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British vs US English: The Importance of Localization

By Autumn at Accredited Language
Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Category: Languages, Languages, Localization, Localization, Marketing

london british localization

Image by Joseph Plotz

If you think the English language is the same in the UK and the US, you might want to think again!

Though both countries technically speak English, there are quite a few differences in the lingo that might make some language translation assistance — and even British or American localization services — essential.

Take a look at some of the differences in the words used by the British that many Americans are not aware of.

Food-Based Words

In British English, chips are what Americans refer to as French fries, and biscuits are what we would call cookies. Similarly, if you asked a Brit to bring you a hamper, he or she would show up with a picnic basket. If you plan on advertising globally in the food industry, you need to know these differences between the languages.

Clothing Terms

US businesses in the clothing industry also have a tough time with certain words and phrases when marketing in England. After all, a sweater in the US would be called a jumper in the UK. To really boggle your mind, a US jumper is what Brits would call a pinafore dress. And don’t confuse a pinafore “dress” with just a pinafore — in the US, we think of the British pinafore as an apron.

To top it all off, if you were to mention pants in England, your audience would think of underwear. If you don’t mean undergarments, you would need to say trousers instead.

Differences in Transportation Terms

In the US, a trolley is a form of transportation for people, but in the UK, it merely transports food. What does transport people up and down in the UK is a lift, which is what Americans refer to as an elevator.

Even automobiles and their parts do not have the same names in England as they do in the US. What Americans call a truck is a lorry in the UK, and a sedan is called a saloon. (People may think you’re living in the Old West if you say “Get in the saloon” in the US.)

The hood of a car is a bonnet in the UK, and the trunk is the boot. Even gasoline has a different name in the UK: Petrol. Clearly, British or American localization would be a good idea if you are getting an automotive translation!

The Need for British or American Localization

Of course, these are just a few examples of the many differences in the English spoken in the UK and the US. There are countless differences that might be more embarrassing or even offensive if you were to mix up the words.

In fact, you have probably heard of businesses that have incorrectly translated words and phrases from English to another language in their marketing efforts. The results were not only confusing for their audience, but sometimes downright inappropriate.

Now that you have some basic examples of what some American English words translate to in British English, you can see how high the chances are of making a serious faux pas, even when the languages seem similar! This is why British localization is recommended if you plan to market across the pond.

When you hire a professional localization company, you do not have to worry about embarrassing your business with a bad translation.

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