March 7, 2011

5 things non-English bloggers ignore and spoil their blogs

In our  ranking exercise for Indian blogs, we have found that many language bloggers are particularly prone to some basic, common-sense, mistakes that make their blogs difficult to follow.
This article has been updated in November 2015.

Multi-lingual blogs lose visitors


We came across many blogs that had posts in two languages, mostly English and Hindi. Such blogs might be popular among people attached to their mother tongue and comfortable with written English too, but they also irritate many who would prefer to share their thoughts on an English-only or a Hindi-only  blog. 

In multi-lingual blogs, the author's use of a particular language for a post is likely to be taken a show of ‘attitude’. Comment-makers can also get confused about the language they should use. Use of more than one language also makes search, tagging / labeling, captioning, tweaking the web design, and adding new elements difficult.

As long as you are sure that your audience likes multi-lingual format, do continue with it. Multi-lingual blogs look OK if the target is a small, close-knit, community such as college friends, office colleagues and family members. However, it might become a handicap if one intends to widen the audience later.


Local expressions need to be explained


We have seen in Hindi and Tamil blogs that the blogger uses a native expression not understood by a wider audience. Some of these bloggers seem to assume that every visitor understands their slang and local idiom. Many language bloggers also seem to have the delusion that anybody would get the sense of a witty expression used by them in their own language. Some seem to feel that a reference to a scripture or folklore is universally understood.

Using slang has another risk: even if people in your group seem to understand the expression, it might convey different meanings to different people. 
Local touch does give flair and intimacy to what you convey, but you must explain to the reader what a local expression means.  


Roman script does not suit many languages


A good number of English blogs sometimes carry large passages [eg. an Urdu poem] in Roman script. It is a torture to read long passages written in Roman script when the usual script is not Roman, for example in the case of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages.
 
If it is essential to carry a local language passage / quotation / poem in an English blog, do two things: (i) Carry that text in its native script [With Unicode now universal, you can write in all scripts on Google and many other utilities.] (ii) Give a rough translation alongside.


What's my blog's audience: a close group or the universe?


We have no quarrel with very intimate blogs [in fact, blogging started with that], but it does the blog no good if you make some of your posts too personal and some universal. Or when one post gives culinary details of dosai made in a restaurant in Vadugachery and another post arguing why Angelina's refusing to kiss a New York tycoon would lead to bear phase in NYSE. 

The problem of deciding the audience seems more prominent among expatriates. When the blogger shifts to a different country, his world-view shifts and his present experiences come in conflict with his memories of homeland. 

This issue can be resolved easily if the blogger maintains separate sections on the blog targeting different universes. If the audiences are too disparate to be brought on the same platform, one can think of separate blogs for different audiences [e.g. one for professional work, one for literary musings and yet another general-purpose blog. Or one for home  audiences and another targeted at professional work and present foreign buddies.]


Why should language blogs suffer clutter and bad design?


As blogging in languages other than English is dominated by people whose taste for design is often not universal, a lot of experimentation seems to be going on there. Many times, this leads to clutter and unconventional use of color.

There is no problem if a blog represents the colorful local spirit, but if it happens due to show off or mindless copying of what others are doing, it is not OK because it makes the blog look cheap and childish. We feel that if the blogger starts with only a few, essential, widgets and introduces new ones later, the clutter can go to a large extent.