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Bloggers from Non English Speaking Backgrounds – Share Your Tips and Stories Here

If you’re a blogger where English is not your first language – I’d love to get your participation in this discussion.

Recently I surveyed subscribers to my newsletter on the challenges that face them going into 2010. Quite a few of the responses to that question came from bloggers for whom English was not a first language.

The problems that this group of bloggers presented to me were numerous but two recurring challenges were:

  • Not knowing which language that they should blog in – should they blog in their own first language and have a smaller potential readership or blog in English where their readership could be larger but where they had challenges in writing as well?
  • Feeling isolated from other bloggers – a number reflected that at times they felt that they were not taken as seriously by bloggers in other parts of the world and found networking difficult.

As a blogger who speaks no other language but English I’m probably not the person to bring much wisdom to this topic – however I’d love to get the thoughts, experiences, tips and stories of bloggers who have been in this situation in comments below.

My hope is that this post will not only give bloggers struggling with these and other issues a place to tell of their challenges – but that some might also share how they approach the challenges and give some tips and advice for bloggers from a non English speaking background. I’d also love to hear stories of (and see examples of) your successes (and those of others) as I know that the blogosphere is alive and well in all corners of the globe.

If you’d like to share in your own language and/or English I’m happy for you to do so in any way that you feel comfortable.

I’m looking forward to reading what is shared below.

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. Mamboe29 says:

    Hej Darren,
    Never gave it much thought actually and automatically started in English though I’m 100% Dutch. My business site has been in English for over 8 years too so I guess that helped. Customer sometimes ask. I decided upon English as I did not want to maintain two sites in two languages. Also, knowing myself, I would not just be translating, I’d be writing different stories. I’m very new to blogging, love it, still working on attracting more traffic but also still working on understanding exactly what my blog is all about and those kind of go hand in hand. Got myself your 31DBBB so who knows.

    For the time being, I believe that blogging in English comes more naturally to me than in Dutch. When relevant (e.g. title of a book only available in Dutch), I will mention it to readers. So far just one comment of someone who thought it a shame and pretty weird. On the other hand, most Dutch are pretty ok with English seeing as our language is not widely spoken anyway.

    Thanks for the subject. Nice to read up on what others have decided!

    Ciao Madeleine

  2. Annelie Näs says:

    Personally, I’m Swedish but blog in English, which I have been doing for almost a year.

    For me the choice to blog in English was easy, at the time I set up the blog I was living in America, and now I live in Brussels. Thus around 80% of the people I meet do not speak Swedish, and many are interested to hear what I have to say.

    In Sweden most people speak relatively good English, so they understand what I write, but they have been espressing a need to be able to read the same type of information in Swedish. And because of that I’m launching a Swedish Blog on April 1st.

    I think that choosing what language to blog about is very individual. But I think, that like it was for me, where you live could perhaps be a big factor in choosing.

    If you do not travel a lot, I think that most of the time it is better to write in the native language (if you still live in that country) becuase most people do prefer to read on their own langauge. And if you live in a country where they do not speak your native language, perhaps it will be hard to get readers if you write in your native langage, as you most likley do not interract daily with native speakers of your blog language.

  3. I am Dutch and I am blogging in English. It’s a good exercise (54 years and never to old to learn) and I have a much larger audience this way.
    Always keep in mind that the message is much more important than the language errors you make.

  4. I share the experience with the Spanish bloggers: all over Latin America and Spain, people have very basic internet skills, most still don’t have broadband and monetization is a HUGE problem (they also DON’T buy online, it’s a pain in the butt). Also finding good quality networking opportunities is a challenge (and I don’t know about a site organizing carnivals info in Spanish).

    On the other hand, with a bit of creativity you can get known pretty fast because there’s less competition. People love free things, blogs are still free to read.

    I used to have a blog in English about a different subject than my main one and I’m sure it would have gone further if I had worked more on it but when you have a day job and you’re trying to make your side business work, adding just one more task is insane. And, not being able to connect as much because you’re not a “local” makes it a bit challenging but not impossible.

  5. Zaiful Anwar says:

    I am very interested in this topic.
    I am from Indonesia, I started a new blog a few months and is still a lot to learn about blogging.

  6. Guillermo says:

    @Claudia Juarez…

    …and that’s exactly what I tried to say in my very very long comment above!

    Gracias Claudia por tu poder de síntesis!

  7. Hi!

    It is a great idea to do this, to share your thoughts with other people that are no the same boat.

    I am struggling to make a decision on what to do. On the one hand I love what I am doing with my online community for women in Spanish http://www.planetademujeres.com but on the other hand I have seen that my posts in English that I only do ocassionally leave me more money.

    The questions that come to me are:

    Should I do what I like or what would give me more money?

    I believe that in a way if I continue posting in Spanish I will get somewhere although it would take time. What do you think?

  8. Brian Barker says:

    The phrase “everyone speaks English” is indeed an urban legend.

    Yet people also claim “no-one speaks Esperanto” which is also untrue.

    If you have a moment please look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2LPVcsL2k0

    Dr Kvasnak teaches English at Florida Atlantic University.

  9. I started blogging in English regarding challenges I had to face and it was one of the best decisions I could make.

    The single most important reason for my language improvement is blogging. Even if I’d close the blog today I’d still consider it as a success for this reason. My advice: make it a challenge, even when you fail with the blog at the end of the day you’ll learn a lot by facing the challenge. Choosing non-native language is exactly a king of challenge which I’m talking about here.

    Problems with networking is a whole different thing. I don’t think it is really related with someone living in Eastern Europe or India or wherever. That’s more related with our mentality – we either feel comfortable writing emails to people who left comments, commenting on other blogs or engaging discussions in different places or we don’t. In the latter case (and this was my case at the beginning) it is just another challenge to face. Of course there are some place-related specifics (e.g. Poles aren’t as open as Americans) but these aren’t major issues.

    One more thing, having other experience (blogging from different country/culture) may be an advantage in discussion since you can easily bring fresh perspective. Very good example is law and all its aspects. American law (and whole culture around) is vastly different from what you can see in most of Europe for example and that’s pretty good hook to engage every law-related discussion in your area of expertise.

    I consider points you mention in the post rather as a positive thing than our disadvantage. The most painful thing for me personally is still lack of fluency in writing which is a handicap when timing is important. I guess it takes me reasonably more time to prepare the same amount of content than it takes native English-speakers. With no proof reading it contains more errors and proof-reading takes even more time.

  10. Hi everyone,
    I am from Malaysia.
    I can speak and write well in Malay language am comfortable with my written in Malay.I can express anything once come into my mind without have to pause for a second.

    I started to blog using Malay language because I have a beautiful niche of the 21 decade to share with local Malays.In addition,I could perceive it has the potential of sharing with Indonesia by the time our US company opens the business later at there.

    However,I did have many limitations for bringing my blog beyond and share together with the world.This is because our company is allowing to do in the international market.

    Secondly.how to increase traffic to your blog, which is not written in an English? E,g.What forums can I participate? Warrior? Digital Point? Most of the forums only accept in English language,right?

    Best example here.Can I write Malay here and to get all you to understand what am I saying? I don’t think so.And worst still,I believe other countries sure have difficulty to understand neither our Malay forums nor in social networking like facebook,they talk in a market language and write in shortcut words.

    See this:
    1.Saja>je ,shj(only)
    2.Betul>btol(correct)
    3.Perempuan>Pompuan(girl)

    The consequence is Facebook or Search Engines won’t understand their word of mouth language :)

    See you ya.
    Wish everyone best of health and success.
    Cheers!

  11. Guillermo says:

    I hope DR is still reading the comments for this thread… In such case: Darren, I think this is a good time to add some new sections to the community forum! Maybe by geo-location, “spanish speaking blogosphere”, “eastern europe”, “Mid East”…

    C’mon man! The world is yours!

  12. JTS says:

    Regarding blogging in spanish, I agree with all said above. From my view the main issue is that THERE IS NO WAY TO MONETIZE A BLOG IN SPANISH. In Spain;

    * Online advertising exists but it is monopolized by big media corporations, big newspapers and so on. Some medium-small online magazines started to close last year for this reason.

    * Private ad sellings do not exist for blogs + bloggers are not considered important or key people inside any industry like in the USA.

    * Adsense, adbrite, [put the name of any other like these here] only drop cents. Affiliate programs are quite the same.

    * Selling eBooks, music or any other product that can be downloaded for free elsewhere is just not viable.

    There is stuff enough to carry out a whole research or writing new articles; monetizing a blog in spanish :)

  13. C. Bourgeois says:

    Very good topic. I’m French Canadian but live mostly in English.

    I took an RV road trip to Europe during all of 2006 and kept a blog so that my ex co-workers, friends and family could follow along, know what I was up to and for my family, know that I was safe. As one of my friends only spoke French, I started out writing solely in French. After a couple of months, an American uncle of mine asked that I write a few words in English also (most of my relatives live in the US) so I started writing all my blog posts in both English and French, which was time consuming! Luckily I’m a translator by education.

    About halfway in the year, I found out that my French friend didn’t make the time to read me any more, so I decided to write only in English, as it was more accessible to most.

    I’m planning another blog and I still struggle with the same question though, especially if I want to make money out of it. I guess if I can end up making a living by blogging, I would have an additional market if I wrote also in French. I’d just have to write in both. Any thoughts?

  14. H2P says:

    I’m from Indonesia, actually mastered English are just the basics. but with me even more easily translate and corrections only right word, not too much trouble. Indeed we understand the language stidaknya submitted, it will become easier.

  15. Deciding which language to go with. Its a pretty individual thing and I think the most important consideration is whether you want to eventually make money off your blogging.

    Though my site, http://www.chilean-wine.com is in English, it is about Chilean wines. I thought about doing it in both Spanish and English. Doing it in Spanish alone was out of the question as the demand for my site concept and keywords was too low in Spanish. I would not be able to monetize effectively.

    Doing both languages would be a royal pain in the ass. So I opted for English only at this time. No regrets about this.

    Unfortunately the Spanish speaking does not yet pay as much attention to blogs as the English speaking world does. But it is changing..and I’ll be supporting both languages before too long. Gotta think ahead.

  16. Thanks for this opportunity Darren. Since English is the second language in the Philippines I didn’t have a hard time making blogs in English. I guess the colonial mentality is the reason. Filipino really like western culture and I hear Manny Pacquiao always says this on his TV appearances: “You know, you know” ( he he just kidding).

    And regarding targeting the kind of audiences in my blog, this sometimes amaze me because even if the language is done in English and my hosting was in Canada, majority of my traffic comes from the Philippines.

    I think the things I’m writing are factors that affects the kind of traffic I have.

  17. Prasanga says:

    Hi, Darren great point to discuss. I am from Holland. In Holland we speak Dutch. From the initial state of blogging. It even never came across the mind to blog in Dutch, because it was only right to focus on a global English speaking market where the visitors amount is larger then the local visitor amount. I think the competition is big, but then again that is the challenge. I am blogging since ’07 this is still lucrative.

  18. Olusegun says:

    Hi,

    I’m a Nigerian Blogger but English is only spoken by the educated among the 150+million of us. I estimate this lucky percentage to be roughly 30% and then to realize the fact that internet access is almost a luxury, you can just make that 10% of the 30%.

    i sometimes feel isolated too not just in the blogosphere but online because of the negative press about us being corrupt. the bad folks are less than 0.5% of 150million but i guess that is too much to th international community.

    Besides, the basic things like having regular online business facilities (regular, fast Internet access and the bandwidth to even download free opensource tools) is difficult to get, ability to open a PayPal, clickbank or ebay account is not possible except you come up with a shady way and getting traffic to blogs is generally a challenge. Sometimes I am not even sure of being able to post to my blog!

    For me, I believe that these challenges only make my resolve to succeed online a lot stronger and makes me look at other legit alternatives to get the basic things needed to succeed as an internet entrepreneur.

    There some consolation though. I love the education i get from problogger, copyblogger, E-J etc.

    Cheers

  19. Anelly says:

    English is not my native language but my blogs are written in English.
    My biggest challenge is when I guest post on other blogs. It’s difficult to comply with the host’s requirements regarding writing skills. I wrote a guest post for LifeHack.org but on the other hand I was refused on other important blogs becasue of my English.

  20. I have some blogs on spanish, my natal language. I’m doing well, but the monetization it’s not easy.

    I make god money because I use my main blog to sell my own ebooks and membership site.

    I think now it’s hard to make some good money but we are planting the seeds for a very brilliant future ; )

  21. Nduka says:

    Blogging in English is advisable as most of your blog readers have a good knowledge of English language though when you want to start blogging your feel your native language being inferior as you may not be able to express urself as you want. This trend should be endured and for those who have difficulty in expressing themselves in English should see this as an opportunity to leran

  22. Chio says:

    I decided to comment, finally ;)

    My first language is not English and many people in my country don’t know how to speak English well.

    My blog is in English, because I want more people to read it and because I love this language. Ofcourse, there are many bad things too. I have so much to say, but I just can’t find proper words and therefore, I can’t post something. I’d love to post something about history of cameras and moving picture, but I can’t translate that into English.

    Great post and great blog. I didn’t know you could earn money with sites like Amazon, until I saw your ‘Why I’m using amazon etc.’.

    Good luck!

  23. Sridhar says:

    I’m an Indian blogger. I don’t have a problem in writing blog posts in English. Apart from English, I write in a mixture of Indian languages such as Hindi, Telugu,Tamil etc.

    I haven’t been very successful in building a decent community around my site yet. But in India there is a kind of inferiority for our own languages. Even thought people here know native languages better, they don’t take you seriously if you write in those languages.

    I wish to build a huge community and prove people wrong that you can’t become a professional blogger by writing in Indian Languages.

  24. Hi,I am the one with the nick-”Thenextrillions above, from Malaysia.I am sorry that I have just changed my blogspot to be forwarded from my new domain.

    I’ve been advice in other forum to use a domain name to play safe.

    Extend my opinion here.I would like to ask whether a non-English written site can be submitted to Article Directories? We all know Article submission is important to increase your traffic rank.

    Just by looking at this point itself,enough for me to make my own decision.

    Do you agree?
    Henry

  25. Richard says:

    My native language is Dutch and I considered myself to be pretty good in English until I started my blog :). Before I started my blog I wrote a test article of 400 hundred words. I actually emailed this article to some well known English bloggers and asked them for their honest opinion about my spelling and grammar.

    I received a lot of response and great feedback. Which made me decide to go for English on my blog.

    In addition I can give the following tip: Use Firefox with spelling control. ( I personally use the OpenMedSpel plugin)

    Furthermore in the sidebar of my blog I’ve set up the following poll (with WP-Polls):

    Do I need somebody to fix my spelling and grammar?

    If I will receive to many ‘yes you do’ I will consider hiring someone to check my grammar and spelling before I publish my articles.

  26. Here’s my two cents: Although not an experienced blogger by a long shot, I have to admit it can be somewhat challenging. Speaking and writing constantly in two languages, can be mentally exausting at times. Though it didn’t take me long to learn English (my second language), even after so many years of exposure and practice, I struggle sometimes, especially with spelling, sentence structure and context.
    Fortunately I love reading, and it does help me..as long as I read stuff written in English

  27. Rajib says:

    There are a number of things to consider before you decide what language you want to blog in. You have to look at your target market and also your language skill in the language that you want to blog in. No one wants to read a blog post filled with grammatical errors. Also, you have to consider if you want to make money blogging. If making money is your goal, blogging in English would make the most sense.

  28. Mike says:

    I think people around the world should share their own view,culture on the web through a common Language, so as to music,English is widest used all over the world,so why cannot we use English to communicate.But of course, if you didn’t know English, there is no other way but to use MUSIC OR Picture.Art is a common Language.
    Agree?

  29. Hi,it’s me again.
    I don’t know why I have more to share here? This post seems caught me :)

    1) Hi Richard,your written is good enough for everyone to understand.
    2) Hi Rajib,we can say no one want to read a grammaitcal errors post.Some times,it is better than you didn’t understand a post in other language at all.Although there is Translation features add-on,thanks to the internet.However,the translation still has its weaknesses.That is,it can’t translate perfectly when a language written is recognize but only through the local dialect.

    To everyone out there,there is an English product available for doing the task of checking spelling and grammatical errors correction.I have one by myself.To be frank,I am using it now.Only when doing a blog posting and submit to Article directories.

    Another thing is,there are many English forum sites for us to post and communicate to each other for learning,sharing and improving our knowledge.I believe,I made a bit of improvement on my English as a second language and the 1st in an international language.

    That’s why I am here :)
    Keep up the good post.
    Love you.
    Best of health and success

  30. I am Swedish but live in Brazil and I blog in both Swedish and English. I have a quite popular food blog in Swedish about Brazilian food and Culture and that was my first blog.

    I decided to start blogging in English and after only posting a few times and landed a very well paid blogger job for a larger blogging company and blogged for them for a year.

    In Sweden almost everyone speaks English and I lived in the UK for 5 years so it wasn’t very difficult for me to start writing in English. I still worry about grammar every now and then but have decided not to worry to much about it.

    At Berries and Cream Blog Design I have to blog in English as our target market is English. :) And I communicate with all our clients in English everyday.

    I’ve just recently started a new site and chose to blog in English because I want to reach out to an International market. I also feel very comfortable speaking and writing English so it comes naturally for me.

    For anyone thinking of stating a blog in English but is afraid their English isn’t good enough I say: practice makes perfect! Just do it! :)

  31. Marko says:

    Hi Darren…

    I had a blog in my native language. A self-help blog. It was very difficult to get some visit, and the entire field of self-help does not exist in my language, at least not on the Internet.

    It was almost impossible to make money because I received a visits from only 3 countries.

    Then I made a test. I began to write in English. People came from all over the world! I could give comments on other blogs on self-help field, and put a link to my blog. It was a relief for me.

    But it was strange that one day I only had visit from my native country, and they looked more pages on English than their language! Then I made this current blog.

    The biggest problem now is writing. I know a lot of English words, but grammar is my weaker side. This presents a problem for my readers. I work a lot on it. I read blogs and books about grammar and writing better…. and I will overcome this obstacle…

  32. I am a psychologist in Germany and started with blogging in 2005. Meanwhile I have four blogs and I am using Twitter and Facebook.
    Your tips, Darren, are very often really helpful and I like your newsletter.
    Although the subject of my blogs – Personality – is a little difficult I have in the meantime about 600 visitors a day. It’s a lo of fun – and a lot of work.

    See here: http://www.persoenlichkeits-blog.de

  33. Andini Rizky says:

    I’m an Indonesian and have just started my blog a week ago, and my first question was: should I blog about Japanese language in Indonesian language for my fellow Indonesian readers, or should I blog in Japanese about Indonesian language for Japanese readers. Writing about Japanese language in English also came to mind but then I realize about the competition and my own fluency in English which is not so good. (^-^)

    Then I decided on writing in Indonesian, because:
    1. it’s way easier to get on top of google.co.id that way
    2. I want to meet new people through my blog, and since I’ve moved back to Indonesia, it’s easier to meet people in Indonesia
    3. there’s still very few good sources (books) about Japanese in Indonesian language, so I think I will fill some niche here.

    Thank you for letting me chime in.

  34. mustika says:

    Indonesian blogger here, actually I ve been an online journalist for long (French & English). I seriously turned to blog only a year back, language barrier is common problem for Indonesian to understand English either blog or website. I found it difficult, but I drag myself to learn by extensive reading, regular journal writing. Blog writing style is quite different than journalist style, that s what I need to adjust if I want to get more traffic to my blog. I applied for several as guest blogger and most responses said content are great & fresh but I need to adjust my writing style.

  35. so says:

    184 comments after… LOL
    I write in spanish as it is my mother language. Also, I´m betting on the huge unattended spanish speaking market! But as other fellow bloggers have said, it is hard to monetize it, and not all spanish speaker people are use to read blogs… yet.
    It is hard work but I have faith I will make it!!

  36. Zalim says:

    Hi People…
    I blog from Russia, and that is the language I speak best. However, at the moment I blog in English. The choice was pretty simple to me: I have a decent command of English and I was just thinking of sharing some general ideas and musings to the world. Nothing specific – just for action.

    I am now thinking of starting another blog – only now it will be in Russian, and that is because the subject is going to be specific to an industry, and my search for smth similar in Russian failed. So, I kinda want to be the first one to start this. This way I lose the world’s audience (which is not necessarily going to come to me) in favor of the local (though, you probably know that Russian audience is not so small), which I will try to attract in one way or another…

    Cheers

  37. My first language is Hebrew so this question did occur to me at first.
    I think It really depends on the blogger’s niche and what they aim for. I’m a web developer so my first goal as a blogger was to promote my business.
    I decided to blog in English though in order to increase the target audience.
    By this I hope to build authority, and eventually make direct and indirect (by projects and consulting) income.

  38. Talk about lucky, I was watching the Oprah show earlier today and they were talking about a new skin cream that helps with age spots. I jumped on the web and did some searching and found they are doing a promotion. They are giving away free samples. Like usual just need to pay the shipping…Enjoy.

  39. Hi. I’m Italian and I blog in Italian. But I think that English can boost my blogging activity. At now I’m not able to blog in a good english so I try to mix (I’m french speaking too) in a new modern fusion.

  40. RossDoctor says:

    This was a really great read, thank you so much for taking time to put it together! Touched on some very good ideas. I’ll certainly be back soon

  41. Hi – I want to say thanks for an interesting site about a subject I have had an interest in for a long time now. I have been looking in and reading the posts avidly so just wanted to express my gratitude for providing me with some very good reading material. I look forward to more, and taking a more proactive part in the discussions here, whilst picking up some knowledge too!!

  42. This is a good blog write-up, I’ve learnt a good deal.

  43. ss waste and continuous learning by the people living and working in the organisations.
    My blog is basically visited by italian (local) visitors but also by some english speaking ones (most of them coming through twitter interactions) and f