British English

How To Say What You Mean When Switching Between US & UK English

Posted on September 12, 2014 · Posted in Linguistics

You want to reach out to some potential new clients across the pond. Your current brochure is already a winner. The images are vibrant, the copy is punchy. All you need to do is switch spell checker from US to British English and get it reprinted, right? Wrong.

There’s a lot more to separate US English from British English than a few missing ‘u’s. Here we take a look at the potential pitfalls on the English language and how a professional translation service can help with a cultural localization service.

Calling The AA: Battling addiction or in need of a new tire?

In the UK, if you need urgent medical attention you don’t go to the ER, you visit A&E (Accident and Emergency). Most Brits would understand what ER means, and you’re unlikely to cause any offense by dropping the term into an email or conversation.

Unfortunately not all the differences between English and American terms are as easily negotiated.

Take the AA for example. If your British contact is late for a meeting because he needed to call the AA on his way to work, you may be concerned he is battling alcohol addiction. Fret not. In the UK the AA stands for the Automobile Association, a service that comes out help drivers when their vehicle breaks down.

Trying to get to a meeting on the first floor in the UK? You’ll need to take the stairs, or maybe the lift (elevator). In the UK the ‘first floor’ is the first floor above ground level, not the floor at ground level.

A common phrase in British workplaces is ‘have a bash’. It sounds violent and painful, but it means to valiantly attempt a potentially troublesome task and is used when attempting to undertake something difficult, also ‘have a crack’.

Business-Speak Bewilderment

There are plenty of opportunities for your British partners to baffle you in everyday conversation, but when it comes to business-speak, it’s a whole different ball game.

Ever heard of an AGM? It stands for Annual General Meeting which is the equivalent of an Annual Stockholders Meeting.

Businesses don’t invest in real estate, they buy property. Or they make their money work for them at a merchant bank (investment bank). Accountants report on the profit and loss account (income statement). Dividends are paid out to shareholders (stockholders).

Spell-check can’t help you here.

You need a language expert.

Communicate With Clarity

To deliver a clear message to your target audience, you must be speaking the same language.

We take the time to understand the essence of the message you wish to communicate, and who you are communicating with, then apply our knowledge of local spellings, grammatical rules and cultural norms to ensure you say what you mean and mean what you say.

For more information about our localization service and how we could help you do business with trans-Atlantic partners, get in touch.