Multilingual Blogging?

A few days ago, Aaron Brazell announced that his popular Web 2.0 blog, Technosailor, would start featuring regular Spanish-language posts in the niche by Carlos Granier-Phelps. I found the idea odd at first and then remarkably annoying once implemented.

It’s not especially hard, frankly, to skip past the odd Spanish language post in Google Reader, yet I find their presence surprisingly grating. Aaron has added an Espanol tab atop his site which allows readers to read just the Spanish language content but has thus far not created an English-only variant for either the site itself or its feed.

Granier is undoubtedly providing some fine insights into the Technosailor niche yet they’re completely useless to me and, I presume, the vast majority of the site’s readers. Presumably, some will be annoyed and stop reading. Almost certainly, he’ll also bring in new readers.

I wonder, though, about the implications of this. Years ago, the rise of group blogs looked to be destroying the very thing that made blogging unique: The voice and perspective of a single author. Many good blogs were rendered not worth reading by the addition of multiple authors and the resulting dilution of the brand. Others, though, managed to bring together the right combination of voices and create interesting synergies. Now, group blogs — and blog networks — have become all the rage.

As the Internet becomes more mainstream around the globe, there will surely be a demand for content in more languages and an incentive to try to capitalize on that. Will multi-language sites become the norm? Or will sites clone themselves into linguistic variants?

One would think the latter model more likely to succeed. It makes sense to bring together complementary expertise, in whatever language, to leverage it. My guess, though, is that it will be more efficient to segregate it into multiple, networked sites — or at least distinct pages within the same site — rather than create a blog of Babel.

Steven Taylor has taken a mixed approach with La Política Colombiana, an offshoot of PoliBlog. He’s taken his Columbian politics niche content and placed it on a separate site, figuring most of that information would be uninteresting to his regular readers, and has both English- and Spanish-language content. In that particular case, though, the audience is presumed to be bilingual.

There’s so much good content out there that most of us are constantly adding RSS feeds to our readers and looking for reasons to pare down the list (indeed, Aaron has written about that process several times). Sites where significant numbers of the posts are quite literally unintelligible will probably be prime targets.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    My first thought was that if there is value in having the subject discussed in multiple languages, then it would make more sense to translate all of the posts into the targeted languages. As automatic translators become better, maybe this is more a function of the user selecting to have a web site filtered through a translator as opposed to you the blogger providing the translation.

    As I thought more about it, I wondered if the need of a different langauge wouldn’t also impact the relevance of the posts. Take your blog. For those who would be interested in the diverse subject matter blogged about, but did not spek English, would a direct translation really meet their need? Or would additional information, perspective, etc be what would really be wanted?

  2. Bithead says:

    ¿Cuánto de nosotros mismos estamos dando para arriba yendo multilingües, yo nos preguntamos? La lengua, después de todo, es una cosa muy cultural.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    Welches mein Punkt ist. Die unterschiedliche Kultur, die angenommen wird, wenn man ausschließlich eine andere Sprache verwendet, ist wahrscheinlich, zu bedeuten, daß ein Pfosten weniger Bedeutung hat.