The Working Out Loud (WOL) circle you are participating is really great. You have learned a lot so far, did a lot of small contributions, worked on your relationship list. Now you reached a point where you want to create your own original content – a blog post. But just when you are going to enter the first sentence, you hesitate. What language would be best to use?
At least, I can remember that I got stuck with this question. I guess this is due to my mother tongue – German. If you are a native english speaker, this may be different, because you might anticipate that nearly everybody can at least understand English. For non english natives, it feels different.
So what are you going to do?
I created my first original posts in my companies Enterprise Social Network (ESN) Connections. At that time, I started using German because I can express my thoughts better than in English, where I was fighting for words sometimes.
However I soon wanted to reach more users. As my company is working globally, English is the preferred language. So I also started writing English posts, even if it felt a bit strange sometimes. Did I explain it correctly? Is it misleading?
Now with my running ESN experience after 5 years and with fresh impressions from my WOL Circle I remember that just keep doing it to get practice did the magic. Make it a habit! The more you post, the better you are doing it!
In out ESN I mostly write Wiki entries to explain something. Most valuable feedback pointed me to unclear or confusing wording, missing context or offered better phrases. This is also an effect we can see when using the WOL method that we learn to use in the WOL Circles. However, I also learned some more ways to deal with the language in a post.
Use the language of the context
This is the most obvious way. If you create a post in a German Community, use German. In this case, the language consideration has already been done before creating the community, with the same argument as creating a post: what is my target audience?
“See English version below…”
When you want to reach more people, use more languages. I find this often used especially in emails to a wide audience, but also in posts entered in official communities. The content appears both in English and German (or other non English languages), with a hint “See (English / German) version below”. Sometimes the language is indicated by a small flag icon.
This is ok for most readers, but effort for the author(s). For me as a single author, this is no option. I would stick to the language that most people can understand, which is English.
When setting up this blog (as a result of WOL by the way) I also stumbled over the language question. Getting my thoughts across (in German) versus reaching more people (in English).
I had a look at other blogs and decided to use a mixed case. I am using my native language German when
- Talking about a topic I really like to express accuratly with my own words (like talking about a difficult situation)
- Writing will take a lot of time. It is easier for me to find words, and more realistic to get the post finished (like talking about QiGong and WOL)
- If it feels right (both examples above)
I use English if I really want to reach more people, especially if I know that it is also interesting for non German contacts (like my LinkedIn post about WOLC17).
How to organize mixed posts in a Blog
In this Blog, as there are posts both in German and English, I am using the Categories “Deutsch” and “English” in every post. In WordPress you can put the Category widget into the navigation. Clicking on one Category automatically displays only posts in that selected Category, in my case in the selected language. This is quite handy as I do not need other Categories. And – you can still use tags to categorize your posts with other terms.
I have also found people indicating the language or their posts with a prefix in the header text, like “[EN] My new post” or “[DE] Mein neuer post”.
Find your own way
I recommend that if you are just about to start your own Blog, enjoy the exiting feeling! Use your mother tongue so you write fluently. Don’t expect too much, expecially don’t be dissapointed if there is now feedback. This will change over time. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Still in doubt? Have a look at John Stepper’s post “Why you should write more (and the single best tip for doing so)“.
Use other platforms to promote your post. For example, write a tweet with a link to your post, and why it was important for you to write it. It works!
So start writing!
(Featured image by Quinn Dombrowski)