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How to write non-intrusive multilingual updates in Google Plus (& Facebook/twitter) + video hangout!


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

In this post I want to outline how I am writing multilingual updates in the new social network Google plus that only those who want to see them (natives and people learning the language) will.

I'll also say how I'm doing the same thing in Facebook and twitter, and invite you to a video “hangout” to get a live tour of my home in Cuzco… with commentary and to ask me questions in the languages I speak!

My multilingual updates

While I'm travelling I like to use my social networks to stay in touch with people, both that I know and those who follow my story online who like to keep up to date with what I'm doing.

While doing this in English is straightforward enough, I've gone a step further and actually write my updates in all the languages that I know! This is part of my way of practising a language no matter where I am – by outputting something, even if very brief, in that language to make sure I'm still thinking in it. Twitter/Facebook/Google+ are great for forcing yourself to write something in the language as regularly as possible.

It's something I'd highly recommend you try doing yourself on your favourite social networking sites in your target language.

I had been doing this every single day throughout 2008 & 2009 on the following twitter accounts:

English: twitter.com/irishpolyglot

Irish: twitter.com/ilteangach

Spanish: twitter.com/poliglota

French: twitter.com/polyglotte

Italian: twitter.com/poliglotta

Esperanto: twitter.com/poligloto

Portuguese: twitter.com/irlandes

And since last year I added German: twitter.com/mehrsprachig and this year Dutch twitter.com/meertalig (which I may get back to updating if I return to Dutch). I also opened Turkish, Hungarian and Czech accounts that I used while I was active in those languages.

This year you'll notice these accounts have been very inactive – my hectic travel plans have made it very difficult to keep up, but I'm going to get back into regular or daily updates on these accounts from now, and especially next year that I'll be back to travelling slowly again.

It's been a great way to force me to remember difficult vocabulary and to make sure I use these languages, since I try to write the same update in each account. If you are interested in that language, follow me and make sure to @ me to keep up the conversation!

But the whole point is that I do this in such a way that anyone following me will NOT have to read me write updates in every language I know, most of which they wouldn't be interested in or understand – seeing such a thing in your stream would be quite frustrating! Instead I segment my updates each time.

This could be an issue some of you have – you may want to write updates in the language you are learning, but many in your social networking site may not be so interested in reading or interacting with them.

With twitter this is easy as I have separate accounts, but rather than create one account per language on other social networking sites, I've found other ways of making sure that the right people see the updates and others don't!

New Google plus “pages” and how to segment updates

Google plus is quickly catching up with Facebook in terms of features, and in the last week they added the “pages” feature, which is very similar to what Facebook offers for brands. But since G+ is in its infancy, there are still many restrictions.

One of them is that a brand page can't segment its updates to particular users very easily, as Facebook can (explained below). This was a frustrating aspect of the pages for me, but luckily I talked directly and in person with someone who works behind the scenes of Google plus and he gave me a great temporary work-around until they offer a feature like opt-in circles or similar.

And with that in mind, I'll be using my Google plus page to send updates in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Esperanto and Irish.

You can follow my updates in English on my Google plus profile here.

And you can follow my non English updates as follows, by circling my Google plus page:

  1. Add this page to a G+ circle and +1 the page, both of which you can do right here within this website:
 

(If viewing this from an RSS reader or email, click here to go directly to that G+ page)

  1. Go here and +1 the appropriate flag image representing the language, to see updates JUST in that language…. That's it!

While it's less ideal than automatic opt-in, the way it works is that just before I write an update in that language, I'll quickly look at the flag image and see if new people signed up. If they did I will add them to my circle specifically for that language – so if you +1 the Spanish flag, I'll add you to my Español circle.

It's very important to circle/follow my page first, as brand pages cannot circle anyone that has not circled them first.

This way when I write an update, say in Spanish, I'll specify that only my Español circle can view it. The fact that you +1 the image is a very simple way of segmenting people, way more efficient than you asking directly what circle they want to be a part of, and it's only a couple of seconds of work before each update for me to add new people to that language circle – a step that I imagine Google plus will simplify and automate soon enough.

If you have your own Google plus page, try uploading images and making a similar request of those who circle you to +1 them! Of course if you know everyone in your Google plus profile this is unnecessary as you can just add them to your own language circles directly without asking them, since you personally know what language they'll understand or care to read.

Since I'll be following you myself from my G+ page, I'll make sure to pop in and comment on what you write, and hope to see your updates in the language you specified, so I can reply to you in that language 😉

Get a live video tour of my Cuzco home in that language!

A great feature of Google plus, which is not present in other social networking sites in the same way, is the multiple party video hangout!

For anyone following my Google plus profile and page, I'll invite you to get a live video tour of my place in Cuzco! I'll do this in a different language every day for a week (starting in English tomorrow/Friday on my profile and all other days on my page) and invite only those in my language circles (those who have followed me first and then +1-ed a flag) to a “hangout”.

I'll only be online for about five minutes each time, and will try to do it twice about 12 hours apart to cater for various time zones or working schedules around the world. If the maximum number for a hangout is reached, I'll do it again for another group immediately after. Feel free to ask me questions in that language if you like, about how things are going in Cuzco and my Quechua mission!

(For language learning or travel advice you are best Skyping me privately though.)

Other video hangouts will of course be on the horizon in future.

Facebook segmentation

For the moment Facebook makes the segmentation process much easier. Because of that, if you follow my Facebook page, you will see updates in various languages (after liking the page) if your Facebook language settings are in that language.

Just like that page here:

I'd recommend you change your Facebook language settings anyway along with any other interface you can because of the many benefits to helping you learn the language that brings.

I outlined precisely how to segment your updates per language or per location in this post. You basically just need to separate people into groups (on a Facebook profile), or just click the lock symbol under the status update bar to select a country or language pre-assigned for you, if it's for a Facebook page.

So when I write an update in Spanish on my page I will click the lock symbol and select that only those with their language set to Spanish should see it. On my personal profile I select a pre-made Spanish group of friends I created instead.

Note that you can also follow my personal Facebook updates in English (which tend to be less language/travel related; things such as sharing a cool video my little brother made about himself in a real-life version of Sonic the Hedgehog), by subscribing to my Facebook profile here. Please don't add me as a friend or message me there though, as I block anything from people I haven't met in person several times and am serious about the 130 or so real friends I've added. Subscribe only! 😉


As well as following my multilingual and English updates based on your favourite social networking sites, don't forget to create these yourself and use them in a similar way to what I've suggested here!

author headshot

Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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