What if the native language of your best subject-matter expert is not spoken in your main market areas? What if you are in charge of marketing in multiple countries, each with their own language?
I have previously explored this subject in my post Translating your blog, is there a good way to do it? In that post, I concluded that blogs are not ideal material for translation, and better results could be achieved by translating articles that are based on blog posts.
Now I want to explore this subject from a slightly different point of view. Even if translation does not work, what if your awesome expert happens to speak the language you want to blog in, say English, as a foreign language?
Blogging in a foreign language is obviously possible if you are fluent in it. Lots of people do it, including me, as English is not my native language. What I’m interested in is why you might want to blog in a foreign language that you are not fully fluent in and what practices can help.
Sub-fluent language skills are not a show stopper
Text written by a non-native speaker tends to be more dry than that of a native speaker. With a more limited vocabulary and a limited number of idioms at the author’s disposal, it is more difficult to rely on analogies and word plays.
However, subject-matter experts often have a good understanding of the jargon of their field of expertise and may also be familiar with foreign language publications in their field. In many cases, they are able to produce quite good text on their specific field in a foreign language even if they were completely lost if thrown in a grocery store where only that language was used.
Why blog using a foreign language?
The gist of the matter is that a blog is a conversation. When you want to have a conversation, say between your best subject-matter expert and your biggest customers, they need a common language. Sometimes the customers will be comfortable speaking a foreign language, but if you happen to speak a minority language yourself, it is quite likely that you will need to go the extra mile in order for the conversation to happen.
Having a common language is also beneficial in multi-national companies to facilitate common culture and best practices.
Finally, blogging in a foreign language can also be beneficial for the blogger personally, because it improves the blogger’s language skills.
What risks are there?
The main risk is that the blogger’s message is twisted into something other than intended, possibly even something harmful. In addition to just spelling and grammar, there are many false friends and differing idioms that can lead to twisted messages.
What practices can help blogging in a foreign language?
Have your blog proofread. I realize that there are many people who may cry out that this reduces the authenticity of the blog, but I don’t think it does.
However, there are many ways to do proofreading, and some of them are better suited for blogs than others:
- Have your blog proofread with minimal editing. I do value authenticity, so while proofreading is important in order to ensure that you say what you intend to say, it should still sound like you as much as possible.
- A fluent subject-matter expert is a better proofreader than a native speaker with no subject-matter expertise. The most devious errors are the ones where you spell everything just right, but the meaning is all wrong. Native speakers with no subject-matter expertise often miss these errors, but catching them is more important than getting all the punctuation just right. Someone who understands the field can bring any such issues to your attention. For this reason, an internal proofreader is often better than an external one.
- Have the proofreader explain the reasons behind the corrections to you. This increases costs, but it is also the way to learn. Your proofreader should make himself unnecessary over time as your language skills improve.
Have any experiences to share?
Have you ever blogged or considered blogging in a foreign language? How did it work out for you?
Picture: LivingOS at Flickr (cc)