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Ten Commandments for bilingual blogs

Luistxo Fernandez 2004/04/29 17:02

Is it possible, bilingual blogging?

Yes, and there are sites out there. But, the truly coherent, consistent, bilingual blog... I just haven't found it. My blog isn't either that kind of blog. I have written a list of features (Ten Commandments) with which true multilingual blogs should comply.

My own blog is, surprise! quite compliant. Well, this list reflects personal viewpoints, so no one should feel disappointed with this superiority of standards shown by The English Cemetery: it's a biased commandment list. However, I miserably fail with commandments 6 and 7, so far. Regarding 4, my blog could behave better also (and it can, using the power of Zope and Localizer, but I'm just too lazy right now).

So, the good, true and faithful bilingual blog should have:

  1. Language change. There should be a button, link, or pulldown menu to click or select, present in every page. That's the way to turn from reading content in one language to the other in a bilingual blog. Mixtures of languages in individual pages, no, that's not OK. Langauge change behaviour could vary: the distinction between symmetrical and asymmetrical blogs that I describe here is a key issue.
  2. Monolingual entry page. The main page appears to you in a given language, coherently English, or coherently Basque. Then, you may opt to change language. The first page to appear may be set by default, or perhaps, depend on browser settings. This commandement rules out the usual mixture of Lang1 / Lang2 messages in the first page, ordered by pure chronology, as well as the very curious double-horizontal layout of several sites.
  3. Interface as well as content bilingualism. You are reading a Basque post, so you can click on the Erantzunak link, if you know what it means. You are reading an English post, so you can click on the Comments link. Interface bilingualism should be bilingualism, not double-strings. No "Erantzunak / Comments" links. I don't like the redundancy at this en-fr or en-de sites. Messages should be in one or other language, depending on the content or language-category of the post you are reading, or in the action taken by the users when clicking the language change option.
  4. Interface string localisation capabilities. Not just single terms, by locale sensitive logic issues like date formats (and dates are important when blogging) should be localised in each language. In XML feeds, date formats should be standard.
  5. No double reading work. These people, for instance, they translate every post, so they explain things twice, once in A, another one in B. ( Transblawg , 0909 ) Such a blog could work with symmetrical model described in a previous post . One may fell the need to say the same things in several languages, of course, but, the reader? I can only understand that as an attempt of 2nd language or translation-teaching for your readers. Separate messages makes discussion or commenting consistent as well. Basque readers respond to Basque messages, Spanish readers to Spanish ones. Different threads may be constructed, of course. A bilingual messages can't have a consistent thread behind it: are we supposed to comment also in bilingual ?
  6. Open and coherent categorization. So far, my own blog is trilingual cause I have twisted Coreblog to make just 3 categories as locale-defining factors. The result is that I don't have categories, just language options. Other blogs also use categorization for multilingualism.
  7. Character sets conveniently adapted to non-ascii character sets. At the HTML interface level, as well as in XML feeds or pings (trackbacks) delivered.
  8. One separate XML feed per language. This is the most obvious feature to me. Look at the commandments listed here: the mixing of languages in postings, categories, interfaces and so on can be so complicated. The XML feed must always be clear. Those who use the feed with some aggregator or other need clear messages from our feed. Basque users need a clear XML feed in Basque from this site. Basque users who understand other languages and want the other content that I post here, then it's easy: they can subscribe to the other language feeds as well. The XML feed should include, if possible the lang variable marked following the Dublin Core standard or in any other feed specification that there might be.
  9. Same system (that is, ONE system) for the bilingual blog. If it's a moblog, the email posting procedure must be the same for the whole blog, with just one variable (a kewyord in the message or something) to direct the email to the Basque or English section of the blog. If you change the skin, the css-style, whatever, you change it once, it is applied conveniently to the whole blog, to its contents.
  10. Should be based in free software and its content protected by an open license, like creative commons or FDL. I needed the 10th commandement to reach the magic number, so I included this one :-)

Examples out there.

  • Blogalization is funny, several languages are categories, but there other supra-language categories, all in English, for English posts. English is supra-categorical... and interface messages are only in English. Not, clearly, what I ask in point #6.
  • has clear separated categories (good, as for #6), some are for french posts, the other for English posts. But the main index page is a chronological mixture, not a coherent page that I ask in point #2. Moreover, the interface messages are "double", not bilingual as I ask in point #4.
  • Joi Ito, and his double blog, in English and Japanese . Good try. However, no interface bilingualism (#4). The japanese side, has the same Movable Type message collection in English. Moreover, I am not truly convinced if it is really what I ask in #9, just one machinery or two are there working in this site?
  • Some posts in one language, others in other. Just chronological ordering and mixing, and also a mix, or monolingualism in interface messages. There are several of this kind. They seem interesting, btw. This one is Farsi and English and this one Chinese and English
  • Separate feeds. These two sites have separate feeds, Polish/English and Dutch/German": But they look awkward with their double home-page: Horizontal scrolling cannot be the solution for bilingual blogging.
Andrew Zubiri
Andrew Zubiri dio:
2008/10/05 14:04

Hello Mr Fernandez,

Do you have a recommendation on how to set-up a multilingual (asymmetric) blog? I am talking about at least 5 different languages. My concept is that a posted article in one language is not necessarily translated (but will be encouraged) to the other four different languages. Each language will have its separate articles (and comments section), but an "umbrella blog" will be used (maybe in English).

Thank you.


Manuela dio:
2010/09/24 19:18


I found your comment on your blog. I am also interested in bilingual education. I have a daughter who is 5 months old and I founded a board. I would be very happy if you would leave a comment there. :-)

If not, can you forward this mail to people who might be interested in bilingual education. I would also thank you if you would post my social networking platform on your website for reference.

I would like to discuss bilingualism with other people. It is also interesting for schools and teachers (lots of nationalities are there) such as learning Irish/Spanish/French/German as a second language. Please feel free to comment and write in my board: best regards manuela

Interested in bilingual education, language courses, being a foreigner, bilingual schools and nursery schools? is a free place to exchange opinions for teachers (materials), parents (courses, schools, methods) and children (reports)! It is for free and there are threads such as: I am a single parent. How do I make sure that my kids can speak two languages? I can't speak another language, but my child should learn one at school. How do I help her/him? We moved and my child cannot speak the language spoken in this country. I speak another language. How can we help him/her? My child has problems at school. I cannot speak German/Spanish/French so well, but how do I help? My son is doing his leaving exam in German/Spanish/French/Irish... - how can I help? I was raised bilingually and I would like to get to know others I would like to teach music, PE, history ... in another language. Where do I find information or materials? Come and post your own experiences or questions on THANKS!

Rhys dio:
2008/01/31 20:14

Here's a new approach to bilingual blogging (wel new to me anyway. But unlike your Holy Grail of spliting the languages so that the reader only sees the language he/she wants to read, Huw deliberately wants the reader to see both languages side by side. There may be a few glitches.

Eric dio:
2012/04/09 00:31

I've been pretty impressed with how is set up.

Ironically enough, I had trouble posting this comment because however I landed on it meant that the interface was in Basque, and I couldn't figure out how to answer "Zenbat dira hiru gehi bi? (idatzi zenbakiekin)"

Also, requiring commenters to manually enter a subjectline is shitty.

moshu dio:
2006/12/27 08:47

Sorry, I didn't know it would eat my URI. So here is the article.

moshu dio:
2006/12/27 08:44

With WordPress and a plugin called Gengo - it is easily done what you listed above. See an article about it:
(not sure about #9 - I've never posted by email, but the rest is done!)

p.s. captchas are evil and useless...

Max Christian
Max Christian dio:
2004/08/24 15:20

Heh, I think I've managed to break all the commandments!

I've been trying an alternative for interface (and sort-of content) bilingualism: when you hover the mouse over (ideally) any word, it changes language. It's fun! Admittedly better for language-learning readers than heavy-duty blog writing though.

apeescape dio:
2009/10/11 08:58

Awesome post. I've created a new blog that is bilingual (click my name) that follows the majority of things you say (separate RSS, language link); however, somethings are missing (translation link for each post, separate comments for each language), the latter of which I'm fine with. The QTranslate plugin ( have been a huge help for me since I'm not a programmer. But I'm pretty satisfied with the adjustments that I've made.

avi dio:
2004/12/19 11:12

Having a blog is about writing a text, not about writing html. One may have the ebtire interface ni English, assuming everyone connected to the interned already knows what OK and Cancel buttons do. The problem to be addressed is deciding which language to use for which type of post.

Morgan dio:
2005/05/27 08:03

Me gustaría saber que es este sitio? Por favor, quisiera a llegar a ser bilingüe. Enviame un e-mail a

abdielt11 dio:
2011/12/21 14:13 is job portal site, it contain so many job for job seeker it has many option for job seeker. having different options and different sector for job seeker it has portal it means it connected to anther site also. It contain all types of jobs for different job seeker. is recruitment site they having so many advertisement for job-seeker. Reviews

Nibu dio:
2004/10/09 19:44

Felicidades por el intento de web trilingüe, lo tuyo sí que tiene mérito. Yo estoy intentado encontrarle el tono a un blog bilingüe castellano-catalán y no acabo de ver clara la forma de organizar los posts por idiomas, porque mi idea es entrar cosas a veces en un idioma y a veces en otras. Digamos que escribir en el idioma que te pida el cuerpo en aquel momento, ay que mi intención no es que me lean en Huston precisamente, sino hacer entender una realidad lingüística complicada (y enriquecedora también a veces) como la de Cataluña. Así que de momento los posts en castellano los escribo en redonda y los posts en catalán (o las citas en ingles, felicidades por ese estupendo inglés, por cierto) en cursivo, para marcar una mínima diferencia. Pero no sé si el resultado es satisfactorio, todavía me lo estoy pensando... De cualquier modo, me parece fantástico que se cree debate alrededor de los blogs bilingües, que, por lo que veo, son muchos más de lo que puede parecer a simple vista.. y no todos tienen el inglés como una de sus opciones.

jm dio:
2004/05/03 01:20

in the same time, strange that this post is only available in english: bilingual means english + something by definition???

Dwight Stickler
Dwight Stickler dio:
2006/09/18 17:51

The inherent challenges with offering bilingual or mulitlingual websites are primarily within the dialectics in my opinion.Even once you have mastered the primary language or offered a translated version of a site, there is still the problem of the dialectic differences between regions and cultures.

Take Spanish for instance; there are some real differences between mexican spanish and cuban spanish and spanish spoken in spain. I had a friend comment to me one time while I was practicing my Spanish on him that although for Miami it was adequate, in Colombia, it would have been lacking. He stated that there could be as many as 100 different spanish dialects present within South American Cultures.

So what do you do if you want to dialogue with many different regions and perhaps two or more different languages?

My own recommendation is to find ways to communicate your ideas as effectively and simply as possible. And maintain an awareness that there are cultural differences even within the same linguistic group.

jm dio:
2004/05/01 00:27


even if i am a bad example i will try to explain why i choose to double post in 2 languages: first is that i want international audience, so i write in english second is that i want to french because i am french. third is that this is the easiest.

may be i should try to duplicate the blog in 2 blogs one in english and the second one in french but then posting would be more paintfull and i need to find a way to clearly state that 2 languages are available...

if i found time i will try!


MM dio:
2004/05/01 10:31

@jm: But your texts are so short, I think it's fine. I would perhaps leave a space between the French and the English so people can see immediately which bit they want to read.

MM dio:
2004/04/30 21:42

No, I do not translate every post. Nearly everything is in English; a few posts are in two languages, and some have a brief German summary at the beginning. I suppose you just looked at one entry.

I also have another blog where I do everything in two languages, but the two language texts are usually slightly different in content.

Horazio dio:
2006/10/09 18:41

(I'm answering to Daniel Nelson)

I don't think dialects are important because when you write you use the standard form,you are not going to use slangish expressions nor dialect terms. 



Isabelle dio:
2004/05/04 23:02

Interesting post, with a lot of good points.

Unfortunately, well.... as your said, my home page will continue to be incoherent and the interface messages wil remain "double" :-)))

I totally agree with jm but I seriously doubt aver finding a satisfactory way to post in two languages.

Horazio dio:
2006/02/05 03:34

I have a bilingual website/blog and sometimes I have to translate every text because ,since I offer educational resources (freeware) I need to give descriptions in two languages.

Other times,when I'm talking about other topics I use only one language.


Daniel Nelson
Daniel Nelson dio:
2006/06/10 19:39

Thanks for writing this post.  I've been searching to see how many companies already offer a multi-lingual blog.  We have built into our website the capabilities to offer multi-languages, but as of yet have not fully opened this up.  Now that I am ready to launch a blog, I really would like this to be in two languages so have found this helpful.  I agree that the second language should be a separate blog with feed and all areas of this should be in this language.

I have a question whether the use of flags is a good way to distinguish between language.  I sometimes found that the word English is lost amongst all the others letters, whereas an image is much more obvious.

Any thoughts?

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Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

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