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Americanisation: A Challenge for Translators?

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With all eyes on the US as the Presidential Election approaches, we got to thinking about the impact of the United States of America on our news, our culture and our language.

The Americanisation of British-English is an annoyance to some, yet the norm for many; but does the widespread adoption of Americanisms throughout the English language pose an issue for translators? Let’s take a look.

The Americanisation of the English Language

Americanisms have been creeping into British-English for centuries, but particularly since the advent of Hollywood, and even more so as we consume more and more of our media from the US. From ‘movies’ to ‘cookies’, ‘takeout’, ‘season’ (instead of ‘series’), ‘ATM’ and ‘can I get…?’ rather than ‘can I have…?’, Americanisms are everywhere in our language.

British-English and American-English have language and syntax differences, some words that are spelt differently and even different punctuation preferences; for example, the oxford comma tends to be used before the last or third item in all lists, whereas lists written in British-English tend to simply introduce the final item with ‘and’.

Standardisation and Evolution

US lexicographer Noah Webster is behind much of the standardisation of American-English; in the late 18th century, he worked to standardise the language’s spelling, grammar and pronunciation. This led to the adoption of the ‘ize’ word endings that characterise (or should that be characterize?) American-English.

Some in the lexicography world believe that the UK insisted on continuing to use ‘ise’ word endings in a bid to differentiate itself from the US.

But of course, all languages evolve over time – every language is an amalgamation of historical and cultural influences. This is only likely to continue further as more technology-related words enter the lexicon, and as global influences continue to mix.

A Challenge for Translators?

The use of Americanisms can present an issue when a text is being translated into another language, but this many depend on whether the translator themselves is most familiar with British or American-English.

Localising a text, such as by changing UK spellings to US or vice versa, can be relatively straightforward as there is a standard spelling for each country. However, it’s where Americanisms are concerned that understanding can be hampered, particularly in the case of direct translations.

This therefore emphasises the importance of developing a style guide and providing briefs to translators. Language Connect can work with your organisation to develop these, as well as connecting you with the right translator for your business needs.

Contact us today to find out more.



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