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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