A Note to Our International Readers On Comments …

Preface: If English is your first language, skip this … it will bore your socks off.

I’d like to address an issue that has arisen from international readers.

Specifically, I know that some readers use translation features to read our posts in other languages.  Indeed, we’ve added a translation feature at the bottom of articles – below each post – to allow non-English speakers to be able to read the site.

Several times a month, people post comments in a foreign language.   While I used to speak Spanish fairly fluently, French passingly, Italian fakingly, and German pathetically, I have forgotten most of what I knew (use it or lose it … I lost it).

In a perfect world, I would translate each and every foreign-language comment, and then go through an analysis of whether or not the comment was productive, spam, or trolling.

Unfortunately, I am an extremely busy professional, and don’t have time to translate foreign comments. Indeed, while I try hard to read all of the comments, I’m too darn busy to even read all of the English comments.

I sometimes delete comments in foreign languages, especially when they are in alphabets which don’t even give me a clue … e.g. Cyrillic, Arabic, Mandarin, Hindu, etc.

Sometimes, I can’t tell if our foreign readers are making the most insightful comment since Plato, hawking “manhood” enhancing drugs, or declaring that all Americans should be beheaded …  I have no idea what you’re saying!

Yes, it is my fault that I don’t speak more languages … and that I am not taking the 30 seconds to copy and paste your comment into Google translate.

But – then again – if you are commenting on a site based in the U.S. with mainly American readers, you could take the extra 30 seconds to copy and paste your comment into Google translate so that you can comment in English.

I’m posting this boring, distracting rant because I’ve never seen any other website owner discuss this issue anywhere … and I am interested in potential solutions.

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  • Swarnalatha R

    Excellent message, and i appreciate the admission “Yes, it is my fault that I don’t speak more languages”.
    (mildly: not Hindu, but Hindi is the name of one of the languages spoken in South East Asian nations)

  • Namma

    I once belonged to a fairly international online community and the folks from other countries would laugh at Americans for not being able to speak, read, or write, in more than one language. Obviously they are more than able to understand English since this particular community existed well before universal translation became available. My point? The majority of international readers most probably do not have to translate English articles, or write comments in their native language as they are more than capable of doing both IN English.

  • Edmond V.O. Katusz

    Well, “Your Castle, your Rules.”
    Everybody should make an effort to publish in English, it’s not rocket science, with present day translation technology.

    Or one could post in original language + the translation. After all many nuances can be lost in translation, so people could try to translate the comment in the original language by themselves. There is a problem of course, if you’re well versed in Russian and English try it out, and you’ll see a lot is missing if you translate from some complicated Russian text into English. KISS, isn’t it? So it will be sometimes tough formulating one’s thoughts, but posting is not a quick pastime, anyway it shouldn’t be.

    Succes with this blog!
    Salu†, Edmond V.O. Katusz

  • Jay

    How do I contact a blog poster posting under the byline “Washington’s Blog”? I’d like to discuss a book idea.

    • Robert Barsocchini

      There is a “Contact Us” section on the main page, under “Recent Comments” section on the right.

      Contact Us

      We read all emails sent to us, but are too busy to respond to many. We greatly appreciate feedback and leads. Click here to contact us.

  • Dragi Raos

    Requiring that comments be in English is perfectly reasonable. I agree with posters who recommend that people who have to use machine translation to produce English text post both it and the original.