kriegen, and empfangen.

These words are defined across my multiple dictionaries with some combination of the following translations: to obtain, to receive, to accept, to acquire, to take, to get.

But here's the problem: each dictionary uses a different subset combination of these translations for each word. So it's virtually impossible for me to discern the subtle differences between these words using a dictionary alone. This is exactly where a foreign language SE site should be useful.

I should be able to turn to the corresponding foreign language SE site to find help teasing out the subtle differences between these words by asking a word comparison question. This is the kind of information that one will never find in a dictionary, but is perfectly suited to SE. @uncovery's answer to the question in question was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for and is a great example of how helpful answers to word comparison questions can be.

Any kind of snappy check the dictionary, dufus answer to a question of this kind is ineffectual and annoying.

Great answer - Thank you. We definitely need more views of learners on how they use this site, and what they feel is helpful. After all we are for all, beginners, advanced, and native German speakers. –  Takkat Jul 6 at 16:49
If multiple dictionaries reveal different translations you will most probably get/receive/earn/obtain multiple different answers from the audience as well, leading to opinion based discussions with no solution either. –  user unknown Jul 7 at 6:34

Libuz could have reacted in the comment section or by editing his question. He didn't, so maybe he wasn't too much interested in the question. Which fit's to the kind of question which looks like "Do some work and vote me up".

Users can always comment on or edit their own questions. Reputation is needed for commenting everywhere. –  Takkat Mar 29 '13 at 8:15

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