Translation: It’s More Than Just Language

For translators, it is very important to know your audience. If you are translating into English, you must consider who your reader is. If your reader speaks UK English, pay attention to specific spelling that differs between UK English and US English. A slight difference in spelling can leave a reader feeling disconnected from the text.


In regards to UK English and US English, there are a few small differences in spelling. In the UK they often use the letter “s” where in the US they would use the letter “z”. This can be seen in the words specialization/specialization and organisation/organization. The two languages also differ in the endings of certain words. The UK tends to use a “–re” ending where the US will use an “–er.” This is illustrated in words such as centre and center. Also the endings “–our” (UK) and “–or” (US) as in colour and color. A professional translator recognizes the reader and creates a translated document that maintains the original meaning, while taking the target audience into account and making the proper changes accordingly.

A professional translator knows the differences in vocabulary that varies between regions. For instance, in the UK they eat ‘sweets,’ but the people in US would refer to it as ‘candy.’ It is important to identify these subtle differences. Most likely, your reader will understand the message that you are sending to them, but it is important to allow them to feel more connected by using the spelling specific to their region and by using the words or phrases that they are accustomed to.

When Americans are traveling they say they are taking a vacation as opposed to the UK where they go on holiday. In America when you need gas, you go to the gas station; in the UK they go to the petrol station for fuel. Americans throw their garbage in the trash can, whereas in the UK, they will throw their rubbish in the dustbin. Americans often get hungry, but in the UK they get peckish. Also, in the US, the word ‘cheers’ is used solely for drinking, but in the UK ‘cheers’ can mean anything from thank you to goodbye.


With this said, not only can a language vary between countries, but they can also vary within them. Dialects are important to consider when creating translations. It is important that your end product is localized. Localized translations take into consideration cultural, as well as, language differences. For example, if you were translating something into English, you must consider the differences between the south and the north. In the south they might say “y’all,” while in the north they would say “you guys.” A localized translation optimizes the end result, creating a seamless translation that considers all necessary cultural and language issues in regards to whichever region/language is being targeted.


2 thoughts on “Translation: It’s More Than Just Language

  1. Pingback: Translation: It’s More Than Just Language | Metaglossia: The Translation World |

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