Multilingual blogging

Written in the mid-afternoon in English • Tags: ,

David Sasaki (oso) wrote on the wp-polyglots mailing list with some questions for an article he is working on about “multilingual, multicultural, and transnational blogs.” I answered him and I also wanted to post here about blogging in two languages.

As you may have seen my blog now respects the language settings of your browser. You will not see posts in languages that you have not enabled in your browser (unless your settings would rule out all posts). If you want to see all posts, just make sure your browser is configured to requests both English and Finnish content. To exclude a language, check that your browser settings include all the languages you do want to see.

As an example, if your browser is configured to only prefer content in German (de), you would currently see all posts (since I don’t have any in German). If you’d rather not see the Finnish content, you can add English (en) to the list of preferred languages. This would result in the Finnish ones to be excluded (just force a reload of the page).

Read on for the questions and answers…

Your name or alias?

Kimmo Suominen

Your blog url?

Languages your blog is written in?

English and Finnish.

Approximate percentages of total posts written in each language?

Blog posts:

  • English: 90%
  • Finnish: 10%

This is largely due to the fact that I have been writing in English since September, 2001, but only started posting in Finnish as recently as in February, 2005.

Outside the blog practically all material on my site is in English.

Approximate guess of readership for each language? (For example, are your posts in one language much more read than another?)

For specific URL’s, the most popular content is written in English. Only one post in Finnish makes the Top 30 of the past two weeks (and it is #30 on the list). However, my home page (i.e. most recent blog posts) is #2 on that list, and I’d guess at least some of those visitors would have read even the posts in Finnish.

It might be more interesting to have statistics on the country of origin by IP’s.

Approximate guess of readers that understand both (or more) languages you write in?

Most readers that understand Finnish probably understand English as well, due to the popularity of English as the first foreign language in Finland.

Have you noticed the topics of what you blog about change from one language to another? How so?

When I write a post, I use the language that I’ve used in thinking about or discussing the topic. This way I avoid translating. Because of this the language spread reflects more the fact that I live in an English speaking country than anything else.

I started writing in Finnish when I had material that both needed to be more accessible by Finns and did not make much sense in another language. For example, the translation of WordPress into Finnish is intended for an audience that is interested in interacting in Finnish.

Do you see yourself as a bridge between cultures? ideas? countries? ideologies? Why?

I think a “bridge” would be too strong a word in my case. However, I hope that at least at times it shows that I’ve been influenced by multiple cultures, and because of that may have different viewpoints than most Finns. [I already know I have different viewpoints than most Americans. :-)]

Do you think that blogs in general are helping writers and readers learn more about foreign cultures, places, politics and people or that most bloggers tend to stay insulated with what is familiar?

I like to seek out blogs written by people who live (or have lived) outside the culture with which they grew up. I think they give me more food for thought, as the authors see different views of and approaches to the topics they address. These blogs definitely help in learning about other cultures and places.

What role do memes play in how you interact with your audiences? In other words, are memes a way of bridging audiences with different languages and cultures?

Well, I read the definition of “meme” and still don’t think I know what you mean by this question. (My 1991 Webster was also of no help.)

Quoting the Wikipedia definition:

Though no specific definition is generally agreed upon by memeticists, one can roughly define meme as any piece of information transferable from one mind to another. Examples might include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods.

Blogs are all about ideas and thoughts, so you must be referring to some different, more specific definition of “meme” in your question.

And any other thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated. If you don’t want your responses cited, but would still like to give your input, please tell me so.

Before I wrote in Finnish some people I talked to in Finland would occasionally comment that I “only write in English,” implying it was too much of an effort to read my posts.

When I started writing in Finnish, and I guess because it is sort of coinciding with my move from the USA to Finland, some people in the States have voiced concerns that once I’m in Finland I’ll probably only write in Finnish.

Prompted by such comments I modified WordPress and implemented content selection based on the accepted languages configured in the browser. Now people only see posts in the languages they want to read.

I feel that this technology also frees me up to writing in whatever language I wish, whenever I wish. I won’t have to worry about writing “too many” consecutive articles in Finnish and thus alienating my English-only readers. :-)


  • 1

    That’s a good point! Most of my posts are displayed on the front page in full, and I’m not writing that often that it would be easy to miss any new entries… :-)

    Kimmo Suominen — 23.5.05 @ 13:26

  • 2

    First of all, I don’t feel reading English is too much of an effort. Reading is pretty ok, writing is way harder and talking is pretty near impossible. (That is why I haven’t commented much.)

    For the popularity of blog items I wanted to say that while I read both languages (Finnish and English) the length of the blog entries has often been so short there is no reason to go to the separate page to read the entry. Therefore there is not really a way to figure out which items I have actually read (except for items that long enough to require going to a separate page to read the rest of the entry).

    Laura — 23.5.05 @ 13:20

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