Though it might not look it, I’ve actually been working on setting up this whole experiment for about two weeks. Besides the process that most people probably have to go through anyway to set up a blog was the second and more challenging part: setting up the site to manage three different languages. I’m no expert, but I thought I’d post some tips in case anyone else wants to do the same, so they can save some time.
1) Set up your blog directory with subdirectories for each language. This was the most straightforward way recommended at WordPress, and it’s worked well for me. Think of it as setting up three different instances of a database. In this case, I have the root directory, dedicated to English, an “es” subdirectory for Spanish, and yet another “zh” subdirectory for Chinese.
2) Use the easiest method available for writing in each foreign language. If you’re not blogging in a language you commonly use, things you usually take for granted can be come obstacles, like how to input your entries. I’ve found that to write in Spanish, the easiest thing to do in Windows is to switch your US keyboard to the US-International version, which you can use to type in many of the accented and extra characters that are in Western, non-English languages. I also use njstar, a Chinese word processing program that I was glad to find was much more robust and easy-to-use than what was available even just a few years ago.
3) Consider your encoding method. For whatever language you’re using, there are probably one or two encoding standards that are commonly used. If you’ve ever looked at Chinese websites, you’ve probably found that the content can be all garbled unless you have the right encoding installed and selected. It seems the only way to get around this is to transform all the Chinese characters into picture (.gif or .jpg) formats, like what zhongwen.com has chosen to do, which takes up an incredible amount of space. I decided to use unicode (UTF-8) to encode my Chinese blogs before publishing them since it’s a common encoding and more agnostic than other ones. (However, it seems on older browsers some characters are still coming up as question marks.)
4) Google’s your friend. When I’m not certain of whether I’m using a certain term correctly, often the quickest way to resolve this is to google it. For example, if you have more than one way to translate a word, I find that entering in the different translations and looking for which one has the most relevant hits is an effective way to find the best one. Sort of like asking the audience on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Wikipedia is also a good source to find translations for technical terms since it comes in many different languages as well.
5) Search the internet for useful localizations. I downloaded some of the .mo customization files that WordPress uses so that when I use WordPress itself, many items and titles come up in the local language automatically. The more resources you have at your disposal, the better chance you have of making a multilingual blog with ease.
6) Translate diligently.It took me a while to localize the contact form that I use on my website, but I think the effort is well worth it for both readers and for my own learning. For English speakers, consider this. Isn’t it jarring to go to a foreign website, click on “English” to read the website in English, and then click a link only to be taken to a page that hasn’t been translated? Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
That’s about it so far. I hope this list is somewhat useful, and if you have anything to add, feel free to let me know. Of course, I’ll continue to add to this as I become a more seasoned blogger!