Should I Translate My Blog Into Other Languagues?

This is a guest post by Christian Arno . If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

The story behind many blogs is roughly the same. Someone started it as a hobby, maybe to vent some steam or simply to get their thoughts, views or expert analysis out into the open and hope that someone is willing to listen.

Some blogs flop, whilst others snowball, creating minor celebrities from those at the helm. The so-called “prophet of doom” blogger in South Korea, whose anonymous observations on the global financial market under the pseudonym ‘Minerva’ caused major ripples within Asia and beyond, was traced and prosecuted (though the case was later thrown out) for supposedly spreading false information.

Then there is incredible success stories such as Mashable, which is an internet news blog started by Scot Peter Cashmore in 2005, and is now one of the top websites in the world. Some blogs are always destined to succeed, such as Matt Cutts, who is head of Google’s Webspam team. Anyone in such a lofty position at Google is always going to attract a lot of people to their personal blog; but the content still has to be of a high quality for people to visit repeatedly.

However, the one thing all blogs have in common is that they’re global from the moment they are uploaded onto the World Wide Web. Anyone from Michigan to Malawi can access your site, post comments, follow tweets and hang on every word that emanates from the blog. And whether you’re an aspiring blogging superstar, or you’re already well on your way to a million unique viewers each month, the end-reader is why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Now consider this: a quarter of the world’s population speak English, 94% of which do so as a second language. This poses a serious question about whether you’re reaching as many people as you otherwise could be.

Some European blogs have side-by-side translations of the content, one in the native language and one in English, which is the most commonly spoken second language in the world. So you have to ask yourself whether or not a similar set-up would benefit your own blog? Or maybe you’re happy to assume an ‘English only’ stance with your blogging escapades?

The practicalities of multilingual blogging do seem rather daunting at first. If you’re a monolingual blogger, then there’s the first problem right there. And even if you are blessed with fluency in several other languages, do you really have the time to translate all your posts?

There are of course countless free ‘machine translation’ tools online, notably Google translate and Babel Fish. These can be rather good actually, if you’re not too fussy about the grammar being 100% accurate.

To help maximize the chances of hitting a good machine translation of your blog posts, you need to consider how you write your English text in the first instance. The likes of Google translate isn’t clever enough to know slang terms and colloquialisms, so you’re best avoiding ‘swell’ time and sticking with ‘good’ time, whilst opt for ‘food’ over ‘chow’.

Adopting a controlled language model in your English language blog may restrict the creative dexterity of your words, but it will help ensure a greater degree of accuracy with a subsequent machine translation.

You can also reduce the number of nouns and verbs used and impose a strict rule that stipulates ‘one word, one meaning’. English quite often suffers from an excess of words for one concept (e.g. ‘dog’, ‘hound’) as well as allowing for nouns to be used as verbs (e.g. ‘hammer’). The controlled language approach seeks disambiguation through a strict adherence to a controlled vocabulary where each word can only have one meaning. Once you learn what words that Google translate likes and what it doesn’t, you can build an internal glossary of the best terms to use.

Moreover, translation plugins are available for most of the common blogging CMSs such as WordPress. When you download the plugin, it generates a series of national flag icons which, when clicked by the user, automatically translates the content of your blog into the desired language.

If you would rather go down the pre-machine translated route over the user-generated one, but you’re not entirely comfortable publishing machine translated content on your blog, then you can pay for the services of a native-speaking translator to proofread the text. They will check for errors and it will help avoid any potential embarrassing situations. So you can in effect maintain the creative flow of your English text, whilst ensuring any slang/colloquial terms are picked up by the proofreader.

This is cheaper than having a full-blown translation carried out, where you send your English text to an independent translator or translation company, who then carry out a full creative translation of the source text. But if you’re serious about making inroads into international markets, then it could be money well spent.

So let’s assume you’ve set up a foreign language version of your blog. You obviously want to drive traffic towards it from the relevant countries, which will require a little optimization. The one golden rule of multilingual SEO is NEVER translate your keywords.

Suppose a lot of traffic arrives at your English-language blog for the search term ‘Money Saving Tips’, and you now want to optimize your text for the Hispanic market. A translator won’t know which search terms people use to search for ‘Money Saving Tips’ locally, there will be countless ways to translate this phrase, people may use acronyms, abbreviations or synonyms. You must research your key search terms for each target country.

And there you have it. A beginner’s guide to multilingual blogging!

About the Author: Christian Arno is founder of global translation company and localization specialists Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over a hundred employees working in five countries and clients in over sixty countries, leading to a turnover of $6.2m USD in 2009.

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20 Responses to “Should I Translate My Blog Into Other Languagues?”

  1. V.C on March 27, 2010 7:26 am

    A quite long post but it seems to be quite boring. It just like a post to information about blog’s translation but not specific and still doesn’t work the issue out.
    Should we translate our blogs into other language? I am not so sure about that because translation has it both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, it helps increase traffic. My site gets a great deal of visits everyday. On the other hand, it creates a lot of duplicate content.
    So what is the solution? I don’t know. But I’m happy using translation in my site.

  2. Bengt on March 27, 2010 10:56 am

    You write that “a quarter of the world’s population speak English, 94% of which do so as a second language”.

    What’s your source for those number, especially the 94%?

  3. Julius on March 27, 2010 1:30 pm

    I also think that if you’re going to have a foreign language version of your blog, you should make sure that the language is declared in the site’s pages. This will help people who use assistive technology in understanding the page’s content.

  4. Dave Higgs on March 27, 2010 1:51 pm

    Hi Christian,

    I think there is a place for other languages, especially wrt local domain (refer to the other post about .com or country level domains.

    I am in South Africa. We have 11 official languages. Yes (10+1=11, no typo!)

    To make use of one of these languages means the domain IS (in my case (SOUTH AFRICAN). If you are looking for a “my country” type of site, a local language really carries weight. However, in more general languages, like Spanish, it would not imply a Spain-related site.

    However, if you are talking Xhosa, Zulu, or Afrikaans – then you KNOW you are talking South African.

    Thanks
    Dave

  5. Kirsten Lesko on March 27, 2010 11:07 pm

    Very interesting perspective. I’ve never considered translation a possibility.

    “Moreover, translation plugins are available for most of the common blogging CMSs such as WordPress.”

    This is really interesting to me, but how effective are these tools? The last I used automatic translation tools was about 10 years ago & the translations were useless at that time. Have they evolved a great deal?

  6. Chester on March 28, 2010 1:14 am

    I wonder how efficient those translation plugins are. And if you have to it manually, that’s gonna be one big work and will burn more time and effort. Oh well, it might be worth well.

  7. stylo on March 28, 2010 6:12 am

    What about it if we start translating other arabic language contents into English…. what you think guys is it illegal

  8. Ann Krebber on March 28, 2010 8:17 am

    Firstly, congratulations for your guest post on DBT.

    Second, I try to share my preferences in my own case. I will not choose to translate my blog to english, BUT I do create my blogs in English :-) not in my native language nor in many other languages. It’s just because the demands of make money online to me. My niches are standing on English.

    So, I wonder how important are translating to many languages to me?

  9. SEO basics on March 28, 2010 1:10 pm

    I would not trust any kind of translation software. Your best bet is to get a human to do the translation. Thanks for the info.

  10. Daniel Scocco on March 28, 2010 2:03 pm

    Yeah I would guess that percentage to be closer to 75%.

    The world has around 6 billion people. A quarter of that would be 1.5 billion. If you sum up the population of US, UK, Canada and Australia you’ll get some 400k people, so 73% speak English as a second language out of the 1.5 billion.

  11. Paik on March 29, 2010 2:16 pm

    I think the mile way to communicate globally is to translate their pages manually and not using online translators or plugins. These shall, as you wrote yourself, just like a rough translation of this comment. For a professional blogger definitely a good investment is to pay someone for the English translation. But one thing I do not understand is why not also translate the keywords

  12. JC on March 29, 2010 10:18 pm

    What would say for a bilingual blogger… I could write my site in both English and Spanish, but what would the SEO effects be?

  13. Jens P. Berget on March 30, 2010 4:52 am

    I have actually thought about translating my blog to Norwegian, that’s because I’m Norwegian and that’s my language. There are not many Norwegian blogs on the topic of Internet marketing, and the ones I have come across are not worth reading :)

    I was thinking about making an exact copy of my blog (slymarketing) and just translate the content to Norwegian. It shouldn’t take a lot of time, especially when it comes to new blog posts.

  14. PRAV- perfect blogging on March 31, 2010 12:59 pm

    I think translating it will have a great traffic and much more visitors…

  15. Jared on April 2, 2010 2:14 am

    you do, but you don’t just translate the keywords from english to spanish, you don’t translate “fatter than a dead cow in july” into the spanish equivalent, you have to use the spanish equivalent of the phrase, so if the meaning means very fat then you would take popular slang from that country, spain and mexico and you would put those two keywords in place of “fatter than a dead cow in july”

    That’s what he meant, don’t translate the keywords word for word, rather. Translate them thought for thought.

  16. Pinoy @ How to blog on April 25, 2010 7:22 pm

    I think translating your blog to other languages will attract more traffic and will give you more loyal readers.

  17. Michael Bastin on April 29, 2010 5:28 pm

    Indeed, you should not translate your keywords word for word. Translating for SEO purposes is a speciality in itself, there are translators speciliazed in IT, legal documents or scientific texts and there are translators whose speciliasation is SEO. This skill is actually in high deman given the importance of SEO these days.

    So you should not translate keywords litterally, instead use some tools that tell you which related expression is most often used in the target language, Google’s keyword suggestion tool is good to start with, and then there’s nothing better than your own intuition and skills.

  18. TheGoodWord on August 31, 2010 11:14 am

    What you’re speaking of is essentially post-edited machine translation (PEMT) – what many people regard as the future of translation, whereby a computer does much of the initial spade work, only for a human to check it over to ensure the machine hasn’t messed up in a big way.

    Though, we’re not really near the point yet of seeing this technique used en-masse. There is no question though that the likes of Google Translate is getting better and better.

  19. John Gruhler on November 23, 2010 5:51 am

    I don’t speak a foreign language but am having the idea that with the translation tools available now I would like to pen-pal and introduce American humor, politics, religion, etc. to Germany, Japan, and China….can I create a post in say, German, on my english website….will it fly? How will it appear on my site? If I get a response in a German language comment can I just translate into english and respond in German or other languages…sounds like fun…could you with experience in this give me some thought about the possibility of this being done…..also look my blog over…I am real new at this and would like to build a larger reader base abroad. I am not an elitist when it comes to translations, just need to have the tools to communicate in other languages without having to master formal classes…johng

  20. Annemieke on May 6, 2011 5:04 pm

    If you are serious about your blog, you do NOT use machine translation. In fact, it’s the quickest way to make a fool out of yourself in as many languages as possible. A Michelin-star chef wouldn’t serve up instant mash – and a writer shouldn’t publish machine translated content, ever.

    If you want to reach more potential readers, have your website translated properly. Translating a 300-word blog form English into German, French, Chinese and Arabic would cost about $230, and that includes translation as well as proofreading by experts. If your blog is worth reading, then the increased traffic will absolutely pay for itself.

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