Sein Sohn sitzt.

Spanish Translation

Su hijo está cumpliendo su condena.

Sein Sohn sitzt = His son is sitting?
Without im Gefängnis can it be understood as His son is serving his sentence?

Yes. Literally, it simply means that he is sitting. It can also be used as slang, meaning “to sit in jail”. If you’re talking to someone who’s regularly in and out of prison, or has friends or family in prison, they immediately understand you. But if you’re talking to someone not regularly in contact with prisoners, this lacks all necessary context and isn’t understood without further elaboration.

If the context is clear to everyone, then yes. But for most people, no. Without context, a law-abiding citizen doesn’t make the connection from “sitting” to “prison”. “Sitzen” simply means “to sit”, nothing more.

The German translation could be much better.

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I found the original sentence to be Sein Sohn sitzt im Gefängnis in Tatoeba, but I wasn’t sure if the phrase given by Clozemaster was some kind of slang set phrase that could be understood without the im Gefängnis, hence my question.
Thank you for your help David!

Actually, I think in this case the jail meaning is clear, because the literal meaning is not something you would normally say without any special context, or without amendments to the sentence, i.e. when and/or where.
So personally, I immediately thought of jail when I read this.

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You could be sentenced to house arrest or community service, so “serving his sentence” does not necessarily mean “to be locked away in prison” to begin with. Therefore, I dislike the pairing “to serve a sentence” and (the German translation of) “to sit in jail”. It takes too much liberty and is so imprecise that it is no longer identical. “Sitzen” in this Clozemaster example refers not to “serving a sentence”, it refers to “sitting in prison”, and these two are not always the same.

Here’s the sentence you mentioned:

Obviously, you don’t just sit all the time when you’re in prison, you can also stand and lie down. But generally, you can say “he sits in prison”. As slang, you can omit the “in prison”, therefore — given the right and necessary context — “sitzen” without any additions can be understood as “im Gefängnis sitzen”. But it is by no means a set phrase, where everytime someone speaks of “sitzen”, he must be talking about prison.

I dislike the pairing “to serve a sentence” and (the German translation of) “to sit” (without any context) even more than the other pairing, because although the one direction (English to German) might work (because you have the context, coming from the English example), it lacks the context to work for the other direction (German to English). In my humble opinion, that pairing is the result of a translator who took too much liberty, resulting in an unclear translation.