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Multilingual Blogging

Darren Barefoot has an interesting question that I’ve been hearing a number of bloggers asking recently. It centers around bilingual blogs. He’s working with a company that has a bilingual site (English and French I suppose as it’s Canadian). Darren writes:

“They want to launch a blog, but it’s something of a pilot project and they don’t have the resources to launch it in both languages. There’s not only the cost and pain of translating the entries, but the dodgier issue of translating (or not translating) user-generated comments as well.

How should they deal with this issue? Launch blogs in both languages which run independent of one another? Or compromise their bilingual site, launch in English and hope there’s not a French-Canadian backlash? ”

Head over and give Darren your insight if you have any.

It’s a question that I’ve heard asked in numerous ways and from numerous bloggers recently. Blogging is a multi-lingual medium yet unless you either employ a translator/s or rely on a dodgy automated translating tool it’s very difficult to reach more than one language group at a time.

I’ve been approached on numerous occasions by people wanting to translate my content into other languages on their own blogs and have often wished I could have sections for different languages with some of my best posts here at ProBlogger. The only real way I could see this working would be on some type of revenue share basis where the translator took a share of whatever was earned from the content that they translated.

I know there are some bilingual bloggers out there (who are producing the same content in different languages) but from what I can tell it tends to either be a drawn out process, an expensive one or one with low quality results.

I’ve asked this before – but I’d be interested to see examples of blogs that are tackling the multilingual issue in creative ways.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Michele says:

    Darren

    Here in Ireland we have a number of bloggers who blog in both English and Irish (Gaelic). The best known of them blogs at:
    http://imeall.blogspot.com/
    and
    http://imeall.wordpress.com/

    One in each language :)

    It might not be what you were thinking of, but it’s the best I could think of at this time of night

    Michele

  2. Leon says:

    My solution – set up Babelfish on your blog.

  3. PXLated says:

    A good solution is Expression Engine. There are many bilingual bloggers using it and several different ways to do it. The most popular as I recall is…well first you have to understand that EE allows custom fields, as many as you want, and custom categories/statuses/etc…to have a field for each language you want. Then, based on what language a person selects, you serve the appropriate field. Also makes it easy for translation since all versions are within the same publish/edit window.
    There are other methods and several threads about multilingual sites on the EE forums.
    ———-
    In the case you mentioned, the above method allows one to start with a main language then go back and translate as time budget allows.

  4. Darren says:

    Thanks for posting about that, and good suggestions. There are quite a few options over on my site as well.

  5. John says:

    I dont even have a blog yet, but my advice for anyone wanting multilinguality would be to just use the best auto-translating tool available, and use a very visible and clearly understood disclaimer (for each translated language) stating that the translations may not be what the author intended. Eventually, when multilingual websites become ubiquitous, there’ll be enough incentive for someone like goog to develop a superior auto-translation tool which more fully incorporates the nuances of all the major languages.

  6. brem says:

    I’m blogging in both french and english.

    It is well worth it as you get traffic from both communities. However, it takes:

    1- bilingual blogger
    2- able to translate on the fly
    3- has twice the time allowed to write an article (because basically, he writes it twice)

    There is yet to be a wordpress plugin that does what I want, as far as language management goes and I’m too lazy to make one myself (he he he).

    However, I have a good idea of how to do it. If you are willing to pay me, I’ll do it hehehehehe

    head over to martinbreton.com to have a look at an imperfect attempt at bilingual blogging.

    brem

  7. Eric says:

    Brem,

    Your solution fits probably perfectly to your needs, but there are some cons:
    - Your English readers probably doesn’t care about reading a full translation in French and vice & versa,
    - Your posts are too large, and as result, your ads are pretty difficult to catch. There is no doubt that you could improve your revenues with two traditional mono language blogs with more highlighted ads.
    - What if you want to stop blogging in French?
    - How can you identify which community is bringing the strongest traffic? It’s obvious that the English one is your main stream, but do you have any clue about the ratio between your English versus French readers with Awstats? I don’t think so…
    - What if you want to advertise in both languages to be more efficient?

    I guess the best and easiest way to manage a multilingual blog is to run two separate blogs (like Michele mentioned it), in a totally independent way, with both hosted on the same domain. If your blog skyrockets (or should I say if your blogs skyrocket), you will be able to add new languages/stuff later just by adding new blogs (with of course the needed resources to feed them!). But if running a bilingual blog is not rewarding enough, you’ll be able in seconds to kill the weakest one and keep blogging with the remaining one!

    Blogging is a hard work, and blogging in two languages is at least twice harder. I’m pretty aware of that, because I’m currently running a bilingual blog, using 2 different blogs (http://www.freegamesnews.com/en and http://www.freegamesnews.com/fr).

    But if running two different blogs needs a bit more work than Brem’s method, I’m convinced that it really worth it.

  8. I came from my bloglines to suggest Brem’s site (but I see I am a little late!) I first saw that since blogging at the “Torch” during the Olympics and thought if you wanted to go bilingual – that should be the way to go!.

    But, then I found the translator plugin from Simple Thoughts (Taragana)for my PetLvr Blog and really .. every blog should be using this great plug in. All you have to do is click on a flag to translate the page into one of eight languages (go ahead and try – click the third flag from the left to translate the page into French)

    If you like that – just click the link under the flags to get the plugin for your own blog. I’ve been happy with it and in a way kind of proud that my blog can even be read in other languages. When it translates the page, everything on the page is translated – comments, text in sidebar, links, etc.

  9. Gleb Reys says:

    One of my blogs is multilingual. I’ve worked closely with the developers of the blog engine (Serendipity) to get the translation working smoothly.

    Initially, it was a babelfish-based translation, but I gave up on this soon enough as it was no good in producing good Russian to English translation. It really does take a bilingual blogger to maintain both translations for each article.

    Originally the blog I’m talking about (http://solaris.reys.net) was started in Russian. Few months later I had added an English part of the blog (http://solaris.reys.net/english) and everything in the blog engine had been hacked so that practically every link on Russian blog corresponds to the same one in English, like this:
    http://solaris.reys.net -> http://solaris.reys.net/english
    http://solaris.reys.net/2006/08/solaris_books -> http://solaris.reys.net/english/2006/08/solaris_books

    So, it’s easy enough to switch the language for a specific entry (there is a link provided). The only problem I’m still facing is that English-speaking visitors can’t obviously read the comments in Russian, and due to the complexity of the task I’ve decided to leave all the comments in a single thread for each blog entry.

    What could be done though is a custom filter which would show English comments to English-speaking readers (based on the default language of your browser), and Russian comments to Russian-speaking ones.

  10. brem says:

    Eric, I am well aware of the limitations of the method I use, and your summary here is pretty accurate. In fact, if I wasn’t so lazy, I would develop a wordpress plug-in to manage a post using two languages for each post. However, since I prefer to actually blog and not develop, I haven’t done it yet.

    I’m not saying it’s the solution to Darren’s problem. Like I said, however, *my* best solution would be one blog, where you can choose the language of the interface, and as such, the articles posted would be divided into two database entry, one for french, one for english.

    I can somewhat figure out where the traffic comes from, but it would be hard anyway to find out the demographics because there are a lot of bilingual people who read my blog, and to them, either language is fine, so that would also place a bias on my stats, even if I had “two” blogs.

    Some of my readers however like the fact french and english are next to one another on a single page. To these people, it is a way to improve their french (or english). I can see however that this is not for everyone.

    As for my post being to large, well, they would be just as large if I was blogging in one language, but they might be a little less “long”. :)

    Thanks for the “critique” and comments. Darren, listen to Eric. ;)

    brem

  11. Jude says:

    I subscribe to a few Spanish-language blogs, and occasionally I am tempted to translate them if the terminology is too foreign, but inevitably the translations are bad no matter what tool I use.

    For example, I was a little confused by this sentence:

    En la tecnología, como es ley de vida, lo viejo se rinde ante el empuje de lo nuevo. Es por eso que dentro de poco las cabinas telefónicas nos parecerán un objeto tan arcaico como los gramófonos o el NoDo.

    So I used a translation program which gave me this translation:

    In the technology, as it is life law, the old thing surrenders before the push of the new thing. It is why soon the telephone cabins will seem to us a as archaic object as the gramófonos or the Node.

    Okay, I get that. Cabinas telefonicas are obviously telephone booths. I used the translation program as a shortcut, but if I were actually going to make a coherent posting out of the translation, it would obviously require a lot of modification.

    I’m not sure why, if they have a truly bilingual site, there isn’t someone who could write an original post, perhaps on the same general topic, or someone who could quickly modify a translation.

    I tried the Pet Lvr Blog translation, and it wasn’t too bad (just as google page translations are understandable) but it had typical imperfections. For example, it didn’t know the words “tiresome” and “everytime” so it left them untranslated. This can make it challenging to read the page if you know a different language. I could get the gist of the post by reading it in Spanish, but some parts were unintelligible.

  12. David says:

    Unless you’re completely fluent, perfectly bilingual, I don’t recommend it. Readers are very adept (and love) to point out errors, and you can spend a fair amount of time proofreading & correcting.
    Those auto-translating programs aren’t very good and the translating is servicable, at best, and rarely can match the original and as others have pointed out. There’s too many imperfections to be readable to me.

    (Plus if you use a program like Movable Type, you have to HTML all the accents and symbols.)

  13. Dmitry says:

    Darren, and what is your policy on translating your content? Is a link to the original post from the translated post enough?

  14. Steve Paine says:

    I have the same problem on my site Carrypad.com/de

    My journal (I don’t call it a blog) is in English and if I have detailed article i’ll break it out onto my main portal (run under Joomal where I have more control about article positioning and formatting.) THis is the site that I run in two languages. Not the journal!

    By having a complete seperate lanuage portal i’m able to offer a better revenue-sharing opportunity. The translator is able to translate my reports (which are not time-critical) as they have time. At the moment i’ve only had the first article translated due to the transaltor being ill (there’s another problem to consider.) but they have seen the ‘clicks-light’ and are happy to continue.

    For time-critical news information, an auto-translator might be the best option but if you’re including valuable editorial, be very careful.

    Steve.

  15. Peter says:

    Darren,

    I wrote an article on using multilingual sites to increase AdSense revenue and organic SERP’s through increased unique content:
    http://www.twofiftyaday.com/2006/07/18/increase-adsense-revenue-by-800-in-just-10-minutes/

    Peter

  16. Arne says:

    I blog in both English and Dutch using the gengo wordpress plugin. It took a while to find a decent plugin, and it’s still in development, but it does get the job done.

    Personally I’m not at all interested in automated translations. Anyone who’s even remotely polyglot will tell you how bad the translations usually are. Given the high complexity of natural languages, and the very different ideomatic ways that different languages use to express the similar things, I think it’ll still be a long way until we get decent automatic translations. Add to that the pace at which internet lingo evolves and the situation gets even worst.

    With Gengo you chose the languages you will be using, and for every post you can indicate what language it’s in, and wether it’s the translation of another posts. Translations automatically link to each other. Comments stay seperated per language, but there’s also a link to see the comments in other languages. Some posts I write in one language, some in the other, and some in both. Depends on what I think is the potential audience.

  17. Sante says:

    Darren,
    this is my line of work as I am a bilingual blogger (English / Italian). I posted some thoughts based on my experience for further consideration at:

    http://blog.achille.name/2006/08/16/how-to-set-up-and-manage-a-multi-lingual-blog/

    Hope it helps.

    Cheers,

    Sante

  18. pcunix says:

    I tried to attract translators by offering 75% revenue sharing ( http://aplawrence.com/Misc/translators.html ) but although several people have expressed interest, only one translation has been published..

  19. Daniel Glazman says:

    I have a solution, easy to implement, working in all blog systems.
    See http://glazman.org/weblog/dotclear/index.php?2006/05/31/1834-langstabs

  20. Kenji says:

    Very interesting subject.

    My blog about Japan is written in French, Japanese and English. I am still wondering if the mix of comments written in different languages makes sense. What should I do ? I obviously don’t have the time to translate everybody’s comments. Should I try to translate the most interesting one, or translate my answers ? The plugin I am using (polyglot for WordPress) allows to use languages tags in the comments.

    What do you think of my ‘solution’ ?

  21. Tina Lang-Stuart says:

    This is the 25th reply and nobody will probably read it but here’s my two cents anyway:

    – Accept that your solution will be imperefect! Some will complain, others will love it.
    – Don’t work with Babblefish or any other automatic translation tool. They do more damage than good.
    - Look who you want your blog to read. Your potential audience will determine which language to chose or whether indeed you’re better off with a bilingual blog.
    - Bilingual regions like Quebec are very senstive to language. Create a tandem blog of a French and an English speaker and post alternately in both languages.
    - Be open about your qualms. Engage your blog audience in letting you know what they prefer.

  22. Eve says:

    I had this issue as well developing a comment-enabled site in English and French. The regulations for any government website are that they must be in English and French if your audience is both Francophone and Anglophone, but it can be unilingual if you’re serving a unilingual population. By extension, I argued that if your population is 80% anglophone, the distribution of comments will generally reflect that. So let your users speak whichever language they prefer, and the trend in comments will reflect the trend in population. The content we provided was completely bilingual, but everything else just went the way it went.

  23. moshu says:

    If you are using WordPress the best way to go about multilingual blogging is to install the Gengo plugin. Here is a write up how to do it.

  24. wow gold says:

    Thanks for posting about that, and good suggestions. There are quite a few options over on my site as well.

  25. wow gold says:

    If you are using WordPress the best way to go about

  26. LingoTip says:

    You can create a widget box with your translated blog at http://www.lingotip.com. You then just paste it in your site and the readers of your blog can toggle between the languages. If you provide the translation, then the service is free. If you use one of the site’s translators there is usually a fee. But, since it is based on a bidding platform, the prices are reasonable.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] UPDATE: Thanks for all the great feedback. If I’m able, I’ll eventually reveal what the blog(s) and how we came to a final decision. Darren Rowse, pro blogger extraordinaire, mentioned this post, and there’s some suggestions over on his site as well. [...]

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  3. [...] This morning I found a very interesting question raised in a post at problogger on how to blog in different languages. [...]

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