Iris Classon
Iris Classon - In Love with Code

Stupid Question 124: Is a bilingual tech blog a good idea?

[To celebrate my first year of programming I will ask a ‘stupid’ questions daily on my blog for a year, to make sure I learn at least 365 new things during my second year as a developer]

Yes or no to bilingual tech blogs?

Now and then I hear from social media gurus that bilingual blogs are the way to go if you speak at least two languages. From an SEO standpoint it might be so, more text is often a good thing, and the two languages will help people that search in those languages find their way to you. Right?

I decided to do a poll on Twitter and ask my friends.

YAY or NAY: Blog posts in two languages? (First part in prime language, summary at the bottom in the other language or other combos)

( With tech blogs I mean blogs such as mine, / in love with code)

You see, sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it’s old advice that has stuck around. As many responded, why not add a translator widget, or simply let the user use Bing or Google translate. While not a 100% accurate, they still do a fairly decent job.

I think that tech blogs probably won’t benefit as much from being bilingual,- but I had to ask the other developers.

90% said no to bilingual tech blogs. Reasons being:

  1. Hassle for the writer, which means fewer blog posts. This hurts SEO

  2. Maintenance hell. Might end up with inaccurate blog post translations if one bit gets changed but not the other.

  3. Reading hell. Blog post gets very lengthy, and although you only read one bit, the eye still registers all the text.

  4. Hard to pull off in a nice way. Can get rather messy with the layout. If images are used, do you add them a second time with the caption in the second language? Or do you use Fig.1 and let the user scroll like crazy each time you refer to an image

A few suggested that if you wanted to have a second language that you have it as a separate blog altogether.

Example of a yes answer: (just a small sample, got 100+ replies)

I say yes; bilingualism is awesome, wider audience, no harm to readers. Plus, that would be a neat dataset.

No answers: (just a small sample, got 100+ replies)

Nay! Let google translate do the lifting….

Use english and then add Bing translation feature to the site!

… mixing languages on a post doens’t make sense IMHO

Other: (just a small sample, got 100+ replies)

Single blog post, multiple languages selectable (like multiple tabs per blog post) would be cool.

stats from my blog

I’m keeping my blog in English and English only, and rather focus on adding more good content in that one language instead. As for traffic, about 30% of the traffic to my blog is from the US, 13% from Sweden, 7.5 UK, almost 5% from India and Canada 3.5%


Leave a comment (via email)
1/11/2013 7:40:15 AM
Bilingual blogs are generally a bad idea for the reasons mentioned above.

It is a lot of work and most of the time, your audience might vary a bit in expectations depending on the language you are communicating in.

At SoftFluent, we have struggled for long to maintain equivalence between US and French blogs (and web sites by the way). This was too much of a work for not so much value.

It turned out that our developer-focused offering through CodeFluent Entities targets professional developers and those one needs to speak English. So we decided to focus our effort on an English-speaking product blog and concentrate on quality of the posts.

For our company blog, we separated SoftFluent US Blog from SoftFluent FR Blog and realized in the process that the audience did not expect the same content on both. For example, our services activity is more local.

Although this might be specific to our business, I think the reasoning should often be the same.

Still we sometimes reuse some content from one blog to the other by translating it, sometimes tweaking it a bit, and this is clearly the way to go. 
James Curran
1/11/2013 10:00:07 AM
(NOTE: I acknowledge that this represents a bias, American-centric point of view.)

- For us to become a global one-world community, we must all speak the same language.

- That language should be English.  (I'd prefer American English over British English, but I'm flexible on that point)  (I have a good rant prepared on why it should be English, but that's a bit off-topic here)

- People who refuse to learn & interact in English are just delaying the progression toward the global community.

- Posting things bi-lingually -- particularly high-level material like a tech blog -- are just enabling those standing in the way of progress, and are contributing to the problem. 
1/15/2013 12:16:02 AM
Reply to: James Curran
In all honesty, that's a bit elitist isn't it? I mean, I'm all for more people learning English, it's not my native language but it makes communication across the world easier as you said, but just because it makes it easier doesn't mean we should discard everything else?

If a blog written in English would reach 50 people, with the remaining 25 people not understanding it, surely it's a win-win situation for the blogger to reach those remaining 25 if he or in Iris' case she knows the language? With Iris being Swedish, I suppose it doesn't matter much, considering that most Swedes (especially those with an interest in coding/tech) will be quite good at english, but I think it's terribly wrong to generalize and claim that the world, even the "internet world", would be a better place if everyone spoke english. By that logic, we should all learn Mandarin since for every English speaker there's likely to be a Mandarin speaker too. 
William RAHI
3/3/2013 8:22:13 AM
For us to become a global one-creation common or joint possession, we must all articulate the same tongue. 
Ethan Bruce
4/22/2013 8:49:10 PM
Nice post 

Last modified on 2013-01-10