Last week I wrote a post for Darren Rowse’s Problogger site on How to Blog for a Global Audience. There were a lot of good comments which you can read on the post, if you’re interested.

The part which provoked the most discussion was on how to make your blog available in different languages. Many of you are interested in being able to blog in different languages and it makes sense. If you blog in English, around 30% of the online population can understand what you write. If you blog in English, Spanish and Chinese, you reach over half of the online world.

So how can you publish your blog in different languages? Especially if you don’t happen to know Spanish or Chinese? (since you’re reading this I’m assuming you know English). In the post I suggest that if you have not got another option then using a translation plugin or widget on your site could be something to consider.

A lot of commentors quite rightly pointed out that machine translation is no substitute for either blogging directly into another language, or using a professional translator. A machine translation will help you to understand what an article is about, but you will need perseverance, imagination and a lot of patience to decipher some of the finer points. It’s useful if there is no other option but can only really be counted as a last resort.

As far as using a professional translator goes, for a commercial website this is a must. But if we are talking about making your blog available in many different languages is it really practical? Professional translation costs money, and let’s face it, most blogs don’t make enough to pay for those services. Some blogs rely on volunteer translators – Global Voices Online has a large network of volunteers who translate posts into different languages. But I guess most blogs just don’t have access to this kind of service.

Some bloggers do blog directly in different languages. Collazo Projects publishes most posts in both English and Spanish (it helps that they are a US/Cuban husband and wife team) and Benny Lewis (who calls himself the Irish Polyglot) makes 7 versions of each post in his videoblog in 7 different languages! Of course for this you have to know a different language well enough to be able to blog in it, and you can only blog in languages you know. I’m guessing there are very few people in the world who happen to be able to write in all 3 of the top Internet languages.

So what is the solution? There are many different languages around on the Internet, and only a few polyglot people can pass between these different ‘worlds’. How can we help these different worlds to talk to each other?

On PocketCultures we wrote recently about an interesting project in China where a group of volunteers translate The Economist magazine into Chinese every week.

Are these kind of projects the way forward? Is there a better solution? What do you think?

Read more:
The world’s most difficult languages
How difficult is Chinese?
World language families


About the author

Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.