Claudiaexpat explains why when she and Marie launched Expatclic, they had a multilingual platform in mind, and why the website keeps on with four languages.
Since our topic this month is Languages Abroad, I thought it would be nice to share a reflection on why Expatclic is a website in four languages.
The question that pops up regularly in our Facebook group is:
Why do you speak English if this is an Italian group?
I love it when new members ask this, because it gives me a chance to explain where we stand language-wise.
The original idea behind Expatclic
When Marie and I created Expatclic, we had ambitious ideas. We wanted to build a multilingual platform, starting with French and Italian, and then gradually add all of the European languages. We only managed to add English and Spanish, thus giving Expatclic the international flavour you enjoy today.
What was different at the time was that Expatclic was not managed by a single team, as it is today. Each language had its own team of native speakers, who worked independently (with their own articles and forums) within the common mission and guidelines of the site. That was such a wonderful time, I feel a pang of melancholy whenever I think of it.
The concept behind this was that we did not want to talk about cultures or geographical provenance. We wanted our members to reason in terms of languages. As expats, we learn a number of languages in our lives. We mix with different ways of expressing feelings. We learn new expressions, and often create our own. Languages are such an important part of international life, and they define us in our intercultural relationships.
One big single team but a website in four languages
As it happens in life, things changed. Expatclic went through a lot. We had happy moments, and difficult ones. Our mission, however, never changed. We got together to support expat women all over the world, and we are still doing it 15 years later. However, it was getting pretty difficult –especially for me- to manage the various linguistic teams. Some of the women who were part of them did not speak English fluently. The communication was getting unbalanced, with me speaking the four languages of the site, and constantly busy translating, connecting, linking all the ideas and team members.
That was the lowest moment in the history of Expatclic, and a time when many members decided to quit. The result was that only Italians were left to manage Expatclic, and therefore we decided to shift to one big single team that would communicate in our language.
A brief period in Italian only
At that point I was exhausted by all the work I had behind me, and Expatclic had gone through a lot and was striving to find a new identity. We decided to keep it in Italian only. We simply did not have the resources and energy to maintain the other languages. For a while we only published our articles in Italian, while we witnessed the shift of the community from our forums to the socials, mainly Facebook at that time.
I was unhappy with a single language website
It did not take me long to understand that working only in Italian made me unhappy. I missed the international side of Expatclic, and felt closed within the narrow fences of our Italian mentality. Besides, many people who had followed Expatclic before, were complaining of being unable to read its articles, because they did not speak Italian. We therefore decided to go back to our international identity. Still, some in the team feared that it would be too much, that we would not be able to keep up to our promise to go back to a website in four languages. I insisted, certain that we would find a way to cope with the increased amount of work.
And we did
We did not recreate four linguistic teams, but put back all the articles that already existed and started to translate new ones again. Our team opened up to whomever spoke Italian, regardless of her cultural background. We welcomed women of nationalities rather than Italian. It was wonderful because the linguistic interaction started within the team.
Speaking in another language is an act of love
There are many reasons why we try to translate as many articles as possible:
- we want to be able to reach the widest possible number of expat women;
- by using many languages, we deepen our intercultural experience, both on Expatclic and in our lives;
- we give our women the opportunity to read in their own language, which is very important in this wandering life;
- we keep our minds fresh and flexible, and give the Expatclic community a beneficial sense of liveliness.
Mostly and foremost, though, I am deeply convinced that speaking in another language is an act of love. Expatclic is all about welcoming and supporting. In my view this can only be achieved at its best when creating all possible conditions too make a person feel at ease. Speaking her language creates a warm and inclusive environment that makes her feel accepted and more prone to open up and share her experience.
I wanted to share these reflections with you because this month we talk about languages. So now you know why we mix languages on our Facebook group, and we keep on translating our articles, despite this being a huge work. A work that would not be possible without the help of the wonderful multilingual community we have created around this linguistic richness.