Wednesday 27 January 2010

Why I am Euroblogging in English

I started to write a blog post in German, and then I erased everything because it didn't sound right.

The reason I even though about blogging in German was this request by Europaeum yesterday:
Außerdem wünsche ich mir von den vielen Euroblogs noch mehr Mut, auch in der eigenen Sprache zu bloggen und damit die Euroblubble wenigstens ein Wenig aufzustechen.
For those not familiar with German: Europaeum is hoping for a little more courage by eurobloggers to blog in their mother tongue in oder to puncture the eurobubble.

What I realised is that for me, part of the Euroblogging experience is writing in a foreign language.

It is leaving the national thought system and entering into a mindset that has been shaped through so many European experiences, most of them connected with speaking English. English is also the language I read and write the most in my scientific work. Changing into English thus means to think more analytically and to feel more cosmopolitan at the same time - and both are constitutive parts of this euroblog.

So while I understand that Euroblogging needs to go national, it wouldn't work out for me.

I am ready to connect to the national blogosphere(s) through any possible channel, I am ready to read blog posts in as many languages as I can read or that Google Translate is able to handle, but I don't feel comfortable euroblogging in German.

And to be honest, I am personally convinced that euroblogging in English makes sense at this development stage of the Euroblogosphere: With only a limited number of blogs, there is the need to be able to interact easily and quickly, to be able to grasp the other's argument and to turn it into real debates.

I agree that this doesn't really happen in the Euroblogosphere so far. But if all of us were writing in our own national language, there would be even less possibility for debate, because we would miss many interesting points other are writing about (since we definitely wouldn't translate every post not written in a language we understand).

So don't expect me changing languages in this blog - it's English and it'll stay this way.


Martin said...

Thanks for pickung up on my wish, Julien. Although I wasn't directing it to you personally. I've read your German blog and I liked it.

Without getting into the whole question of multilingualism that we so much adore in cross-border communication I still like to believe that by using your mother tongue from time to time it helps to connect the brussels bubble to the blogs at home.

I have to admit, it is definitely easier to exchange in English as it's the most common denominator in the European blogosphere. I use it myself of course to comment on other posts or if I feel that a topic is way too important or too less covered in blogs. And sure sure when I read the machine translated posts I'll comment in English. So we need a common language to communicate. But wouldn't the use of a different language help to reach out to those across Europe that aren't digging up European issues on daily basis?

But perhaps it's just one these German things. A desire to get more coverage about European issues in German blogs.

Martin said...

And I get it. There's a lot of frustration blogging in German. ;)

Julien Frisch said...

I actually didn't feel it was directed towards me, but I thought you were right and after writing three or four paragraphs I knew that this wasn't true in my case.

And my German blog was a nice test, but as I have said before: It's already something writing one blog, but having a second is too much work, especially when you write in different languages.

Ralf Grahn said...

Julien and Martin,

It is interesting to follow your reasoning, since languages are a permanent issue in the European Union and for each blogger individually.

It is not as if euroblogs in German should be a niche market, with more than 90 million native speakers within the EU; in fact, the most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU.

Despite this, there is only a limited number of quality euroblogs in German, so there should be room (and readers) for many more.

For an individual blogger I can attest to what Julien said about hard work. I returned to blogging partly in Finnish and Swedish, by cutting down on posting on my English blog. Even if the total number of posts remains the same, and some of the contents are more or less the same, it is harder work to write in more than one language.

Ultimately, I think that everyone has to find his/her own answer. Some want to connect with other bloggers at EU level, others want to serve readers in their national language, and some may want to combine the two.

It is a question of 'live and let live', which multilingual serves by being open to blogs in 25 languages, leaving the choices to individuals.

Vincent said...


Why don't you post in ALL the languages you can ? Say, english on mondays, french on wednesdays, german on fridays...

You'd be a multilingual blog all by yourself !

Julien Frisch said...



Aga see ei ole nii lihtne igal päeval teises keeles kirjutada. Ma proovisin seda, kuid minule ei näi võimalik. On liiga palju töö.

Eurosocialiste said...

It's a question of priority. I want to take part in EU geeks' debates which is why I write in English, on the other hand I don't want to stick to the EU-bubble which is why I translate all posts in French. It's true that it is very time-consuming but to me, opening up to the wider public is a matter of principle. Due to translation time, I produce less blogposts but I'm hoping I'm reaching out to a more diverse readership.

Julien Frisch said...

I prefer reaching out by commenting in different national blogospheres, especially the German one, whenever I think I can add something to the debate.

In other cases, I link non-English articles coming from other linguistic spheres thus relating them to readers in other spheres not able to follow the original posts.

I am not sure that translating is really getting us out of the circle of EU geeks, because the geekishness is more in content than in language, it is more in focus than in style.

So the question I'd ask is:

Is translating posts really opening up new audiences, those that are not EU-geekish or does it just translate geekishness from one language to another?

PS.: In fact, I don't regard EU-related blogging as generally geekish, it remains discussing politics of a particular polity in the terms of this polity. When Slovenian bloggers discuss about Slovenian politics in the terms that simply refer to Slovenian politics and I don't understand what they are talking about not because of their language but because I don't care for their political system they are still not geekish.

Anonymous said...

Since I started with my blog, I have a great doubt: write in English or in Italian? I confess that this doubt blocked my idea to create a blog for a long time.

At the end I decided to write in Italian, only because quickly for me write a post in my mother tongue. But the doubt remains.

Writing in English I have the opportunity to participate in the euro debating more actively, and also to attract to my blog more people. But at the same time in Italy few blogs are focusing only on EU issues, and I would like to spread also in my country the EU voice.

In my dream, there is one day that I have time and energy enough to publish each post in English, French, Spanish and Italian (preferably without translation). But at this moment it will be too much for me.

french derek said...

You are all, rightly, concerned with blogging in home tongues. But for me, a blog-follower, it's more a question of wanting to not only read but to reply to, the blogs that I read in whatever language they appear. Thus, I do try to respond in my awkward French to French blogs; I dare not even try with the blogs in German I read, but others might.

Yes, English is the oft-hated but much used language of the net, but not exclusively. And long may it remain so.

Nick P. said...

With English being spoken as a native and mostly foreign language by more than 50% of the EU population, it is not only the language of the "EUbubble" but more importantly the key "communication" language of the EU population as a whole.
Of course I agree with "live and let live" it should be an individual's free choice.
But although French, mostly, and a few other EU languages to a lesser extent ARE (like)GREEK TO ME (because I speak Greek and know Ancient Greek as well), I stick to using English exclusively in my blogs and vlogs and tweets (with the exceptions of some parts of my "songs", lol).

Nick Panayotopoulos

Martin said...

Thank you for all your comments.

To reiterate, all I was doing in my blog post was to hope and wish for more language diversity. Ideally of course by motivating new bloggers to pick up European topics but also encouraging those who already blog.

I'm not trying to convince anyone to change in whatever language they feel comfortable blogging. Julien made very clear why for him it doesn't feel right to write in English. I'm perfectly fine with that. I rather have him blog in English than not at all. Also I don't hate English, actually I love it and would wish to speak it even better.

But that doesn't change the fact that I still believe having more well thought post in various languages (in my case German .. we're really lacking plenty of euroblogs here *g*) would help to stimulate the European debate - that's by getting closer to those who feel more familiar with their mother tongue.

(There's a lot of psychology playing into it. ;))

Nick P. said...

Dear Martin
Maybe if we vlogged (instead of blog and tweet) in English and then subtitles were added? Like on TV (no dubbing, bite, tho)!

Just sayin!

PS. I wish my German was as good as my French and my French as good as my English. I would give up at least one of my Masters in return!

PS2. I would assume that a large % of German people do read and write in English as a second (first foreign) language.

Unknown said...

I am grateful, if a little ashamed, that it is my mother tongue - English - that has become established as the lingua franca of the European blogosphere.

Opening debate to as many as possible is the agreed goal. We are divided about the best way to achieve this - either by settling on English as the (lowest) common denominator, or by facilitating connection between separate linguistic communities.

On balance, I think the first option has the greater potential, though improvements in machine translation (thanks, Google) may change that.

I have another point, which concerns the type of English we use. I like Julien's point about choosing English as a way of "leaving the national thought system and entering into a mindset that has been shaped through so many European experiences, most of them connected with speaking English." This is harder for native-speakers like me, but it is essential.

The least we can do is to write in clear, plain English that is accessible to non-native speakers and to machines. And when you catch us using archaic or coloquial expressions, wordplay and idioms, you should demand that we, too, write in 'European English'.

Thomas said...

Thanks for writing in english, otherwise i wouldn't be able to understand you.

I don't think you should only have one language on one blog, whether you aim all European or "German-cultured" people, you should use respectively english and german.

I agree on the necessity for european citizen to be able to think together, spread and exchange ideas, and one best way is to use the same language.
but it is not enough : we also have to use shared common places to be able to access article or thoughts from foreign languages.
The problem is that, as a french, I wouldn't have the idea to connect to a blog german (I don't feel comfortable with reading german), but I don't mind reading a blog in english.

a solution would be to be able to have an automatic filter for some languages. For example, I'm able to read english, french, but i'd like other languages to be translated automatically. and I would answer in english or french and the author would have it in the languages he choose.
cafebabel does this kind of things, but it rely on people to translate, so all articles are not translated.

in a way, Europe's future rely on technology :-]