Tag Archives: localisation

There’s more to English than US v UK


Globally over 80 countries recognise English as an official language, with current estimates stating that nearly 1.5 billion people speak some level of English. Although, theoretically, we should all be able to understand each other, certain variations are so different that they could be considered a new language. We sometimes forget that there are many distinct variations other than British and American English, such as Australian, Irish and South African. A country’s geography, history and the other official languages have a huge impact, as does social media. Since we have already tackled US and UK English in depth in our three previous blogs, let’s take a closer look at some other variations…


Australian English: you don’t want to sound like a ‘great galah’!
In 2012, Australia had 16.5 million native speakers of English and a further 3.5 million who spoke English as a second language, a number which is only growing! There are many languages which predate the British colony belonging to three groups: Australian aboriginal, Tasmanian and Torres Strait Island. While these have had little grammatical impact on Australian English, they end their syllables with a vowel sound which has transferred overtime and softened the accent, giving it a singsong quality.
Australia was colonised by the UK in 1788, over 250 years after the USA! It’s no surprise then, that it bears more resemblance to British English, especially when it comes to spelling. Like Brits, they use “-re” endings instead of “-er” (for example ‘centre’ not ‘center’) and “-our” endings instead of “-or” (for example ‘colour’ instead of ‘color’). They also spell words with ‘s’ instead of ‘z’ (for example ‘organisation’) and use double ‘L’ in words like ‘marvellous’ and ‘travelling’. However, although British and Australian English have their spelling system in common, when spoken Australian English is a lot more informal. You’ll find Aussies abbreviating words such as ‘afternoon’ to ‘arvo’ and ‘barbeque’ to ‘barbie’ and in some cases, words take on completely different meanings in the other: flip-flops become thongs, countryside becomes bush, a soldier becomes a digger… When translating documents for Australian companies we ensure that the grammar and spelling is consistent to the target audience using quality management software and an expert localisation team. So don’t worry, we always do a ‘bonzer’ job of it!



The luck of the Irish and the best way to avoid ‘malapropisms’
The official language in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is English, but a large majority in the Republic of Ireland also speak Gaelic. Gaelic has had such an impact on language in Ireland, that now the two languages blend together in many cases, for example “having the craic” means having fun, which could cause confusion for non-Irish folk!
The term ‘malapropism’ describes when you replace something in a sentence with a similar sound, creating an amusing effect. For example, if you are singing Elvis Presley’s ‘You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog’ and accidently sing ‘You Ain’t Nothing But A Hotdog’! The term comes from Irish playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play ‘The Rivals’, as the character Mrs Malaprop does this often to comic effect.
Another fun fact about Irish English: it is not very common to hear ‘yes’ and ‘no’. For example, a typical response to a yes/no question in Ireland, such as “do you speak another language?” would be “I do” or “I do not”. There are also differences in prepositions, as actions are done ‘on’ someone, (for example “the car has broken on me”). These are just a few differences which we would consider at Surrey Translation Bureau while localising the document to Irish English. Our localisation team is grand!



South African English: it’s beter bang Jan, as dooie Jan
There are eleven official languages in South Africa and so blended phrases like the one in the title above are more difficult to understand than in some other English variants. This is a cross between English and Afrikaans and means “better to be safe than sorry”; something strongly recommended in the world of business! Whether you prefer your document localised into South African English, or the other way around, we would be happy to help. Unlike other variants, as well as internal influences, there seems to be a balance between British and American English influences, as in South Africa they follow British English grammar rules, however use Americanised words, such as “chips” not “crisps” and “jersey” not “jumper”.

South Africa was first colonised by Great Britain in 1815 after previously being colonised by the Dutch Empire, meaning that, of all the variants discussed, this is one of the newer English versions, and so outside influences, like the USA, also have an influence. Due to the variety of languages used officially in South Africa, it is therefore important that when conducting business in English, that the language remains consistent and professional.




It is incredible that so many people from so many countries can communicate with each other in their own mother tongue with little difficulty. However, in written communication, while spelling and grammar may still be understandable, if the information you are producing is highly target market-specific or if professionalism and appropriateness is vital, we recommend localising your content to really meet the requirements of your target audience.


At Surrey Translation Bureau, we offer localisation services, meaning that, as an expert English Language Service Provider, not only can we make sure that the language used in your documentation is high-quality, consistent and culturally appropriate, but we can additionally ensure that all references and figures used are tailored to the demands of your target market. We hope that this series of blogs has helped highlight the importance of choosing an English language specialist for your English translations. If you would like to know more about what we could do for you, please get in touch at hello@surreytranslation.co.uk!

Americans do the funniest things!



Localisation and its Pitfalls

Localisation can be a veritable minefield – instead of watching your p’s and q’s, the s’s and z’s are your main focus, and don’t forget those oxford commas! Our clients are often surprised when we explain to them that, actually, there are many things when it comes to language choices that make a reader’s face crumple up in disdain, so localisation is a must. Here one of our resident Brits tells it like it is. Don’t worry if you’re on #teamUSA though, as one of our US natives will soon have their say!


So, what’s with all the capital letters, guys?

US English capitalises all words (except conjunctions, articles, etc.) in titles and headings, as well as words following colons. Formatting is a wonderful tool that allows the reader to easily decipher what is a heading and what isn’t… just saying.


The great spelling war

US English struggles with certain aspects of spelling, for example travelling vs. traveling or flavour vs. flavor. I’m not sure what these letters did to be dropped, but I think it’s quite unfair. All silent letters are also banished (oestrogen vs. estrogen) and don’t even get me started on ag(e)ing. Cue a lifelong battle with those squiggly red error lines telling you you’d fail a year 4 spelling test (that’s 3rd grade, by the way).


“It’s 78 degrees out!” – “Oh my god, is the world ending?!”

To this day, America remains the only industrialised country in the world that does not use the metric system and the Celsius scale as its predominant systems of measurement. As a Brit, going on holiday and getting the weather forecast can be a nightmare – the only weather programme you can find in English is from CNN and it tells you you’ll all be boiled to a crisp by midday. 90 degrees is not a thing, unless we’re talking about the perfect tea-brewing temperature.


Food for thought

Measurements in cooking open up a whole other Pandora’s box. America may have some of the tastiest recipes you can think of, but you need advanced algebra skills (or at least a good Google conversion tool) to figure out how much flour you need. Woe betide you if you decide to grab a ‘cup’ from the kitchen cupboard and crack on.

Anything food related can really be quite tricky when working across language variants. Who knew that ‘biscuits and gravy’ isn’t as disgusting as it sounds?! Asking for some chips as a side dish in an American restaurant wouldn’t get you the hot, salty goodness you were craving, and if you’re trying to locate an aubergine in a supermarket, they start mumbling about plants and eggs. Sweet treats can cause a lot of confusion, too – I can’t be the only one that thought for years that Americans would eat peanut butter and actual fruit jelly on their toast?


As you can tell, there are so many ways in which Brits can get lost in American English. Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where one of our US natives gives as good as she’s gotten here…

If this has given you the (not so) gentle push you needed to make sure your text is appropriate for your target market, please get in touch via hello@surreytranslation.co.uk for more information on our translation and localisation services.

Introduction to localisation


As our world becomes increasingly international, the need to make your goal, message or campaign accessible on a global scale is essential for any growing business. But, it’s commonly thought that when it comes to English, everyone speaks and understands the same language, right? We all know that US and UK English have their differences; there’s the age-old Football vs Soccer discussion, and the missing (or extra) ‘u’ in colour. Other than that, it’s all just English. Or is it?


While Brits and Americans (mostly) understand each other, what you may not know is that there are a number of more complex areas that lead to slip ups, confusion and, frequently, general amusement. In a series of four blog posts, we will address a few significant differences between English variants and the importance of choosing the right language variant for your target market.

Here are a few of our favourite examples of UK English phrases that often stump our stateside neighbours:


UK EN: Bob’s your uncle.

If your British friend exclaims “Ah! Bob’s your uncle!”, it’s best to wipe that bewildered expression from your face and don’t try to adamantly argue that your uncle is in fact called Tony. This phrase, which is common on the British Isles, actually means “you’re all set” and has nothing at all to with your uncle, who may, or may not, be called Bob.

UK EN: ”See you on the first floor!”

You’ve arranged an important meeting with a British client for midday. Your watch reads 12:14 and you know you’ve got the time right, but as time passes with still no sign of your client, you double check what you actually agreed on: ‘Meeting 12:00, first floor.’ Ah… there’s your problem. If you tell a British person to head to the first floor of your office, more likely than not, they’ll end up on the floor above you as the first floor in Britain is known as the second floor in the States.


UK EN: Having your finger in every pie.

You’ve probably guessed by now that this phrase should not be taken literally. In the UK, when someone tells you that they have a finger in every pie, it means that you are involved in a number of projects, that’s having your hands in all the pots if you’re in the US.


UK EN: To spend a penny.

Your British friend tells you that she’s off to spend a penny. So, why does your friend then walk straight past the shops and into the toilets? Most toilets don’t double up as shops in the UK – to spend a penny is actually a polite way of saying that you need to find the restroom. (And not to have a rest, which is a whole other point of confusion for US v. UK English discussion!)


While these examples are more light-hearted attempts at showing the potential for misunderstanding, there are numerous other words and phrases which can cause major confusion among Brits, Americans and speakers of other varieties of English. At Surrey Translation Bureau not only can we help you to pick the right language variant, but we also offer a localisation service which takes into account not just words, but culturally-specific factors.

You can reach our English language experts at hello@surreytranslation.co.uk for more information about translations into English and our localisation service.

Export marketing – Developing a plan that won’t get “lost in translation”

No matter where you stand in the great British Brexit debate, there is one thing we can all agree on: the pound is taking a real hammering in the currency markets.


This isn’t necessarily great news for everyone. A family holiday in Dubai currently costs around 25–30% more than it would have a few years ago and, if you’re an importer, the chances are your costs have significantly increased, whether buying in from the EU or elsewhere in the world.


As the saying goes, however, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and in this case the good news is that we have become a cheaper prospect for those abroad – cheaper to buy from, cheaper to visit and cheaper to do business with. This means EXPORT.


Now is without question the right time to invest time and energy into exploring some of those hugely lucrative foreign markets; not only to take advantage of the low pound, but also to help secure an international future in whatever post-Brexit trade landscape we are left with.


Doing business abroad can go wrong all too easily. That’s why it is important to develop a plan that takes into account the inherent differences involved; differences in language, people, politics, world views, geography, and myriad other factors that can impact a business venture when it’s removed from its cultural comfort zone.


Marketing yourself to potential foreign clients will be an important aspect in your success. So, here are some quick tips on how to ensure your message doesn’t get lost in translation.


1. Invest time in research


Would you throw yourself off a diving board without knowing there was some water below? No? So why do the same when throwing yourself into export? There is a market for you out there somewhere; the trick is to locate the best market for you, i.e. the most profitable, the quickest to market or the easiest to set up. This understanding only comes with proper research. Spend time familiarising yourself with potential markets, their practical challenges, marketing practices. Learn as much as you can about the people, politics, economy, media and current affairs in the region.

2. Analyse the competition



An excellent way to better understand a new potential market is to watch what your competition is doing, whether domestic or international. If there are domestic players in your market, analyse their route to market and how they promote themselves. Examine their goods/services, and get a sense of any potential gaps in their offering. Similarly, if you have seen other foreign companies break into a new market, scrutinise how they did it and what made them successful. Learn from others, adjust and improve; always keep an eye on your own USP and how best to convey it.

3. Respect cultural differences


There is much more to culture than whether to shake someone’s hand or bow. Cultural differences can cause havoc when exporting if not given due consideration. Values, buying habits, marketing channels, colours, logos, and even how your product or service functions, can and will differ when operating in a foreign market. Carry out a full cultural audit of your offering before jumping into any market to avoid potentially costly mistakes.

4. Localise your language


It is well documented that consumers are much more comfortable buying something sold to them in their own language. Language creates trust; it is therefore crucial to make sure that the language you use is tailored specifically for your target audience, i.e. localised. All marketing collateral should be translated and localised by a professional who is familiar with the target market and sector to ensure that your company, service or product is positioned correctly.


5. Look at local marketing channels


Social media
Just because Facebook and PPC advertising works in your domestic market, there is no guarantee that it will in your export market. Marketing channels differ from country to country. In one country, search engines and SEO may be the quickest way to market; another may rely on printed catalogues and mailing lists; others may rely on newspaper advertising. Be flexible and open minded when it comes to how you market yourself.

6. Prepare your sales team

sales team

One of the biggest mistakes many exporters make when entering new markets is to plough all their time, money and energy into breaking into the market. They tend to forget about dealing with actual customers and processing sales. If you export to China how will your team deal with that first email or phone call in Mandarin? If your sales team are not trained, prepared and equipped to deal with the market there is little point.

7. Travel and build relationships




If you think you will be able to sell to a new market successfully without visiting it, think again. Much of the business world outside of the West tends to prefer dealing with people face-to-face; trust and personal relationships are very important. Accordingly, it’s worth investing time in travelling to the country to meet potential clients and the competition, and attend trade fairs, etc. The more time you spend in and with your market the more insight you will have; the more insight you have the greater your chance of success.


This is a guest blog by Neil Payne.  


Bio: Neil Payne spent 10+ years working in translation and localisation before setting up Commisceo Global, a training company specialising in cross-cultural training and consultancy which helps clients gain access to and work in the global marketplace.

Language variants – why your translation should be localised


When requesting a translation, knowing what languages you want to translate into is sometimes straightforward. For a marketing campaign in Italy, you’ll choose Italian and for a technical manual for use in Russia, you’ll choose Russian. However, what happens when the country of your target audience speak and write more than one language? Or a language is spoken and written in multiple countries and there are different variants of the language? This post will explain the importance of language localisation – adapting your content to a country or region where the vocabulary and grammar used can be considerably different. It should also help you to identify which language variant is right for your document.



A map of the world showing language localisation





At Surrey Translation Bureau, we get many requests for Chinese translations but what does it mean when you request a translation into Chinese?


There are two main variants of written Chinese, Simplified Chinese and Traditional ChineseSimplified Chinese is used by most individuals from mainland China and Singapore; its spoken form is Mandarin. According to a linguistic study, approximately 95% of the Chinese population use Simplified Chinese (Potowski, 2010).


The second major written variant is Traditional Chinese. This is used by people living in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The spoken version of Traditional Chinese is Cantonese.


Selecting which form of written Chinese is most appropriate for your translation, therefore, depends on which part of China you are aiming to connect with. We are always happy to advise you on issues of localisation if you are unsure.





A country’s history often means that a language is not confined to its physical boundaries. For example, French is the official language of France, which has a population of approximately 66 million. It is also an official language in 29 other countries, from Cameroon to Luxemburg.


In Belgium, French is one of the official languages alongside Dutch (whose Belgian variant is Flemish) and German.


We have translators who translate standard French and those specialised in Belgian French translation, which has some differences from standard French. French is predominantly spoken in the southern Walloon region of Belgium as well as in the capital, Brussels, whose two official languages are French and Flemish. Other varieties of French include Québécois (Canadian) French and Swiss French.



Flemish and Dutch


Flemish is spoken in Belgium, mainly in the Flanders region in the north of the country. Dutch on the other hand, is spoken in the Netherlands. Although there are similarities between Flemish and Dutch, there are many differences in the vocabulary. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you choose the correct language for translations reaching clients in Belgium or the Netherlands.





All Germans write using a standardised form of German, Hochdeutsch. Austrian German and particularly Swiss German deviate from Hochdeutsch both in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Whilst standard written German is comprehensible to Swiss and Austrian German speakers, it is often necessary to localise the linguistic content (choosing different words, spellings and grammar) to make sure it is appropriate for the target market.



Spanish and Portuguese


Spanish is spoken not only in Spain but across much of South America. There are various grammatical and terminological differences between Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish (spoken in mainland Spain). To effectively communicate with your target market, it’s essential to use the language form that is standard to them. If you use words or grammatical structures that are unfamiliar or unrecognisable to existing or potential clients, your translations are unlikely to generate effective business results.


Likewise, Portuguese is spoken in Portugal as well as Brazil among other countries. When ordering a translation, ensure your translation service provider knows where the target market is for your translation.



When we localise your translation, we take many other factors into account. These include cultural sensitivities, date and address forms and even country-specific statistics. This ensures that your translation makes the right impression and does not alienate your target market.



UK and US English


English might not immediately spring to mind when contemplating localisation, but English also varies from country to country. If you are targeting the US market, it is important to adapt your content using US spellings. This is a service Surrey Translation Bureau offers.



In order to conduct business effectively, it is important to address individuals appropriately. Doing business with people from different countries and cultures can hugely grow your business and profit. However, you should make an informed decision about the right language variant with the help of your translation service provider. Hopefully, this will be us! This will ensure your translation demonstrates to potential clients how important they are to you.



If you have any queries regarding language variants or would like advice on localisation, please email us at hello@surreytranslation.co.uk or call on 01252 730014 to discuss your translation project requirements.

Translating Europe Forum – journey from Language Enthusiasts to Young Professionals

The end of October marked the second annual Translating Europe forum at the European Commission in Brussels. The event was organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation, Rytis Martikonis. Their objective was to bring young people in translation together and empower them to discuss ideas, projects, experiences and new approaches to translation.


Resource Manager, Allison, outside the European Commission
Resource Manager, Allison, outside the European Commission

The Translating Europe conference began on Thursday morning when motivational speaker and coach, Joy Ogeh-Huttfield (Joy Transformation), woke everyone up with her dynamic and fun presentation about having a vision and accomplishing personal goals. She told us to think outside the box, to raise our standards and to have a purpose. What better way to inspire young translators than to help them visualise their success?


Other topics discussed at the various panel-style presentations ranged from the translation of video games and multilingual app development, to localisation at Google, but the topic that seemed to resonate most with those in attendance was the ‘translation skills gap’. Seminars such as ‘Training translators in a changing world’ and ‘A Translator’s Palette of skills for the 21st Century’ discussed this topic. The seminars considered reasons why new translators might feel undertrained after completing their Master’s degree and proposed solutions to the problem.


You might be asking yourself, ‘What is this gap, and where did it come from?’. This ‘translation skills gap’ that many new translators experience occurs when they make the transition from full-time student to starting their career as a linguist. Emerging translators often admit to feeling underprepared for life as a professional freelancer and are left to figure things out on their own after graduation, not knowing how to specialise or where to begin. Just a few years ago, the best way to gain experience in the translation industry was to seek a position at an in-house translation department. There, new translators would hone their linguistic skills and build up experience in a specialist area. However, these coveted in-house positions are now few and far between.


So how can new translators gain the necessary skills to be successful in this industry? A common theme in the discussions following the panel presentations centred on the fact that young professionals entering the market tend not to lack the skills, but instead proper guidance within the industry. That is why traineeships and internships are playing an ever-increasing role in the career development of new translators.


Here at STB, we could not agree more with this sentiment. That’s why we piloted our university programme last year. It consists of a series of presentations to MA Translation Studies students around the UK. We talk to the students about how to find work with agencies and build a mutually beneficial professional relationship. We also started a six-week internship programme, giving interns experience in resource management, project management and translation and editing. We believe that a hands-on training approach paired with receiving constructive feedback is the best way for emerging translators to take the next step in their career and gain confidence in their skills.


The language industry is evolving at a rapid pace due to technology, so we must react and draw on our resources to prepare the next generation of translators and bridge the so called ‘translation skills gap’. It’s time for the translation industry and academia to collaborate so that we can provide emerging translators with the necessary skills to be successful in this industry.

Panelist, Miguel Severner, put it best during his presentation. “Let’s train the future generation of translators for the industry we want, not the industry we have.”


The Translating Europe Forum was an inspiring event for young translators. It was not only for young people, but created by young people, allowing them to talk openly about the issues they face when starting out in the industry, and also focus on the areas that are important to them like the benefits of branding and using social media, to name a few. There was even time for attendees to reflect on why they had become translators in the first place during an ‘I’m a translator because…’ tweet session, something that everyone enjoyed and felt very positive about!

This two-day conference concluded with a speech from the Director-General himself. He inspired all translators and interpreters to go forward in their career with confidence. I, for one, returned to Farnham (after a quick tour of Brussels!) feeling motivated to make positive contributions to the translation industry and to help the future generation of translators succeed!


Allison exploring Grand-Place, Brussels
Allison exploring Grand-Place, Brussels

If you would like to read more about the event, take a look at the #TranslatingEurope hashtag.


Inspired by Allison’s experience at the #TranslatingEurope Forum? Why not see what translation could do for you by requesting a quote from hello@surreytranslation.co.uk?