Blogging in English – When It’s Not Your Primary Language

“Can I or should I write on my blog in English, even if it’s not my primary language?”

This question comes up quite frequently in online marketing, by a lot of different people and for a lot of different reasons. The internet united most parts of the world – and the most common language is English. Content in the English language is by far the most consumed content on the web. And, like it or not – English is a language that is used in business all over the world.

And if you are taking blogging seriously, then it is a business relationship you are forming – a business relationship between yourself and your readers. The readers take the role of the consumer.

Sure, if you are writing about personal stuff and you don’t really care who reads it, you can skip this article. Blog in whatever language you are comfortable in.

But if you are only half serious about blogging you should, at least, make a conscious decision about the language you are blogging in.

Why Are We Blogging In English?

There are several reasons why Susanna and I are writing this blog in English.

First is the market: We are marketing experts with clients all over the world. We’ve worked with Russians and Bulgarians as well as Hungarians and Americans. If we want to reach potential clients than we need to enable them to understand what we write – and the only way to do that is to write in a language that they understand.

The second reason is the audience: Yes, in this case, audience and market are not the same. The audience is the general crowd that is interested in what we write, (hopefully) learns something from what we have to teach and maybe shares our content with others. Our market is the part of our audience who actually has the money and the need or is at least willing to hire us. Our audience consists of people willing to consume our content – and for social media, the audience in Germany is scarce. Widening our audience to an international crowd does not only increase our potential readers – it also increases engagement and interaction tremendously.

The third reason is simple: Because we can! We are both fairly comfortable in English, have both worked in an environment where it was the language spoken in the office, have both spent time in English speaking countries, and have both a lot of practical experience in writing in English. We are comfortable when writing in this language.

Reasons Not To Blog In English

Blogging in English does not always make sense though, so let me give you a few possible reasons when you should write your blog in your mother tongue:

  • You are truly writing “just for yourself”
  • You are addressing a truly local market with truly local customers (NOT tourists!)
  • You are blogging for your friends
  • Your main website (the one your blog might just be complementary to) is not in English (or translate the website)
  • You are really and truly incapable of writing understandable English (In which case you have stopped reading this article after the first sentence)

There are more, but I wanted to give you an overview of what came to my mind quickly.

What If I Am Comfortable Enough To Read English But Not For Writing?

This is probably the most important question in this article.

If you are comfortable reading English content, then you are advanced enough to write a blog. But it will be hard at first. You won’t publish an article every day – because you won’t manage to write as much at first.

But: Blogging gets easier over time, and blogging in English is no exception. Here is what you need to do to practice your blogging skills:

Read A LOT!

You won’t write a great blog without reading a lot. Read blogs around similar topics to get better at writing – and read blogs in English to get better at writing in English. There is a quote by Stephen King that says: If you want to write a lot, read a lot. It’s true! But you can optimize this rule to your needs: Read the type of content you want to write to learn faster. Read about topics you want to write about, read blogs – and read English blogs.

Write EVERY DAY!

If you want to get good at blogging in English, reading will only take you a part of the way. If you want to develop a voice, you need to write. Write every day. As said before, you probably won’t publish an article per day – that’s ok. But work on an article every day, and with time your language skill will improve, you will get faster and more confident and your content will improve.

Don’t Be Overly CriticalBlogging in English: "Can I or should I write on my blog in English, even if it's not my primary language?" This question comes up quite frequently...

This one is really important – and for a lot of people this one is really the factor that is holding them back in their life and not just when blogging in English!

When you are working on something that means a lot to you, it is easy to expect perfection of one self. And when you are not entirely confident in your skills – like when blogging in English though it is not your primary language, you will not even have the feeling that it “is good enough.”

But the whole point in blogging is: Imperfection. Blogging is – and should be – uncensored, unfiltered and especially unedited content. One of the most important things that new bloggers need to understand is that in blogging – the blog does not need to be perfect to be interesting or beautiful.

Perfection is not what you are going for. Instead, the notion of “good enough” is what makes blogging great. And good enough means: Don’t think too much about whether this comma is in the right place, or whether that word is written correctly. Instead, think about the following before hitting publish:

  • Is the topic and the content interesting to yourself?
  • Is the language understandable?
  • Is the language easy to read for yourself?
  • Would you read it to the end?

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Still Not Confident? Get Someone Who Is NOT A Native English Speaker To Read Your Content

Yes, not native – just able to read English. Why? Because he will tell you whether it is good enough: Did he understand the language, did it keep him reading until the end, and did he like the text? A native speaker will correct commas, words and sentences. That will eat your confidence even further.

Add More Than Words…

What do I mean by more than words? Easy, add graphical content that illustrates your point of view. Tools like Canva allow you to create images for free and quick. Embed Youtube videos, link to other peoples content. Whatever get’s your point across. If blogging in English is hard – illustrate your content without words.

A Couple Of Tools To Help You On Your Journey

If you have little confidence in your language skills or simply want to improve your writing, a simple spellchecker won’t do. Why? Because spelling is not the key factor that improves style (at least not if it is reasonably good). Style has to do with the length of sentences, the use of grammar, catch phrases, …

Luckily, in the age of the web, this is not as bad as it might seem to you. Here are a few tools that can help you on your journey.

Hemingway App

The Hemingway App comes in two versions – free online version and advanced desktop version for $6.99. The Hemingway App online lets you paste your content, analyzes your text and gives you hints on how to improve it. It doesn’t do spellchecking, but it does tell you which sentences to shorten, when you are using too many adverbs/adjectives, etc… Highly recommended for blogging in English!

Grammarly

Susanna wrote a review for Grammarly. It’s essentially like the Hemingway App on steroids: All functionality of the Hemingway App, plus spellchecking, actual grammar checking (the errors that MS Word misses!), style improvement hints and a lot more. If you need all in one style improvement, there is nothing better, but it’s not free – starting at $29.95/month but comes with a free 7-day Trial. But worth every penny and it will make blogging in English a lot easier.

What If My Language Isn’t Good Enough?

Seriously? You read this whole article, were able to follow it and still believe you are not good enough? If you didn’t use Google Translate you are probably just lazy…

But anyway: If you really have that much trouble with the English language you will either have to write in your language, not write at all or improve your skills. Up to you!

This article was proofread and edited by myself with the help of Grammarly. If you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.

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  • http://www.daylightmoth.eu/ Sophie DaylightMoth

    Hi, Thank you for this article. I’m about to launch a blog in a few days and I also chose to write in English even though it’s not my native language (by the way it’s German, too). I feel pretty much at home writing in English but I still had some doubts that I was being presumptuous about my language skills. So, thank you for the reminder that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Sorry for the late reply – thank you for your comment!

      A blog post is imperfection by design, and that is part of what makes it beautiful. :)

      – Jonathan

  • Baptiste Velan

    You still have to be careful with grammar and spelling. Even if at first readers will understand your message, grammar and spelling mistakes will put them off.

    • TheSocialMarketers

      Sure – and I did not want to give the impression that these are not important. But they shouldn’t keep you from writing at all. Or writing in English. I have a reason for recommending Grammarly and Hemingway App – they can really help enormously in this case!

      I know that this can be hard – which was the reason for me to write this article. There are ways to make this easier – and I’ve learned my lessons that I just wanted to share.

      – Jonathan

  • http://freshinfos.com Roshan Perera

    Great article. Very motivational.

    I actually had the same problem 3 years ago. Basically I sucked at English writing, but I decided to launch my blog anyway. It was rough at first. Started receiving a lot of rude comments and harassment from cyber bullies for making grammar mistakes. But I kept on going. Now, after 3 years of blogging, my writing is even better than some of the professionals in the blogosphere.

    My advice – “Just Do It” and ignore the bullies. Keep reading, learning and watch a lot of Hollywood movies. You will get better in no time. :)

  • Gazi Salahuddin

    Very nice and informative post. Blog writing is writing about something in a blog site. Blog writing in English language has advantages and disadvantages. Writing is also an important term. Essay and article writing is very essential to us. Also essay writing services reviews with thinking, use of punctuations, knowledge of grammar and tense etc.
    Thanks for the valuable post.

  • http://nullnfull.com/ Null & Full

    Thank you for this article! I’ll be talking about this issue at Tbex conference soon so I appreciate that you summarised some of the most important issues.

  • http://waroong.net/ waroong.net

    wow.. when i read your article , seems like you talk to me. you are able to touch the readers with those word. very inspiring.

  • http://www.blogdamima.blogspot.com Mima

    I’m really glad to find this post. I’m starting a website and a blog and I will write in Portuguese, my native language. However, the whole point is to promote exchange of ideas between Brazil and the rest of the world, then the importance of being able to write in English too. The thing is: I love writing but, of course, I feel more comfortable writing in my own language. After reading your post I felt compeled to have also an English version to appeal to a wide audience. Not sure If I’ll be up to such a challenge, but knowing your input made me more aware of this need… Thanks a lot! Obrigada!

  • http://www.makingmewritethis.com/ Brian Boys

    Great post. You non-native English writers blow me away.

    I’m a veteran US copywriter who flunked out of both German and Chinese and constantly has to look things up to make sure my grammar and spelling are correct. Both the writing in the post and the comments below is certainly better than most American bloggers. I would never have guessed you were writing in your second or third language.

    BTW, I set up a blog to help non-professionals write better copy. If you can think of any tips or tutorials that would help non-native writers, please let me know and I will post them: http://www.makingmewritethis.com

    • https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/home Dean Jackson

      I read your comment on Wired for the movie Risen; Wired spiked my comment, so I hope you don’t mind this outflanking maneuver.

      You wrote at Wired, “Some people will hate this movie because it can’t give them the empirical proof they so badly want.”

      Funny you should say that. Why? See my comment at National Review’s review for Risen…

      http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/431654/risen-review

  • http://insimoneskitchen.com Simone van den Berg

    Ah yes the eternal question… I started out blogging in English, but than switched to Dutch at some point… Which also wasn’t satisfactory as I felt I was not fair to all my international readers. I finally made the decision to write in both English and Dutch. (I use WPML) and that works well for me. Because I do have a lot of local readers who don’t really want to read in any other language but their own. Plus local brands are more interested in native language blogs. Great article!

  • faiver

    OMG Really great article,It inspire me a lot.
    I will follow your article I mean every word..

  • Helen Smith

    Great Blog! Your post is very useful for everyone. I will suggest to everyone to follow your blog. Grammar is playing a very crucial role in our English language. A few years ago, I was not good in grammar, and then I got a very useful site GRAMMAR CHECK FOR SENTENCE. I improved my English with the help of this site. Keep posting like this.

  • http://about.me/nicola.losito kOoLiNuS

    Inspiring … thanks for sharing!

  • JulioLaker

    It should be Susanna and I are writing this blog, not Susanna and me are writing this blog because in the first person of singular you would not say “me is writing this blog” you would say “I am writing this blog”

  • https://pressmatter.wordpress.com Abu Mohammad Khan

    My primary language is other than English, Sometimes I write in the social media and a blog, though I’ve to learn a lot yet – I just read this article and this gives me some confidence to write in English. This is really helpful. Thanks Jonathan & Susanna.

  • Sergey Yatsenko

    Write EVERY DAY! – */S.Y Spiral Leader can make the needful decisions for Business or SME’s every Day .

  • http://sandrineboutry.com/ Sandrine

    Thanks for this, it confirms me my choice : blogging in both languages, French and English, in my own translated website/ blog to make sure everybody can read me ! :)

  • Pankj

    Thanks a lot for this kind of such a great article. I am a digital marketer just start writing for my own blog, but due to language difference this is hard for me to write the accurate in English, because English is not my primary language but just start writing, and as i read your blog so this is also a dose of motivation for me.

    Thanks once again for inspiring me.

  • Anh Phan

    Thank you very much for the post. I am Anh Phan, I am also doing blogging in English while my mother tongue is Vietnamese. I’ve learn alot from you guys. I have made a personal blog only, and still have to learn more. I just love learning and keep on that. My tiny blog is at the address of http://anhphan268.com/. Warmly welcome, and I hope I will receive good recommendations. <3

  • creativestudium

    Great article!
    I should have read it before started my own blog. It would had helped me to decide. I took months to decide in which language I should write and that blocked me for example, with the blog name. Everything was in standby… And after all, I’m writing in english. I only feel it is easier for me to write about technical stuff. If I want to write about something more personal it is harder. It takes time :)

  • ProEnglish

    Nice job! Great article!