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Style guide for International English?
Thread poster: Cathleen Poehler
Cathleen Poehler
Canada
Local time: 11:59
French to English
+ ...
Aug 1

Does anyone have a good "International English" style guide that they can recommend? It seems like there is no one single authority on that, yet I'm reluctant to randomly patch things together from style guides across the globe.

Any thoughts on this topic are welcome. Would it be legitimate to stick to US English and call it International English? Ideally I would like to stick to US English, since the Chicago Manual of Style so beautifully covers any imaginable point in question.


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Texte Style
Local time: 17:59
French to English
No Aug 1

For a start, there's no such thing as international English. Or rather, it's called Globish and is as ridiculous as that sounds. The chief indicator being an inability to pronounce th, so you're asked for tree hundred euros. Everyone else understands except the native English speaker who's wondering why talk about weird forests when he just wants to know the price.

Clients usually want either US or GB English depending on their target segment. If you like the Chicago, go for it!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Nice, Texte Style :) Aug 1

Texte Style wrote:
it's called Globish and is as ridiculous as that sounds. The chief indicator being an inability to pronounce th, so you're asked for tree hundred euros. Everyone else understands except the native English speaker who's wondering why talk about weird forests when he just wants to know the price.

Clients ask for this all the time, but they can't have it. American English is no more international than British English - both are what they say they are. The best you can hope for is to avoid idioms and colloquial expressions that even native speakers of other variants don't know, let alone ESL speakers. It's unlikely that this particular client will care too much about the finer points, so I'd feel free to use whatever style guide you see fit. But there are words where you're just going to have to plump for one or the other variant if you're going to avoid some truly weird English, so your client needs to know that.


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Joshua Parker
Mexico
Local time: 08:59
Member (2016)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Doesn't exist Aug 1

Whenever clients asks me for work in "International English" - which doesn't happen very often, in my case - I kindly inform them that they have to choose AmE, BrE or whatever... or I will for them.

For example, do I write color or colour? I'll have to opt for one or the other. There's no middle ground.

In brief, it's best to ascertain what your client is going to use the translation for (or rather, who is going to read the translation) and help the client to make that choice.

As Sheila has rightly pointed out, your best bet is probably to avoid variant-specific colloquial expressions readers from elsewhere won't understand. This will depend on the type of text though. At the end of the day, somewhere down the line you'll have to plump for one particular variant.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It means British without being British Aug 1

Cathleen Poehler wrote:
Would it be legitimate to stick to US English and call it International English?


"International English" in the sense that most of my clients mean it is simply British English with all Britishisms removed from it. In other words, it's a variant of English that doesn't look too American and which does't contain any words or phrases that are understood in one region of the world only.

Some translators would say that "color" is US English and "colour" is UK English, but in reality "color" is US English and "colour" is just English. That said, spelling is but a small part of whether something is US English or UK English. You can take a UK English text and change all the spelling oddities (e.g. colour to color) and you won't end up with a US English text unless you're lucky.

When a client asks for International English, they don't mean the type of English that non-native speakers speak. They mean the type of English that native speakers from outside the two main native English regions will understand.


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Cathleen Poehler
Canada
Local time: 11:59
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone! Aug 2

Thanks everyone for their input. It seems to me that a lot of the push for an International English comes from international organizations - who don't want to step on any country's toes...so it's politically and culturally sensitive.

I can understand where it's coming from. I'm also curious to see how this will evolve, with the British and American empires respectively losing ground on the world stage - yet presumably remaining the "provider" of the lingua franca.

In any event, realizing how inconsistent a lot of the international organizations are when implementing their own hodge-podge style guides I feel a bit more emboldened now to simply impose my own preference, which happens to be US English. If I was a Brit it might make things easier, but for someone from the outside looking in, British English is confusing. Major institutions (BBC) and newspapers differ as regards some pretty basic stuff. So I'd rather stay away.


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CARL HARRIS
United States
Local time: 10:59
Member (2013)
English to French
+ ...
there's no such thing as International English Aug 2

International English style: I take it that by “style” you are referring to a special way of writing! I’ve never heard the term International English! You have Standard English, which is basically British English. Style is defined as the manner of linguistic expression in prose or verse; it is how speakers or writers say whatever it is that they say. The inner-circle where English is the only or dominating mother tongue, c'est-à-dire l'anglais comme langue maternelle comprises the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

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Cathleen Poehler
Canada
Local time: 11:59
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
FYI, from Wikipedia Aug 2

"International English is the concept of the English language as a global means of communication in numerous dialects, and also the movement towards an international standard for the language."

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:59
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Attempts generally fail Aug 2

It is actually a fascinating topic, and material for many studies and theses if anyone has the time or inclination...

I have just downloaded what my mother would call an Awful Warning, English misused in the EU. You can find it here:
http://www.eca.europa.eu/Other%20publications/EN_TERMINOLOGY_PUBLICATION/EN_TERMINOLOGY_PUBLICATION.pdf

On your side of the globe, go for the Chicago Manual of Style. It is as logical as anything in the English language, and once your readers have accepted that you are writing US English, they will probably be happy with it.

I try very hard to keep to British English, because that is what I grew up with, in an extremely language-conscious family, and that is what my clients ask for, as it is usually expected in Europe.
Even then there are variants.
The Oxford dictionaries prefer -ize endings in verbs like specialize, organize and all those.
I decided many years ago to use -ise as my default, and that is recommended by one of my favourite authors on British English, Sir Ernest Gowers, (Plain Words, updated several times, most recently by his granddaughter Rebecca Gowers...). He was aided and abetted for a time by the Microsoft spell checkers and my employer when I started translating. Michael Swan observes that in British English -ise is almost always acceptable, but for US English he recommends consulting an American dictionary...

Then there are all the other little quirks... as others have mentioned, in Indian, Australian and New Zealand English, just for starters. David Crystal has written a very interesting book on 'English as a Global Language', and Tom McArthur looks at the idea, in 'The English Languages', that English is more a family of languages than a single language.

You can't please all the people all the time, but if you go for the Chicago manual as a default, then most of the time you will not annoy too many!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thanks for posting Aug 2

Christine Andersen wrote:

It is actually a fascinating topic, and material for many studies and theses if anyone has the time or inclination...

I have just downloaded what my mother would call an Awful Warning, English misused in the EU. You can find it here:
http://www.eca.europa.eu/Other%20publications/EN_TERMINOLOGY_PUBLICATION/EN_TERMINOLOGY_PUBLICATION.pdf



Thanks for sharing that link - it looks likely to be an interesting and useful read (when I have time)...

PS: I also agree with the previous comments.

[Edited at 2017-08-02 15:50 GMT]


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Cathleen Poehler
Canada
Local time: 11:59
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
...awful warning Aug 2

Thanks for the link and your thoughts. Indeed, I knew the EU was no authority to look up to when it comes to its use of English. But I was surprised to find that the UN isn't much better. I guess the international community just isn't there yet. And somehow - sadly - it reflects the reality that the world just isn't as united as we'd like it to be.

And yes - overall this topic is interesting and is attracting increasing research attention. There have been conferences about this too.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I agree with Texte Style Aug 2

Texte Style wrote:

For a start, there's no such thing as international English. Or rather, it's called Globish and is as ridiculous as that sounds. The chief indicator being an inability to pronounce th, so you're asked for tree hundred euros. Everyone else understands except the native English speaker who's wondering why talk about weird forests when he just wants to know the price.

Clients usually want either US or GB English depending on their target segment. If you like the Chicago, go for it!


I agree with Texte Style - there's no such thing as "international English", although I often come across non-native speakers who kid themselves that there is.

You might as well ask for "international Portuguese" or "international French".


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CafeTran Training
Netherlands
Local time: 17:59
Two sides Aug 2

Cathleen Poehler wrote:

Would it be legitimate to stick to US English and call it International English?


I don't think so. I think you're missing the point by doing so.

English people have the advantage that everyone understands (a little) English. But this comes with a price tag: English is no longer the language of native speakers of English exclusively.

In my understanding, "international English" is a kind of simplified English that has been cleaned from country-specific aspects and that's understandable in India, Tenerife, France, Germany and ... Holland.

See also: https://onzetaal.nl/uploads/editor/1278_dorren_-_engels_van_nederlanders.pdf (Dutch only)

[Edited at 2017-08-02 17:14 GMT]


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Cathleen Poehler
Canada
Local time: 11:59
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
International English Aug 2

To state your opinion that there either is or isn't an International English is somehow missing the point of the discussion.

Essentially you are saying that you don't think there ought to be - fine, point understood.

However, as translators and editors we have to deal with clients who seek to align themselves with an "International English" that is in fact out there, however disparate it is. There is such a movement, and you can't just say it doesn't exist. As mentioned, major international institutions subscribe to it. So, when dealing with such clients one has to, ideally, find some sort of justification for saying you'd opt for either British or US (at least that's what I would expect from a translator).


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No such thing? Aug 3

In my experience there are two types of international English: neutral English and simplified English.

Neither should pose any problems for anyone who calls themselves a linguist. It's just a matter of common sense.

It doesn't matter whether you start from US or UK English. There really isn't that much difference between them anyway. Which one you use will depend on where you come from.

I know of no style guides for international English and I just can't see the need. That said, I can't see a need for style guides for UK or US English either. I just write.


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