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Translating the Divide: English vs English

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

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You may think that the difference between British and American English is not all that baffling and that it’s just a case of changing an ‘s’ to a ‘z', dropping a ‘u’, swapping ‘trousers’ for ‘pants’ and Bob’s your uncle!

Nonetheless, we can assure you it isn’t quite that easy and in fact, adapting to American or British English is indispensable and can make all the difference to your translation. Even the Guardian newspaper has recognised this and subsequently set up a blogging platform called English2English intending to unravel the meanings of Americanisms and Britishisms used in the paper so readers from both sides of the Atlantic can understand.

Another example of the differences are dates, which are written differently in the US to the UK, Americans would put the month first (05/01/10) whilst British English speakers would write the day first (01/05/14). Just imagine how terribly wrong this could go if dates were incorrectly translated on medical products for example… it could have some very serious consequences!

There are also some differences in prepositions and past participles between the two, Americans say ‘on the weekend’ and ‘learned’, whilst British speakers say ‘at the weekend’ and ‘learnt’. The American way is considered to be a spelling mistake in the UK (and it also sounds rather funny to the British ear!).

As a company, we understand that although the cultural divide between American and British English is becoming increasingly interchangeable, not adapting to those subtle differences can seriously affect the success and quality of a translation. To illustrate the subtle differences here is an example: U.S. and British negotiators ended up at a deadlock when the American company proposed that they ‘table’ particular key points. In the U.S. ‘tabling a motion’ means not to discuss it, while the same phrase in Great Britain means to ‘bring it to the table for discussion’.

We strive to provide translations of the same quality text and ‘feel’ as the source language text. Usually, the use of Britishisms in America can be quite confusing and seem like a load of codswallop to them. However, at times British words used in the marketing of a new product in the US can give a ‘European feel’ to the product and help the company maintain the same successful brand image in the new market as the old.

We pride ourselves on our bespoke services allowing us to tailor your material accordingly to your target audience whilst maintaining the same original quality and feel… as this can make all the difference!

We translate to and from English and employ professional native American and British speakers to meet your specific needs. For more information on our translating and interpreting services please contact:

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