Jublo is a certified UK translation and digital agency based in Leeds.

English to English Localisation: What is it and how could your business benefit?

5mins read

There are around 375 million native English speakers in the world, and when you factor in all of the non-native speakers the total is over 1.2 billion. That’s a huge proportion of the global population, and has significant implications when it comes to communication for businesses. From spelling, grammar to colloquialisms, there are significant differences to be found even between English languages. 

It’s often easy to overlook the importance of localisation between English speaking markets - with many businesses assuming that a one-size-fits-all approach will work. 

There are six countries where English is spoken by the majority of the population. In order of population, they are:

  1.  The United States

  2.  The United Kingdom

  3. Canada

  4.  Australia

  5.  New Zealand

  6. Ireland

These variants of the English language mean that while there is a common base that allows all native English speakers around the world to communicate with each other, there are significant differences that make more detailed and precise conversation confusing at times. English to English translation can ensure you minimise any potential confusion from your global customer base.

Localising for Different Types of English

British English

Also known as UK English, this is the oldest version of English spoken in the world today. 

British English is the preferred variant in most countries that were once part of the British Empire. The language is spoken with many regional accents and dialects, even within UK itself. The written form of business-related content, however, remains the same throughout the country. 

The UK is the country where the imperial system of measurement originated. However, after almost half a century as part of the European Union, the process of decimalization has made the metric system the norm for most measurements, with imperial resurfacing mostly only in spoken English.

American English

The United States has the largest number of native English speakers in the world—over 225 million. There are many differences in spelling between UK and US English, one prominent example is words ending ‘ise’ become ‘ize’ in American English. The ‘u’ is also dropped from many US English words, for example ‘favorite’, ‘honor’, and ‘color’. Although they’re minor changes, and don’t prevent understanding, businesses that tailor their content for each market will build a stronger connection with their consumers. 

Many US words have different meanings from their UK counterparts:

  • ‘Pants’ in America is ‘trousers’ in the UK (pants means underwear)

  • ‘Bill’ in America is ‘a note’ in the UK (bill is an invoice)

  • The ‘first floor’ of an American building is the ‘ground floor’ of a British building

  • Americans write dates as ‘month-day-year’ (compared to ‘day-month-year’ in the UK) and describe the time as ‘three-ten’ (compared to ‘ten past three’ in the UK).

  • One thing the Americans have kept from their English heritage is the Imperial system of measurement (along with only Liberia and Myanmar)—despite inches, feet, yards and pounds being largely replaced by the metric system in the UK.

Canadian English

A common misconception is that Canadian English is the same as American English. While Canadian English does closely replicate its neighbor’s language, it has retained some of its British English roots and also evolved to include some uniquely Canadian touches.

For example, ‘colour’ and ‘centre’ retain British spellings, whereas ‘customize’ and ‘criticize’ retain the American –ize ending. Canadians wear ‘runners’ or ‘running shoes’ on their feet (not sneakers or trainers) and a toque to keep their head warm in winter (not a beanie or woolly hat).

Dates and measurements are a bit of a mishmash too, with both American and British styles being used depending on the circumstances. For example, a person’s height and weight tend to be measured in pounds and feet, but distance is measured in kilometers and the weight of food is measured in kilograms. So it’s important that businesses distinguish between their American and Canadian audiences. 

Australian and New Zealand English

While the written form of English used in Australia and New Zealand mostly follows the rules of British English, in this part of the English-speaking world, the line between formal and informal language is often blurred, with vocabulary that includes a dazzling array of colloquialisms and contractions.

For example, an Australian may stop off at the bottle-o (bottle shop: the off-licence or liquor store) to buy some tinnies (cans of beer) to enjoy with snags (sausages) cooked on the barbie (barbecue). Oh, and thongs are entirely different things over there.. 

To communicate like a native, each version must be treated almost like a completely different language. Once you have considered both the cultural and legal differences, localisation should be considered a strategic necessity for any business seeking to successfully grow their reach globally. 

Here at Jublo we work closely with our clients who operate across multiple English speaking countries, to make sure that their marketing communications and all written resources are truly reflective of each individual market. To find out more about how we could help you with English to English translation get in touch with a member of our team today.

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