I am writing articles in French and English since october 2008, so I review my experience about multi-language blogging; what are the pros and what are the cons.
The major reason which you may decide to write articles in two languages is pretty simple and obvious :to reach more visitors. Especially in my case, as a French-speaker person, writing articles only in French is « limiting » me to much fewer visitors from 24 French-speaking countries.
About 180 millions persons in the world, probably less because all this people don’t have Internet and have also probably no interest for what you may be writing… only few people are remaining to read your stuff!
Whereas English is spoken by « only » 300 to 400 millions persons as native speaker, but a lot of people that uses it as secondary language. I hate English, but I have no choice to recognize that it IS the international language. Blogging in English allows you to reach much more people, that’s a fact. I could easy say that if my blog was only in French, The traffic would be divided by half.
In addition to this, if you use social networks as Twitter and Facebook, to blog in English allows you to open your network to many English-speaking people. If you work as a freelancer, this could also help you to get an international job. Even for you regular (say French-speaker) customers, blogging in other languages makes you looking more professionnal and open on your world, on many levels : it shows you love and are able to speak about your profession, whatever the language.
BUT, I think many bloggers start a multi-language blog with their eyes closed, without thinking about what it implies. A blog, single language, needs you to put a lot of work into it. That’s simple : multi-language blog will need you to put multi-efforts into it! Don’t forget that translating manually an article may be quite difficult. We all speak and write English well or enough well, but it is often more difficult when you get to do it for a 1000 words text. In my case, I often do grammar mistakes and often use the same vocabulary, that’s a proof of it. All this shows how multi-language blogging may bring you more visitors but much more work. No doubt about it.
It isn’t all! If you are working on SEO of your blog, you’ll have to do the same with your english pages… yes you will. This is not all bad, because trying to rank your english articles opens you many websites in English you may use to promote them and get backlinks from : English directories, forums, digg-likes, dofollow English blogs, etc… It is useless to tell you there’s much more space in the English world for you to get backlinks 🙂
In addition to this article, I’d like to review some CMS solutions for your multi-language blog.
Joomla! : With component Joomfish, you can translate all your pages easily. It works well, but if SEO is important for you, you won’t be glad to see you have no control on URL rewriting for each language. The original URL is used for all translations, what sucks for your ranking. It is the most important reason why I ignored Joomla! for this blog, although you can purchase a professionnal version of Joomfish! which includes multi-URLs.
WordPress : Since recently I didn’t find any module to use multi-language articles + multi URLs + multi metas, but I have found module WPML which works perfectly. I think I’ll migrate to WordPress soon…
Drupal : With Internationalization (I18N) module, you can create single pages for each translation (and link them together), while you controle all SEO about them (metas, titles, URLs, everything). It is pretty nice to use, but it was hard to setup at the first time. I often make backups, because I’m not sure I would easily find how to do it again 🙂
As conclusion, I’d say that multi-language blogging brings lots of advantages to your blog, but you’d better be ready to work. As many Web stories, magic though isn’t. What do you think about it?