Chris Brogan raises an interesting question about blogging in different languages, in relation to a challenge faced by his Israeli blogging friend Yuval.

…if Yuval blogs in Hebrew, his friends and colleagues will be more engaged. If he blogs in English, he gets a potential larger audience.

Although I can only blog in English, I’ve studied enough other languages to know that this could be a challenge for bilingual and multilingual bloggers.

One of the factors here is that there are often things you can communicate more subtly, more effectively in one language than another, which I suppose is why English includes words like nuance. The Italian expression often used to point to the impossibility of getting a totally exact meaning via translation, traduttore, traditore is – from my limited knowledge of Italian – more subtle and amusing than the English, which is literally “(the) translator (is a) traitor”.

And recently I had a reminder that some expressions which do not seem exceptional in one language can be opaque in another. I was told that the highly skilled Mandarin Chinese translators whose services I have been very privileged to have for my 7 Step Business Blog book were stumped by a couple of expressions I used, including “cut to the chase”, an expression used quite commonly in English. When this was mentioned to me, I realized that although I was confident about how to use the expression I found myself challenged in trying to explain it. I knew that, depending on circumstance, it could mean something like leaving aside a preamble or detailed explanations and moving to the substance of what you want to communicate. But I could not explain why it would mean that. Having googled it just now, I know that it came from the film industry and I am able to explain it much better. How it has been rendered in Mandarin I do not know.

With my interest in the global uptake of blogging and other social media for business I am becoming very aware of the emergence and rise to prominence of more and more bilingual and multilingual bloggers, in various European countries and in various parts of Asia. Yuval’s dilemma will surely be shared by more and more boggers. There should be some interesting experiments.

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