Multilingual Publishing on Medium

Disclaimer: don’t shoot the messenger.

Medium is one of the most promising publishing platforms today. Fresh air, for those arriving.

Until issues arise. For example, multilingual publishing.

Let’s start from the official documentation

How do I publish multilingually? What a strange site… A publishing platform, but no mention to multilingual. Obviously, I was missing something. I was sorry to bother the support team with such a silly question but I needed to ask… Unfortunately, I do not have the text of my question, but I was probably asking about policies on multilingual publishing and where to find help on this topic.

Curt answer from Medium support (May 2017): “On Medium, you can publish in any language you want. We don’t have any rules against that”. No further resources for understanding better.

I then asked a second question about some weird things on statistics (I had more recommends than views… more than reads I can understand, but more than views…), to give them a second opportunity. Basing on that second thread, I decided that contacting Medium support, for me, is a waste of time. I found out to speak Khuzdul and they probably speak some Elvish. No chance of understanding.

I found neither help nor exhaustive declarations on multilingual. But I loved Medium, so I continued to investigate on my own.

I found this post about the lack of support of multilingual content on Medium, but it dated back to 2015 and I supposed that things evolved since then.

Let’s see what’s around

I noticed that all the content, on Medium, was in English. At the same time, googling outside Medium, I found Medium stories in Italian (my native language).

I discovered a “Medium Italia”, apparently not mentioned in the global site. I understood that Medium Italia is a publication. A publication with “collections” (“a new way to curate content”). It seems that other local publications exist. I cannot find a list of them.

Wait a minute. Collections? I didn’t know that a publication could host collections. Publications were formerly collections. Then they reintroduced collections for curated content. Maybe they are referring to feature pages. To be honest, I’ve not understood well what’s going on with collections. Maybe, that’s again a problem of the many languages of Middle-Earth.

In that Italian “publication” (which reminds me the story of Cinderella…) there are stories in Italian. Most of the authors write only in Italian, as on “default Medium” most write only in English. Rarely, if you go to the author profile, you find posts both in Italian and in English.

About the author bio: sometimes in Italian, sometimes in English.

Then, digging deeper, I see that Medium Italia has been shut down on Feb 21, 2017. All operations will be coordinated by the headquarters of San Francisco. But you can still follow “Medium in Italiano”. To say the least, I’m puzzled.

The test

I just did a test, publishing that, in Italian.

I started a “new story” from the Medium Italia page (is still there), and it all seemed like editing any other story in Medium. No differences. English interface.

When it came to deciding the tags… I only found one tag fitting, in Italian. Most of the proposed tags were in English, all mixed with the few in other languages.

Now that I have published, my profile reveals that I don’t know what audience I’m addressing, that I’m undecided about which language to use. Luckily, I’ve few followers, so I’ll have few unfollowers.

My post does not appear in Medium Italia. If I search “Vico Biscotti” there, I get “No stories found in Medium Italia.”. Then I search in Medium and I can find my story. It does make sense. Medium Italia is a publication, and I’m not a writer of that. Moreover, Medium Italia should no longer exist…

If I go on Medium, I find the story in Italian on my homepage (in the “new from your network” section).

So, now, who will read my story, if it will appear on a page where all is written in English?

Trying to figure it out

You can write stories in the language you want and they all appear on Medium. Mine appeared, but why I still do not see posts in other languages (seen that authors who write in other languages on Medium exist) is a complete mystery.

The stories will all mix in your profile. Your profile will display a modern random style that one might hardly name multilingual. Also, you can write the bio in the language you want (however, preferring an audience is a bit impolite, right?).

Your followers will be notified of your stories. If they are not multilingual as you, I don’t think they’ll appreciate.

What if you want to read about the stories of an author in a specific language? You cannot separate them from other languages.

What if you want at least to read stories in a local language? You have to go to the local publication, if one exists. But it seems that you can only read curated stories (how to submit?).

You can create a publication for direct access from your followers. Or two publications, for the two (or more) languages. But in that case, you’ll have the problem that one story can be listed in only one publication. Also, you will have a non-English publication in an English-based community.

In conclusion

If you want to go multilingual, Medium doesn’t “have any rules against that”. But they give no direct support for that.

Your stories in the different languages will appear together in your profile and this will discourage your followers. You will look a bit out of tune. Two (or more) flows that collide in a single channel.

If you write stories in different languages, your presence on Medium will not be multilingual. It will simply be a mess.