Translating into English for an international audience

How to make your translation the best it can be

Madeleine White
Feb 26, 2019 · 3 min read
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Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

Find the original publication of this article on our blog

Translation can often be mistakenly considered as ‘easy’. Translate each word, put them together and hey presto. However, it’s not that simple. Many factors come into play and need to be thought about when translating. This article takes the example of translating into English, due to this being Poools latest challenge.

It goes without saying that having a website and publications in English has significant advantages. There are at least 330 million English speakers in the world, the third most popular language. However, if you count second language English speakers too, it’s by far the most popular language in the world.

To add to this, 55.5% of online content is in English. That’s a huge audience who could be missing out on reading and interacting with your content simply due to the language.

What with the products that Poool offers being so easy to integrate into websites around the world, in any language, it seemed yet more important to have English versions of our publications, advertising documents and website. It would be silly to miss out on that large percentage of possible clients who speak English.

So, now that we’ve agreed that translating into English is important, what is the best way to go about this?

Translating isn’t as simple as it seems. Word-for-word translation doesn’t work for the majority of texts what with cultural specific language, idioms, word order differences…

Choose an audience and style

English is like any language, there are many varieties. And with these varieties comes differences of spelling, levels of formality, cultural references and more.

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Adapting to a specific audience can be very beneficial. If, for example, you want to use informal language, then using abbreviations and slang that appeal to a cultural group can make your content more attractive to them.

However, if you’re wanting to write English for an international audience, like we’ve done at Poool, you want to avoid using a cultural-specific language. Words such as ‘mozzie’ (mosquito) and ‘servo’ (gas station) are examples from Australian abbreviations that are very commonly used among speakers in Australia. These words though may not be understood in other English-speaking countries and perhaps less so among second language speakers.

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Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Upsplash

If you’re aiming for an international audience, including second language speakers, American English is the best route. This is due to this variety of English being taught to foreign language learners, the fact that there’s a wider audience of American English speakers and that British people read more American content than vice versa.

But, most importantly of all, be consistent. Pick a variety and stick to it.

Word order: preference for active sentences

It’s easy to translate one word to another language. One of the difficulties comes with putting words together.

To add to this, you have to think about the word order that’s easiest to understand for non-native speakers. An English sentence will be easier to understand for international readers if they’re active rather than passive.

For example: ‘The reader activates the dynamic paywall’ is clear and simple to understand. However, the passive version is less easy and might take more time to understand — ‘The dynamic paywall is activated by the reader’.

Avoid cultural specific expressions (or work out how you can translate them)

Find the full publication of this article on our blog

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