How To Overcome The Challenges of Blogging in a Second Language

by Marie Trepanier of Make the World a Prettier Place

 

Many bloggers in foreign countries choose to blog in English instead of their mother tongue.  I am one of those bloggers.  Living in the French part of Canada, I really understand the importance of speaking English.  I always knew that I had to blog in this language if I wanted to reach as large an audience as possible.  It takes a long time to build a readership and you don’t want to scare away new readers with too many mistakes.  Here are a few tips on how to overcome the challenges of blogging in English when it’s not your first language.

 

1. Inform your readers that English is not your primary language

I am not talking about a huge disclaimer.  You just have to write a small sentence about it in the “About me” section of your blog so your readers won’t be surprised if you make the occasional mistake.  It will be less frustrating for them if they know that your English is not perfect because you are learning the language rather than because you don’t pay attention to your writing or don’t care about your readers.

 

2. Use Microsoft Word

Even though most blogging platforms have spell check, this is not enough for someone who doesn’t write the language well.  Use Microsoft Word to write your posts.  It corrects not only spelling mistakes, but grammar ones as well.  You just have to import your text into your blog once you are done.

 

3. Think in English

The worst thing that you can do is to write your post in your first language and translate it later. Keep your sentences short.  Use words that you know and that you are comfortable with.

 

4. Don’t let frustration get in the way

Frustration will get the best of you at one point or another.  It is inevitable. Most of us have some experience writing and feel pretty comfortable with it.   But when it comes to writing in a new language, everything changes.  Every word is now a struggle and you feel like a 6-year-old trying to write like an adult.  When you get frustrated, take a break.  Pour yourself a hot cocoa and think about something else.

 

5. Hire an editor

I am not talking about a professional who will cost you a fortune.  Look on Craigslist for a student looking to make an extra buck.  Be careful who you choose.  You don’t want someone who will make more mistakes that you do.  I have been very lucky to find a student from McGill University who edits for a student journal.  I email her my important posts – like an article for IFB.  She corrects my mistakes and sends it back to me.

 

Blogging is a lot of work and it’s even more work when the blogger doesn’t speak the language that they are writing in very well.  When I get impatient I remind myself of this beautiful quote from the book Eat, Pray, Love: “You must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new.”  I couldn’t agree more.

 

Image by Jennine Jacob/ The Coveted Instagram

 


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50 Responses

    • Marie

      I agree with you. Practice makes perfect. It gets easier with time and it was less time consuming as soon as I started to think in English.
      – Marie

      Reply
  1. Dayner

    I think even english blogs should offer an option to translate into any other language a reader may need. I’m British and I’ll happily read any blog as long as it can be translated, but I think it’s arrogant of us to assume the whole world speaks english. I’m going to look into offering a translator option myself 🙂

    Dayner x
    http://www.mozzypop.com

    Reply
    • Marie

      Good point! Thanks for sharing this. I was always under the impression that a translator didn’t do the job properly – meaning it translates word by word instead of translating the idea. You changed my mind and it’s worth looking into it.
      Thanks!
      – Marie

      Reply
  2. Juliette Maxwell

    English is my second language and I use Word or at least Windows Live Writer for my posts. I am also trying to re-read them at least once before I publish them so that they make sense.

    My English is not perfect but I take steps to make sure that my point comes across well and use the language that I feel most comfortable writing with.

    Reply
  3. Ana.

    Thank you for this post, it is very helpful 🙂

    I started to write on Spanish only, but I was not achieving what I wanted the most: followers and feedback.

    However, I further support the idea of bloggers writing in their mother languages and THEN translating the text to English. I think it keeps the identity of the blogger, and also kind of the intimacy (since we usually have sayings or slangs that will make the post more ‘friendly’).

    However, English is so necessary. I have contacted a few fellow bloggers (and followers) from countries like Czech Republic and Germany and it is always very nice to have this “language bridge”. It has also increased my traffic a LOT so I have nothing negative to say about it, other than the fact that I basically write the same content twice.

    Reply
    • Marie

      Thank you for your comment! A lot of bloggers write in English and also put another version of the post in their mother tongue. I think it’s great! One day, when I have more time I hope to do this too.
      – Marie

      Reply
  4. TheBlueEyedBoy

    I blog in English too though it’s not my mother tongue. Patience and practice required, and of course an editor. But I think keep blogging in your native langage is very important, otherwise your (French) friends – that is to say first readers – would not forgive you to left them!

    Reply
    • Marie

      I never blogged in a language other than English. I agree with you that a blogger should be careful about blogging only in English if he/she blogged in both languages for a while. I think the blogger should explain to the readers the reasons why he/she decided to blog in English only. Usually the readers are very understanting when you take the time to explain it to them.
      – Marie

      Reply
  5. GreyCatte

    Thanks for the post Marie, most of all for shedding a little light on our kind… I blog in English because, when it comes to style and fashion, I tend to think in English in the first place.

    Big respect to those out there who put in the time and effort to do some real quality writing, whether in a second language or in a bilingual blog!

    Reply
    • Marie

      I didn’t realize how many bloggers were blogging in a second language until I started to talk about it. I like how you wrote “shedding a little light on our kind” because this is exactly what I wanted to do!
      Thanks!
      – Marie

      Reply
  6. Omaily

    For me writing is not the biggest problem, but I’m a little afraid to do tutorials. One day I will gain that courage though.

    Reply
    • Marie

      I hear you! It is already intimidating to be in front of the camera, it’s even worse when you hear the words come out of your mouth and it doesn’t sound the way it’s supposed too! 🙂
      – Marie

      Reply
  7. FashionGeeksta

    I think that today to any blog is really important writing in English because it will help to gain more audience from all over the world :].
    English is so universal and easy that brakes the geographical barriers.

    I will use Google Translate or even plugins for Firefox (or Google Chrome) to help with the grammar. It is much more easier than Microsoft word :]

    Reply
  8. Cate Young

    i’ve never even thought about this really, because i feel like it’s always really clear when people are blogging in english as a second language and it never bothers me. strange how i’d literally kick a native speaker for the green verbs but with foreigner i find it endearing.

    but i understand the challenge. i’m currently minoring in spanish and my biggest problem after 7 years(!) of classes is that i still THINK in english first. i gets easier though. thanks for this great post!

    Reply
    • eva

      hi Cate! completamente de acuerdo! español e inglés tienen construcciones algo diferentes, cuando pienso primero en español y luego intento traducir, siempre me equivoco! mejor pensar siempre directamente en el idioma en el que vas a escribir… ánimo con las clases! x

      Reply
    • FashionGeeksta

      Si me permites darte un consejo al momento de escribir en dos idiomas: ten clara la idea que quieres dar a conocer, una vez que hagas esto piensa como quieres decirla en inglés y después en español.
      Tratar de decir un mismo mensaje pensado en cada idioma es mejor que traducirlo y es mucho más fácil.

      Y creo que el inglés y el español tienen estructuras COMPLETAMENTE distintas, jeje.

      Reply
    • Marie

      Thank you for your comment! ! Learning a language is so hard and so frustrating. It is so easy to talk and express ourselves in our first language that we take it for granted. In another language, it is suddenly not so easy. Good luck with your minor in Spanish!
      – Marie

      Reply
  9. Heather Fonseca

    Great post! I think we should always be gentle with ourselves. But I should warn you, the grammer check on microsoft word is often weird. I think you suggestion to have an English speaker check for you is a very good idea, however, it’s often rather charming to look at blogs that are written by people who don’t speak English as a first language. They have a different way of writing, and it’s refreshing. So I think you should be proud of yourself as well!

    Reply
    • Marie

      Thank you so much for being so open-minded! I am sure that your comment was very reassuring to many bloggers – myself included!
      – Marie

      Reply
    • Marie

      I know what you mean by “it was really good to read others talking about the same problem I have once in a while”
      I am so happy to hear all the people talk about their own issues with this problem. It’s great to feel that we are not alone. I will make sure to read the post you are talking about.
      – Marie

      Reply
  10. Ritournelle

    Nicely written! My first language is French too and all my blog posts are in both English and French.
    Before I launched my blog I decided I would emphasize on my French identity so writing in both languages was important in that respect. A lot of my readers being francophiles and Paris lovers, they appreciate that quirk.
    I usually write first in French and then translate my posts in English. It is challenging and takes a lot of time but I feel rewarded when people comment on the quality of my English and I feel I learn a lot through that process.

    Reply
    • Marie

      Emphasizing your French identity and have it work for you instead of against you is a great idea! Thanks for your comment!
      – Marie

      Reply
  11. Vivian Stylebizarre

    I used to write in Italian and English in my first months of blogging! Then I realized that it was too much effort, in terms of time and difficulties. The translating thing was an issue, too; English is a synthetis language, Italian is definitely not! So I ealry got bored of it and started writing only in English!
    Thanks for your suggestions though, it’s really a good idea to make the “I’m not a native English speaker” statement! I had some mistakes issue in the past XD

    Reply
    • Marie

      I was always wondering if I should blog in English and in French – my first language. You confirmed me what I already thought: it takes too much time. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
      – Marie

      Reply
  12. Jasmin

    Nice article!
    I also started to write in English two weeks ago and you helped me so much with this article!

    Best from Berlin,
    Jasmin

    Reply
    • Marie

      I’m glad that I have been able to help you with this issue. Good luck with your blog!
      – Marie

      Reply
  13. Michal

    Thanks for the info. Even after reading your article, I’m not confident enough to write in English. I feel it will look odd to the outsiders, as I’ve witness myself some poor blogs with poor language. I tend to write full articles and put my opinion on the front and not just some short sentences and a a lot of photos like most blogger do.
    Moreover, it will feel unnatural and even a little arrogant to the first language readers… I hope you know what I mean.

    Reply
    • Marie

      I know exactly what you mean. It is a struggle for me to write a full article in English. It is very frustrating not to be able to use my writing skills in this language. Thanks for your comment!
      – Marie

      Reply
  14. Mode Plus

    I understand your point completely, especially feeling like a child writing for an adult audience. I never thought of telling my readers that English is my second language though. I presumed it would be logical for them, because I am from the Netherlands. I’m still very hesitant to share long articles in English. But like you said: be gentle to yourself when learning something new.

    Reply
  15. Yen

    Surprisingly, I don’t know that there are many bloggers who do not speak English as their native language. I do not either. How inspirational! I have to learn more with this community. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  16. Luana

    This is a great subject, I find so difficult to put into words my thoughts in English. After reading this article I will blog my articles in my mother tongue and then translate.

    Obrigada (Thank you)

    Reply
  17. Carina

    Marie, what a great article! Also living in Qc, I was reluctant to start my own blog in English even though it felt right. Do you write some of your articles both in French and in English? Would you recommend it? Thanks for the encouragement! Carina

    Reply