Translating from US English to UK English

When translating English from one form to another, it can be quite tricky. The most common English language conversion is between the American form and the British form, and vice versa (US English to UK English). The biggest difference, of course, is the spellings, but there is more to the conversion than meets the eye.

As with every other translation, converting English from one form to another also depends a lot on culture. Some words used in spoken American English don’t have the same connotation in the British form and could actually cause confusion. A simple example is the word tea. Tea in American English means a cup of tea, while in British English, tea refers to the Afternoon Tea – which is a mini meal including sandwiches, cakes, scones, and tea.

To demystify the different form of English more than a conversion, a localization is required. While it is a lot easier to convert English from one form to another than it is to translate English into another language, there are certain nuances that have to be taken into consideration. People who have studied both forms of the language and are familiar with the cultural references are best suited to carry out English language conversions.

Points to remember when converting US English to UK English

Spellings: Though many of the words are spelled the same in both American and British English, there are some very notable differences. For example, in American English, some verbs end with ize like organize, specialize, localize and so on. However, in UK English the same verbs end with ise; organise, specialise, localise and so on.

Another notable difference is the omission of u in American English in words that have an o and u together. For example, British English neighbour becomes neighbor in American English, and favour becomes favor, humour becomes humor and so on. Other differences include ending words with ‘nce’ in British English and ‘nse’ in American, re in Brit English like fiber and center which end with er in American – fiber and center.

Converting American spellings to British spellings is the easy part. Most word processors like MS Word can do this by simply selecting the language of preference for the document. But when structuring a marketing campaign on a website spelling words correctly is one of the least of the concerns. Whether or not the website actually appeals to the vastly different culture is another question.

Use of words: There are a lot of words that are used commonly in American English that are not used in the UK, for example, the word cookie is almost never used in spoken British English. The word you would use to refer to a cookie in the UK is a biscuit. Fries in the US are chips in the UK, while chips in the US are called crisps in the UK. Trash is more commonly referred to as rubbish in the UK and jelly is called jam.

When you take all the different words used, you very quickly realize that websites and digital campaigns have to be completely restructured to suit a British audience. Aside from the use of words, there are other differences like the side of the road that people drive on and the fact that Americans use Fahrenheit for temperature and the Brits use the Celsius/Centigrade scale.

Why Localize

The only way that a website can be localized to better suit audiences from both countries is with a thorough understanding of both language and cultural references. English language conversion is only one part of the story, for the rest – Localize can help you adapt your website. With the right understanding of both language and culture, Localize can make a big difference to the relevance of a website.

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