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Victor Bueno
Victor Bueno

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Should I Write Articles in English or in My Native Language?

I find myself in a bit of a dilemma and would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

The Dilemma

As the title of the article suggests, I'm not sure if I should contribute to the community writing articles in English or in my native language. And here is why:

My Expirence

This marks my second article, and the first one was written in Portuguese, my native language. That was a choice that I made trying to contribute with the Brazilians seeking more content on a particular subject but may not be comfortable enough with English to read an entire article. And I was thinking about keeping that way, but one of the first comments that I got was something like: "good article, next time you should do it in english". Since then, I've been grappling with this decision.

Why write in English?

Before writing this, I read some articles advocating for writing exclusively in English. Anyone can imagine the main reasons to do so:

  • Improve your own English knowlodge;
  • Reach more people;
  • Help on your career growth;

And I guess that they are really valid! Also, as I consume content in English here on dev.to, I intereact a lot with people that doesn't speak my native language, so producing content in English seems like an excellent way to continue contributing.

But why write in your native language?

A comment that I saw in one of the articles defending writing in english says: "English is the language of the internet". While I acknowledge its important role in connecting people globally, isn't that segregating a large part of the world who lack access to resources for learning a new language? Unfortunely, in Brazil, for example, having access to education is a privilege that not everyone can have.
While I aspire to contribute globally, I also want to make a difference on the life of the people from my country (even if it's a small part). Wouldn't it be more meaningful to give back to the community I'm physically surrounded by and create accessible content for them?

Isn't writing in both languages an option?

Certainly, there's the option of writing the same content in two different languages, but I feel it might not be effective on the internet. I've never come across a successful YouTube channel, for instance, that produces content in two different languages on the same profile. I fear that duplicating all my posts, one in English and the other in my native language, might lead to losing both audiences and not reaching anyone at all.

Share your toughts

What are your toughts? Do you have any relavant experience on the matter? I'd love to hear back from you all :)

Top comments (33)

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isaacdlyman profile image
Isaac Lyman

English is the lingua franca of software development (or at least I assume it is—if Mandarin or Hindi have caught up, please correct me). If you write in English, you're writing for the largest possible audience.

However, most developers write in English, so if you do too, you're writing content on topics that may already be saturated.

I'd suggest doing a bit of market research before you write.

  • Make a quick outline of what you want to write about.
  • Search dev.to, Medium, and development blogs to see what kind of content already exists on these topics.
  • If there's a lot of existing English-language content already, you'll probably get more traction if you write in your native language.
  • If there isn't very much content on the topic, consider writing in English so you can address a wider audience.

My guess is that broader topics (like "My coding journey" or "How to set up a new React project") are completely saturated; if you write in English your posts will be swallowed up in a sea of other devs writing the same thing. Whereas if you write in your native language, you'll reach a lot of people who don't have as much access to that kind of content.

For more niche topics (like "How to audit an Azure tenant for HIPAA compliance" or "A technical explanation of the new iPhone triangulation hack"), English may be the way to go, as it's more likely there will be demand for that content.

If you write a lot, some of it will be super popular and some of it will go mostly unnoticed. That's hard to predict ahead of time. But for the super popular stuff, you can always translate it to the other language to increase its reach without going to the trouble of translating everything you write.

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Great advice Isaac, thanks for sharing!

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dahliamaddox profile image
Dahlia Maddox • Edited

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troyrankin profile image
TroyRankin

Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel 🕵🏻‍♂️ Fayard • Edited

Should I Write Articles in English or in My Native Language?

That's a great question I have been struggling myself with.
My take today would be

Writing in english is much better than not writing.
Writing in portuguese is much better than not writing.
So...

Image description

But writing is hard.
Therefore what you might want to do, at any point of time, is to use the language you feel most like writing in.

For example I have written mostly in English for years, but this year I've written mostly in French. Because I felt like it.

The one thing I wouldn't do is to write in portuguese in dev.to and expect lots of readers to come at you. You are likely to be deceived by the lack of readers and that would have nothing to do with the quality of your writing.

English is not the language of the internet, there are more chinese speakers than english speakers. In general the internet is very much polyglot. But there are lots of micro-climates. DEV.to itself is mostly english speaking. And that's fine, you just need to take that into account.

What you can do instead for writing in portuguese is to have a blog+newsletter. Write just for you and don't worry so much about sharing it. Forget the likes, the tweets and other vanity metrics.

Writing itself is its own reward.

That's what I do in french on Substack.
👉🏻 substack.jmfayard.dev

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Great comment, Jean-Michel!
Everything that you said makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for sharing!

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svenhintz profile image
Sven Hintz • Edited

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel 🕵🏻‍♂️ Fayard

Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.

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drvcodenta profile image
DHRUV TRIVEDI

Hi Victor,

Ultimately it's on you to decide the language you want to write the blogs.
I also understand your point, being a beginner myself in blogging and I also know many people here in India who aren't aware of many things.

If you post your content in your native language, for sure it will reach your native people and the your knowledge would increase
If you post in English, that would help in your career growth as you would gain access to wider audience and your knowledge would increase in that case too

In my Case:
I'm personally more inclined towards writing in English during the starting phase, once we understand and experience more about how things work here and how does writing in English actually helps the career growth because we cannot decide such long term decisions just on the basis of what some random person on youtube commented or what some random youtube said in the video. That's their experience, we need to experience it ourself and then decide for ourself
If that does not work and things don't sustain because the desire to help is increasing day by day then I would recommend myself to write in my own native language

In One short Line: Let me understand myself, what I truly want and then decide...

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Great advice Dhruv! Thanks for sharing!

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pixelrella profile image
Pixelrella

I love your idea of including people who might not have a good understanding of English. Also makes dev.to more diverse, creating awareness for other languages being out there.

On Netflix, they have a lot of publications in native languages. It's up to the viewer to decide whether they want to read the subtitles.
For YouTube, the channels that want to be available for more than English speakers offer subtitles as well.

I also have seen Instagram posts that have text in multiple languages. It is more work, yes. But like you noticed yourself you need English for the reach and Portuguese to make a difference for your own country.

Is there a way you can make some posts in English and some in Portuguese?

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Yeah, it's totally possible to post content in both languages, but as you said, on YouTube, for example, the bigger channels that want to reach more people offer subtitles, but usually, they don't post the content itself in different languages. I think that by doing this, it would make the audience confused — some content in Portuguese and some in English, for example. Making posts in both languages is an option, but I'm afraid that this might lead to losing both audiences and not reaching anyone at all.

It would be pretty cool if dev.to had a feature like subtitles somehow. I mean, a way that the writer of the article could create two versions of the same article, and if a person is accessing it from a specific country, they would have access to the specific version created for them.

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pixelrella profile image
Pixelrella

Uh, that would be nice! Like different language tabs in code manuals.

details dev.to does offer collapsed elements:

{% details summary %} content {% enddetails %}
{% spoiler summary %} content {% endspoiler %}
{% collapsible summary %} content {% endcollapsible %}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

dev.to/p/editor_guide

Would that be an option?

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Thanks for the tip! I wasn't aware abot the collapsed elements, maybe it can be an option.

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nermin_karapandzic profile image
Nermin Karapandzic

Plot twist: english is his native language

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Write in both languages, that's my suggestion! I only write English DEV articles, but I have another bilingual blog. Sometimes I start with the English version, but when I start in my native language, German, I often have to revise it after adding an English version which makes it obvious that we tend to overcomplicate German due to our traditional way of thinking. Writing in multiple languages helped me to open my mind!

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best_codes profile image
Best Codes • Edited

You can use a translation service like Google Site Translate to translate your article (via its shared URL) and put the link to the translation at the top.

This article is written in Portoguese. English Translation

Google site translate

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bcouetil profile image
Benoit COUETIL 💫 • Edited

It's a dilemna I had for long. I wanted to make articles for people around me, and french is our language.

I then made multiple articles on LinkedIn in french, and it was great at first. But months passing, I realized that my professional searched for information on search engine was exclusively in english, and that is the case for lots of my collegues, so my articles were not helping much people.

I then decided to write in english (and migrate to dev.to).

I don't regret any of it.

Some nice side effect : lots of words in our field are in english, it is sometimes hard or unnatural to translate them to french. Now I don't fight that anymore 😇

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Very interesting, Benoit! Thanks for sharing your experience.
After all the comments, I'm really leaning toward writing in English, or at least giving it a shot.

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harveyhalwin profile image
Heinek Halwin

Hi Victor,

I am also multilingual. I made the decision to write articles in English while i am equally fluent in English as my native tongue.

If your goal is to help your people, to improve their coding journey, write in your language.
If your goal is to reach a wider audience, to have a portfolio of your knowledge and work online, write it in English.

Ultimately, its upto you and if you want to keep on writing for a long time, choose whatever comes easiest and fun for you.

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Great advice Heinek! I guess at the end of the day it really is a personal decision.

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cbid2 profile image
Christine Belzie • Edited

@victorbueno, thank you for posting this article! :) As far as which languages to pick for your blog, it would be a huge benefit to write them in English & Portuguese. Doing this would make your content accessible to both audiences and show recruiters that you are adaptable. Also, the fact that there really isn't anyone on the web that does this could be a huge opportunity for you! :)

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Yeah, that makes sense to me, Christine! Thanks for the advice :)

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maurobonfietti profile image
Mauro Bonfietti

Hey Victor, hello. Good Question.

I have similar thoughts and different comments.

For example, if I talk/write in Spanish, I get comments saying I should do it in English. But also comments saying: thanks for your content in Spanish! (there is already too much content about that in English, but not in Spanish, etc).

I have tried in a repository, for example, writing a README.md in English and a README_SPANISH.md in Spanish, but it is a double effort.

Perhaps it depends on the channel/social.

At this moment, I have decided to write directly in English.

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proteusiq profile image
Prayson Wilfred Daniel • Edited

You could write first in the language you enjoy and then translate it into language of your targeted readers 🫢

For me, I write primary for myself. I write first for my joy. My readers are secondary.

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, Prayson!
What I'm taking from the comments is exactly that! I shouldn't write thinking about the numbers but about my own development.

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githubcoder369 profile image
GitHub User

You can use google translate to write in both languages faster, but becareful that google translate is not always 100% right in translating from english to your native language

I would recommend you to check the translated text and fix its grammar errors, context errors, etc... and then you can publish your native language version

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licia-afk profile image
Licia-afk

I’m struggling with the same dilemma.
Sou brasileira e moro no exterior, os primeiros posts decidi fazer em português devido aos cursos que estou fazendo serem do Brasil, mas pretendo mudar ou postar nas duas línguas assim que tiver adquirido uma base de programação e encontrar um curso interessante por aqui.

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leonpang profile image
Leon Pang • Edited

It depends on who your reader is.
If it is a developer, it must know English, so just use English.

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victorbueno profile image
Victor Bueno

I'm not sure if this is really a fact... I think a lot about those who are starting on this development journey, thinking about getting into a career that will help change their lives. Not necessarily are people in this category, at least here in Brazil, familiar with English.

But thanks for sharing your opinion, Leon!

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