A blog in two languages wasn’t a decision veteran food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini took lightly, but she has seen rewards — and challenges — she never imagined.
Dusoulier was a young Parisienne who spent a few years in the Silicon Valley as a software engineer before returning to Paris. She launched the English version of her award-winning food blog in 2003, and she’s been blogging in both French and English since 2007. Dusoulier is also the author of The French Market Cookbook, a book of French vegetarian recipes, and Edible French, a book on French expressions related to food.
Here’s Clotilde’s take on why to blog in two languages:
Q. Why did you start writing posts in both English and French?
A. After I was back home in Paris for a year, I started the blog as an appealing way to keep my English skills alive. I began writing in French in 2007, in preparation for the French edition of my first cookbook.
Q. So for years, you’ve written each post in both languages?
A. Yes. There are very few exceptions.
Q. Which do you start in?
A. I usually start in English and translate into French. A post takes a full day and the French post is another three hours, between the writing, formatting and commenting.
Q. You could write it first in French, too.
A. My English speaking audience was much bigger, so there was this sense of priority. But actually now it’s 50/50 English and French. One is not more important than the other.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing two posts?
A. It’s not difficult, but it’s cumbersome to complete the post in English and then it’s not over. It can feel annoying to do it all twice.
Q. What is the benefit then?
A. I increased my reach, because my potential audience is not just English speakers. It’s also cultural because I get to interact with a wider variety of cultural backgrounds.
Q. What are the differences in interacting?
A. Daily life in France is different than in the US, and their approach to food and cooking is different too. Foods that are available in French stores are not available in the US. The US is more one-stop shopping but in France many people shop in specialty markets. Crème fraiche is a basic thing to buy in France but a fancy one in the US, for example.
Also, translating your own words makes you question yourself. I don’t have the same sense of humor in English than in French. Some things don’t translate. It’s like having a double persona.
Q. Would you advise that people jump in?
A. I recommend they do it! It’s a rewarding undertaking.
People write to me and say they read both versions. They use my blog to learn a language. Americans start with French and then, when they don’t understand, they hop over to the English version. I end up having a food blog that is also a language learning tool, which is really fun.
Do you want to blog in two languages? What keeps you from doing so? If you already do so, is your experience different from Clotilde’s?
I’ve been blogging in English and Italian for 6 years now.
It takes time, but it is so rewarding! At the moment the 60% of my readers are from Italy and the 40% from abroad – especially Americans, Canadians and Australians -.
Now the most part of my clients for cooking classes find me through the English blog, so it is useful for more than one reason.
I could not choose just one language now, I love both the different interactions and dialogues developing from the two languages.
How ambitious, Guilia. I love that you have so many client bases and that you get work by blogging in English. I think Clotilde feels the same way about the interactions and dialogs.
I, too, find that I get very different opportunities from each “side”. Fascinating in and of itself!
Faith Kramer says
Chocolate & Zucchini and Clotilde inspired me to start blogging myself as well as inspiring me in the kitchen.
The two of you were in the game so early. It’s inspiring that you’re both still going.
Thanks so much, Faith, good to see you here!
I can totally relate! Writing in two languages can be annoying sometimes, but it’s definitely worth it.
I clicked on your French button so I could see how it works. I suppose you have to do the translation yourself, as Clotilde does. I’ve tried Google Translate and it’s not pretty!
Ha ha! Sometimes I envy those bloggers who can just hit publish on a single post and be done with it. ^^
Tina T says
Dear Dianne and Clotilde,
It is interesting to read how others do it, as I am blogging in two languages myself – in English and German.
Most of my articles are not the same in both languages, as the topics are different, one is about international self-publishing, the other one about my adopted home London. In those rare cases when I am writing an article in both languages, I used to write in English first and translate into German afterwards, but it rarely worked well. I found myself going back and forth between two language versions and have now discovered a way to make this easier: I am using the author software Scrivener and can work on two language versions next to each other. Perfect for me!
I still haven’t found a good solution for social media, though, and I am not very active in this respect, I am doing most of it in English, because there are simply more people out there who can read it. My long term solution will most likely be YouTube videos with added subitles in both languages and I have experimented a bit in this area, but unfortunately a day has only 24 hours 🙂
Good luck with the cookbook, Clotilde, and all the best
Fascinating, Tina. Good to know about this software — if it makes your life a little easier as a translater it sounds worthwhile to me.
I have wondered about this same issue for social media, as I have friends who post on Facebook in English and then people answer in other languages, or they post in another language but my relationship with them is in English, so I don’t understand. It’s complicated, that’s for sure.
I’ll check out Scrivener, thank you!
Re: social media, I’ve decided early on to just stick to English. It’s overwhelming enough as it is. 😉
I also find that going back and forth between the two languages helps me improve both versions. When I translate the English into French, it forces me to read my writing with a different perspective, and sometimes I’ll spot weaknesses that I want to fix. Or I’ll have an idea for a topic to bring up or a reference to insert, and I’ll go and add that to the original version.
Becky Winkler (A Calculated Whisk) says
This was so cool to read about! I recently started reading a bunch of food blogs written in Spanish to help keep my skills up with material that’s really high-interest to me, but I’m not sure if I’d have time to blog in both languages. For me at least, translating is also a very different experience than composing something in my second language to begin with. I’d probably find it easier to write in Spanish first and then translate to English. Maybe I’ll experiment with offering bilingual versions of a couple of new posts and/or old favorites. Thank you for the inspiring post!
That sounds reasonable, to translate a few posts and old favorites. A good way to start. I liked what Clotilde said about reading blogs in another language to keep up. And of course, we all want to read about food, so that’s a motivating factor. Hope it works out, Becky.
Caution, slippery slope ahead! I started out thinking I would translate a few posts here and there, and 8 years later I’m still publishing practically every post in both languages. 😉
Clotilde: I have been a reader since the beginning. I was delighted when you added the French version. I read both. I start with French and then move to English. Although the information is basically the same, the ‘flavor’ is unique to each version. I appreciate the effort enormously. Cheers and Happy 2016!
Paula Thomas says
This is a great and timely post as i just started my Spanish blog after a year of practice with my English blog. Like Clotilde i found that my sense of humor and persona are somewhat different in each language and i’m just developing my written Spanish persona even though it is my native language. I initially thought of blogging as a way to improve my English writing skills and have come to love the process. thanks ladies for an insightful and encouraging post.
Paula, congratulations on starting your Spanish blog. It makes sense that you have to develop your persona even though it is your native language, as voice is a critical tool to a blogger. Hope it goes well.
I don’t know about you, but for a long time it was actually easier and more fun for me to write in English — it’s such a flexible and playful language. It’s taken me more time to find my groove in French, where the written word can sound a bit formal and it’s hard to sound conversational.
Paula Thomas says
Yes! It’s the same in Spanish, it feels so formal, while English one could say is playful.
Shirl Gard says
I love Clothilde’s blog. I often go there just to see how she translates something. The fact that she writes in both French and English is s big plus for me. As a former pastry chef, I have long loved cookbooks from French pastry chefs where the recipes are written with the English on one side of the page and the French version on the other. It’s a great way to learn the language of pastry.
So you are one of those readers she mentions at the end of the post, Shril. What a talent to read cookbooks — and her blog — in French. I had 4 years of high school French and you’re inspiring me to try to read her blog in French.
Thanks so much, Shirl, that’s truly lovely to hear.
Ilana Sharlin Stone says
This was fascinating to read. I have a different situation: one language, different dialect, spelling and colloquialisms!! I have a very new blog with a focus on food in South Africa that I’ve geared towards an international audience, weighted towards America. Even though I am from California, after living in South Africa for 21 years, my speech and language have naturally changed somewhat, and I’ve picked up a lot of slang too — sometimes I don’t even realise anymore that it is South African slang! In addition, my spelling is now more naturally English — i.e. savour, rather than savor. In the end, I decided to write in a way that was comfortable to me now, which is more English. I am hoping that this will come across as authentic, rather than pompous, misspelled or confusing! I am curious to know if there are other food bloggers out there in the Commonwealth countries who deal with the same issue, and how they do so. Thank you Dianne for sharing this very interesting read, and Clotilde, whose blog I’m just about to read!
Hi Ilana, this sounds like quite a good challenge with many decisions to make. It sounds to me that the key is to identify your audience — if you want it to based mostly in NA then it makes sense to write as an American, as David Lebovitz does in Paris. But he also has a big European audience so he tries to include them too. I suggest you read them both to see their different approaches.
Kitty Morse says
Moi aussi! I send out my monthly Enewsletter, The Kasbah Chronicles, en français and in English, my two native languages. Pourquoi pas? I get responses in two languages. I have also just finished translating my latest book, Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories, into French. It is a great mental exercise, and my Kindle edition will reach a new market, j’èspère.
Voila my two cents, mon grain de sel..
Loved to get a little French from you, Kitty, and I’m pleased that I could keep up. I love how you mixed it up. We like to think the world is black and white and it can be separated but often it is not for people who speak more than 1 language. I hope you find a new audience of French speakers and readers who adore your book.
I also love that people all across the Francophonie can read me! The possible audience is so much larger than just the good old Kingdom of France.
Thank you Dianne for such an interesting story. I’ve often thought about writing both in English and Portuguese, my language. The problem has really been finding the time to take that next step. Right now my schedule does not allow it but maybe one day. What I often do is answering people in their own language, when it is appropriate. Some people who read my blog in English sometimes feel more comfortable to comment on their own language, like Spanish for example. When that happens, I’m more than happy to accommodate them.
That sounds very reasonable, Maria, and a good way for you to practice your writing skills in another language. As Clotilde explain, it is a big commitment to translate each post. Maybe you could start by translating a few favorites, as Becky suggested in the comments.
Shirl Gard says
I enjoy Clotilde’s blog and often go there to see how she translates something. I also look back and forth between the English and French versions of her posts. As a former pastry chef, I have long loved cookbooks by French pastry chefs where one side of the page is in English and the other in French. It is a great way to learn the language of pastry, I am not proficient enough to write in two languages but I appreciate those do.
Thanks so much Shirl, I’m glad you find the two versions useful! French skills are certainly handy for anyone interested in pastry. ^^
Love this conversation. I share a lot of the same Clotilde’s insights about different humor and style, it’s startling to discover that about oneself.
I have a WordPress blog and I use a plug-in call Polylang to keep all organize and to not upload double images for each post. I highly recommended it.
Good tip Pilar. Thanks for sharing about the WordPress plugin.
I’ve always asked myself if I should keep blogging in french and english but after reading your post, I think I’ll keep translating my recipe even if it takes times.
Thanks for this awesome post 🙂
You are most welcome! It’s nice to find so many passionate people in this little niche of food bloggers who blog in more than one language.
I encourage you to do that Zineb! I hope you continue to find it worth your while.
I love Chocolate and Zucchini and check the website for new posts every few days! My favourte recipes are the nori rolls, the chouquettes and the avocado and radish toasts. I started blogging a few months ago and as I studied translation at uni, it was obvious to me that I had to blog in both languages. I was even more inspired to do so thanks to Clotilde’s blog! It does take much longer but I do enjoy getting comments in different languages. I fully agree with the idea that translating your own words makes you reconsider them.
Hi Nathalie, nice to hear from you. How lovely to be a 24-year old in Paris, blogging in two languages. I wish you the best of success.
Thank you so much Dianne!
Thanks so much for the kind words Nathalie, and congrats on your blogging efforts! I’ll be following along with interest.
Thank you Clotilde, and thank you for following me on Twitter 🙂 I’m also on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (following you on all of those!) under the name The Natterbox. Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful posts in 2016.
I usually read your French posts but now and then I love taking the time to enjoy the English one too. The puns are different, I love your American sense of humor 😉 And it’s easier to share your recipes in English with US friends and Norwegian relatives 🙂
I hadn’t thought of that benefit for my French readers, thanks Armelle!
Jan Cox says
I read your blog in English, although English -officially- is my third language and French my second (Flemish Dutch being my first). Probably because anything that is internet -related used to be English and it is still my preferred language for al IT-related stuff. Food-blogs included.
That’s a very good point! And it’s part of why I started in English in the first place. It was the sole language of food blogging back then!
Fariba Nafissi says
Dianne and Clotilde,
Thank you so much for sharing this topic. I write my blog in two languages as well, Farsi and English. I agree that it’s time-consuming, but like Clotilde said is very rewarding too. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels like having two personalities as words don’t translate the same. In Farsi, I’m more emotional and poetic because I do miss Iran and it’s not often that I can visit.
Clotilde, I also agree with you, knowing what ingredients are available in each country is the key. I have traveled to Iran and baked lots of my recipes with the ingredients that are available there so I can tell what my readers can use or what the replacements should be.
I also use social media in both languages and to make it easier for my Instagram followers, I write a post in English and at the bottom of the post, I write in Farsi that the Farsi version will be in the first comment.
The point you make about your nostalgic use of Farsi is beautiful, Fariba, and very true — this is probably most salient when talking about food, a subject in which culture and childhood memories come into play so strongly.
Marta (wellbelicious) says
I am glad I have found this post. I was just having doubts about blogging in 2 languages. But that helped me to see it from more positive side. I am writing my blog about healthy lifestyle and well-being, in Polish and English. I am Polish, but living currently in Brussels. I definitely want to reach people in my own country, but as an ex-pat living already for many years abroad, I also don’t want to limit myself, as I have many friends around the globe. As writing in both languages of course require double work, for me the most difficult part is running the social media. For the moment, I still promote all the posts on facebook fan page in both languages, but sometimes I am afraid my readers may get tired. I have the feeling it is more difficult to keep them active, while sometimes comments are in Polish , sometime in English. Do you have any advices on how to run social media in 2 languages? Are you limiting fb and other social media only to one, or you keep your posts with 2? I want to start with twitter now, and have same dilemma. Any recommendations or advices welcome! Best! Marta (www.wellbelicious.com)
Hi Marta, this is a difficult subject indeed. I have made the executive decision to do all my social media in English. I feel like social media is a sphere in which the lengths you could potentially go to are absolutely *infinite*, but if you don’t want it to take over your entire life you have to set clear and realistic limits, both in terms of the platforms you choose to invest time in, and the way in which you do.
I chose to use English as my social media language because back when I did, my potential followers on those platforms were clearly more English-speaking than French-. The proportion has probably shifted now, but I’ve stuck with it anyway.
I am sure I “lose” would-be followers who would only want to read things I put out in French, but I can’t be everything to everyone. And I personally advise against having updates in two languages on the same Facebook page or Twitter feed, as I feel it’s a not-so-pleasant distraction to people who don’t speak one or the other. (At least as a user, I don’t like it very much.)
Hope that helps!
Marta (wellbelicious) says
Thank you very much for your answer. Indeed , I need to rethink my strategy and decide in what direction to go.
See you online, as I follow now your blog/facebook page, so will be happy to interact 🙂
I just recently started blogging in EN and I’m pondering wether to also write in my native language. It’s interesting to see that there are people who are successfully doing it. Food for thought.
Thanks for your comment, Stefan. Yes, some people are doing very well with it, although it is defnitely more work. Good luck.
I’m glad I found this post as I am currently struggling with writing my blog in two languages, Finnish and English. At the same time I’m thinking of writing only in English as it is quite hard sometimes to first write in Finnish and then translate to English.
But my question is; do you have any tips on how to write in two languages when the only choice is to write only one post which is first in Finnish and then translated to English? So far I’ve done it so that I write in Finnish normally and after that write in English, but in cursive.
I have to say, I don’t recommend having the two languages coexist on in the same post on the same page. My experience as a reader is that it is confusing, you’re not sure what you’re looking at or where to find the information. I think it’s best to either stick to just one language, or run two separate blogs. Probably not what you were hoping to hear, but these are my two cents. 🙂
Dan Cristian says
Hi, I like your post. I have an interesting question about writing on a blog in multiple languages. I noticed that Clotilde write on her blog in 2 languages but for french has a separate subfolder where she posts the blog posts.
I want to ask you if it is necessary to create a separate subfolder for every language with a separate wordpress installation?
Can I just write the blog posts directly on the main domain without creating the subfolders for each language and just attached them to a specific category created for each language?
I want to write for example in 10 languages on my blog but unique content not just translating every blog post. Something like: today in english, tomorrow in spanish, then in italian, then again in english, then in hungarian, etc.
What I mean is that every blog post will be in it’s own language and will have an entirely different content than any other blog post on the website even if the topic or subject of the posts can be similar.
And I want to publish them directly on the main domain name without creating a subfolder for every language.
I hope you understand what I’m trying to tell you.
I am worried about SEO consequences and how the blog will be seen in the google search results and if the blog posts will be indexed in every country with the corresponding language.
Hello Dan, this is the way we decided to set it up with my web designer because there were slight differences between the French and the English blog, and the existing plugins didn’t allow us to do what we wanted.
I would take this question to a specialized WordPress person who can recommend possible plugins for what you want to do. Best of luck!
Jose Bescos says
I work in a translation agency (www.ibidemgroup.com) and we are used to translating websites and WordPress blogs in particular. The questions and doubts exposed by Dan (usage of different folders, SEO impact, etc) are extremely common to our customers so I think it is interesting to dig a bit into them. There are several approaches to this, but I will summarize them in 2 different hypothesis.
1. You already have a blog, and want to translate it. In this case you will need a dedicated plugin, as WP is not multilingual by nature. You can use WPML, WeGlot, Polylang, many options out there, each one with its pros and cons. All plugins will by default group translations by language, as a way to keep blog translations under control.
2. You write your own translated articles, and publish them all together. You can create and assign specific language categories or tags (English, Spanish, French…) and link the original articles with their translation, by hand…. but WP will not be aware that some articles are the translation of other articles.
In any case there is no impact in SEO whatsoever. As long as you keep each post in a separate page (do not mix languages in the same page). Minor issues of option 2 would be wrongful language attribution, and absence of hreflang tag, but no need to worry about this. Google is incredibly intelligent and will know how to grab and categorize the right content. Your only concern should be to write unique and meaningfull content.
Thank you Jose. Yes, unique and meaningful content is the name of the game!