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British English versus American English
Thread poster: liz askew
liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:02
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Mar 11, 2009

Hello everybody

An interesting dilemma here..

I completed a 4000 word translation from Spanish into English and have had my work corrected by an American (I am British), so when I look at the corrections a lot of them are differences in spelling and even grammar! I recognise I made some mistakes in terminology.....but, hey, often my British English was correct?

So, what do I do?.....in this instance I have suggested to my client that if they want American English they should ask a non-Brit to do the translation.

I just don't do American English folks:-)

Liz Askew

[Edited at 2009-03-11 18:11 GMT]


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:02
English to Czech
Sorry, it is your fault... Mar 11, 2009

you should know whether you are translating for British or US customer. American English is different - but it is not much problem to learn the differences (also there are spell checkers which alow to specify American or UK English). I understand that you regard American English as inferior, but - that is life. And it is your problem. Sorry.

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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:02
French to English
+ ...
communication Mar 11, 2009

Liz,

This is a classic example illustrating why detailed project specifications are critical.

The client did not tell you, and you did not ask, which variant of English (US, UK, Australian, etc.) was desired and why. Your client may not even know this is important - hiring an English translator and then an American proofreader is telling!

Sometimes, though, asking "which English?" is not enough. One has to question the client further to ensure he/she knows what the differences are and is making the proper choice in light of the translation's target audience.

The good thing is that both you and your client will have learned something probably from this experience.

Igor, the differences are more significant than simple spelling issues and using the appropriate spell checker! Tone, style, sentence structure, terminology, and so on can vary widely. Just as an example, read Business Week and the Economist! I subscribe to the latter and cannot help but smile each time I read the verb "to reckon" which, in US English, is not considered high brow

Have a good evening,

Patricia


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:02
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
When in doubt... Mar 11, 2009

always ask. I just don't do British English and when approached, I usually suggest they contact one of my colleagues.

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Nils Andersson  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2009)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Yes, ask for specification Mar 11, 2009

At times, I am asked to translate or proofread Swedish->English.

When proofreading stuff written by Swedes, my first complaint is
always the same: Make up your mind. Write US English or UK English,
do NOT mix and match. (Yes, I know there are other forms, such
as Canadian, but this rarely applies in my experience.) Then I ask
them if they want me to convert the text to pure US or pure UK,
I can do either.

Nils


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:02
English to Czech
differences Mar 11, 2009

Patricia Lane wrote:

Igor, the differences are more significant than simple spelling issues and using the appropriate spell checker! Tone, style, sentence structure, terminology, and so on can vary widely. J


Yes, but Liz wrote specifically about spelling and grammar issues... tone, style etc. are more subtle thing and are not connected only to language but also to specific environment (business etc.), so this is another question...


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:02
German to English
More differences than you might think Mar 11, 2009

Writing in another form of English spoken in a totally different part of the world isn't just a matter of changing the spell checker settings; many words have entirely different meanings, you need to know all the punctuation differences, the grammar is different in many ways. There are whole books on the subject. I didn't realise myself how many differences there are between AE and BE until I got into translation; I would also not translate into AE. Not, of course, because I think AE is inferior (come now, which linguist would suggest that on this forum? ), but because I want my work to be truly native.

Maybe the client just didn't realise an AE proofreader would not be able to check a BE translation well? I recently had some problems with this: an agency asked me to translate specifically into BE then accidentally got an American to proofread it and didn't show me the result. The client, who knew the difference, was not happy at all.


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:02
English to Czech
Differences and differences... Mar 11, 2009

Anne Koth wrote:

Writing in another form of English spoken in a totally different part of the world isn't just a matter of changing the spell checker settings; many words have entirely different meanings, you need to know all the punctuation differences, the grammar is different in many ways. There are whole books on the subject.


As I wrote above - this not only issue of British/US/Canadien/African etc. English - this is the "art" of translation and something client too often do not understand... it is also the reason why translator should always clearly state his/her specialization and take only the jobs which are compliant with that...

[Edited at 2009-03-11 20:18 GMT]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:02
German to English
didn't refresh before posting Mar 11, 2009

Sorry Igor, I didn't want to sound as if I was disagreeing with what you posted before me; I am always too afraid to refresh the page on ProZ in case I lose what I've written, so didn't see that comment.

I'm not sure I understood your last point, though: from what Liz said it sounded as though the BE/AE difference was precisely the issue, not her specialisation.

(crosses fingers against cross-posting)


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Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:02
English to Czech
Specialization Mar 11, 2009

Anne Koth wrote: Liz said it sounded as though the BE/AE difference was precisely the issue, not her specialisation.



In my opinion, BE/AE is also kind of "specialization". - for instance Nils wrote he can do both. On the other hand, Liz wrote "I just don't do American English folks" - well, this is something she should tell to the client before accepting the job.


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Paula James  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:02
French to English
+ ...
clients don't seem to understand the difference Mar 11, 2009

When new clients approach me I always check which variant they want, and say no to US English, but I usually assume that my regular clients know I only use UK English, which does not always seem to be the case. If I realise before I start, I say no, if I'm told part of the way through (happened more than once!), I offer to use the US spellcheck and change obvious words, but say I can't guarantee it and they should get a US proofreader. I have occasionally been sent translations to proofread which are clearly written in US English too, and had a complaint once from an end client about my "mistakes" as no variant had been stated.
I realise I should check first, but when it's clients I work with several times a week, I assume they know. I don't really understand how a translation agency doesn't know the difference and that most people can't be "native" in both variants.


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:02
French to English
+ ...
pros do Mar 11, 2009

Paula James wrote:

I don't really understand how a translation agency doesn't know the difference and that most people can't be "native" in both variants.


Professional agencies know the difference and source accordingly....


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:02
German to English
people who can do both "natively" are probably very rare Mar 11, 2009

Igor Indruch wrote:
BE/AE is also kind of "specialization". - for instance Nils wrote he can do both.


That's true. I also mention that I write in BE to my clients, but, like Paula, would expect an agency to be more aware of the difference than a direct client. In fact, I think all the agencies I work for asked what version of English I use. Even then, as I described above, there is still the odd problem.

I'd guess that people who can do both "natively" are probably very rare: most likely Nils has studied both BE and AE, lived in both countries, done a course on the differences, or even written the above book? In my case, the more I learn about AE the more I realise I used to underestimate the differences. Just last week I discovered, for example, that "deadbeat" has another completely unexpected meaning in AE. Until last week, if asked to write something in AE I would happily have used "deadbeat" in its BE meaning without even guessing it had another use in the USA. If you know a word, why would you check it? That's the danger I see.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:02
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Even the filename can be misleading Mar 12, 2009

Earlier this week, I translated a file with filename "Set of licenses.pdf", which you might think would indicate that US spelling would be required. But fortunately it occurred to me to check with the agency, which then told me that the client had specifically requested British English. So all my licenses became licences.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
Defense Mar 12, 2009

I would come to your defense, Liz, and not judge you harshly as Igor has done. You do not say specifically whether your client was an agency or a direct client, but it would seem likely to be an agency because agencies often have work reviewed or proofed, whereas direct clients tend not to do so.

If it is an agency, then the agency should be well aware of what brand of English is required and what your brand is, and that the reviewer should be of the same persuasion. Even if it involved a direct client, surely they would be aware of your origin and know what to expect. Thus, nothing is your fault. It is the CLIENT'S fault. How to deal with that is another matter, but it would not be amiss to emphasize that your English is British, and that's that.

I do not often come up against that situation, but it did happen recently, and I emphasized that my English is 100% USA and my Spanish is 100% Mexican... and that's that. It turned out to be acceptable, so everything was fine.

I, like you, only use my own brand of language that is authentic for its target audience. Those who claim "multi-brands" to me are quite suspect, because there are so many subtlties that cannot be accounted for. As others say, it's not quite as simple as choosing another spell checker.

I think we have seen enough of one another here for you to be aware of that, and despite differences we are much more often in agreement. I just thought I should come to your defense (or defence).


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