If you, like me, are a person with English as your second language, you might be wondering whether you should write your posts in English, or in your own language. In this post, I will share some information and some pros and cons in regards to this question. I recently got this email that had an interesting situation in terms of what language to write your content in so wanted to share the question here on the site as well. Take a look:
Thanks for sharing your knowledge on how to create a site. It’s really useful and easy to understand. I am in the process of creating mine own and i would like some advice from you, if you agree 🙂 I originally would write in English but I wouldn’t like to keep my family and most of my friends out of my community and that would involve to write in Spanish and Italian as well. I already tried to do my about page in the 3 languages, but I have found that translating the text it kind of loses the charm… and I don’t have time to write every single post in the 3 languages. What do you think I should do? Should I leave it just in English, or should I switch to write sometimes in Spanish and Italian as well? And explain on my profile that they will receive some posts in different languages? I appreciate your opinion. Thanks and once it’s done I will invite you to read my content.
As usual I responded pretty quickly with the first thing that came to my mind and this was it:
thanks for the nice words! it’s a difficult question to answer, I’ve seen sites that are written in more than one language so that can work well. I guess you will have to decide what your goals with the site are and how much time you have for posting content (2 or 3 languages will take longer time than 1 language for sure). Sorry I cannot be of a better help for this.
It’s definitely an interesting situation to be in when you are able to speak and write in more than one language. For most bloggers the difficult starting questions are what to write about or what name to give your site, it’s not about what language should I write in. On the other hand if you do speak two or more languages that will be the key decision to take first before starting: what language to write in. Should I write in English or in my first language?
Pros and cons of English vs your first language writing
- First and foremost you of course feel more secure in your own language when it comes to communication. You will have a better grip of local sayings and will be more likely to avoid misunderstanding.
- When writing in your own language your target group will be smaller, than writing in a global language like English – a language many Internet users speak. Writing in English you will naturally have a bigger audience and more readers.
- The competition on the other hand will be much lower than if you choose to write in English. There are millions of sites in English about all sorts of topics – that might not be the case, when in comes to less spoken languages.
- When it comes to co-operation, companies from your own region will be more interested in you, making it easier to go to meetings, events and get products for review for instance. I have experienced that companies refer me to their local department (if there is one) when they learn that I don’t live in the US even though I write in English.
- When you write in your own language, you can build closer relationships with other bloggers from your region. I have experienced being invited to events in New York, which I couldn’t attend as easily as the ones in my city.
- When it comes to social media, writing in English is also better, as for instance Twitter is not used as much in my country (this might be different for your country).
Goals, time and usability
Some bloggers choose to write in their own language and write a short sentence describing what they wrote in English at the end of the post. This might work for sites that are mainly about showcasing pictures, but if your site is more about text, this will be confusing for the reader and time-consuming for you.
I decided early on to go with English for all my projects. All my sites are born global in the sense that I look for a global audience and am not targeting specific countries and geographic areas only. Internet is perfect for global sites as it easily connect you to anyone anywhere in the world. Because I want to reach the biggest possible audience I decided to write in English as the English is the language I feel that I can reach the most people with. My first advice is to figure out what goals you have with your project first. Figure out what you want to do and that automatically makes you have an easier decision in terms of what language to write in.
Other important factor to consider is the time you have for running a project. Writing in more than one language is more time-consuming and potentially leaves you with less time for other important tasks like promotion of content and networking. Do you have the time to write each of your posts in more than one language? Are you ready to put in the effort it takes into this for a longer period? You should be certain in this before starting.
Bilingual social media
Third important thing you have to consider is usability. If you wish to write a multilingual site you have to put your visitors as a priority and think how they will feel coming to a post or a social media channel that has content in different languages. Will the languages work well together? Will it all look nice and tidy and easy to browse through? Are you better of creating two different sites, one for each language?
If you create content in two different languages, create two Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Your English-speaking audience is not interested in seeing tweets in another language in their Twitter feed and will most likely unfollow you. The same goes for Facebook. People like to feel that you’re writing to them and that they’re in the focus, so the second language adds to confusion and irritation.
Some bloggers even use Google Translate to add the English to their site – don’t. As good as Google Translate is, if you don’t speak English at all, and can’t translate the text on your own, you shouldn’t translate it at all. Other sites have a button that will automatically show the English page. This takes some effort, but this is the other and better option to having a site in two languages. When it comes to the domain name, choose one in English for your English site and the other in your own language, if possible.
WordPress to the rescue
Definitely a lot of things to consider to be able to make your decision. Take a bit of time and think about it. If you are uncertain that you can do it I would recommend to just start in one language, whatever language you pick. Start with one, start producing content, start building a network and an audience. Get some experience that way and see how it all feels. Few months down the line you might have enough confidence and resources that you can add another language or maybe even better start a whole new site in the other language. That could be the way to go.
And remember, don’t expect the same readership numbers in your own language as those you might get in English. I hope you have found some answers about the bilingual question in this post! When you’re ready to get started WordPress is your multilingual friend. More than 50% of all WordPress installs are in a non-English language. Just pick your language during the install process.
All the design themes and plugins support language packs. There is a large community doing translations with aim to translate all the top themes and plugins into every language. Welcome to the world of blogging!