What do Singaporeans like least about Americans?
The different versions of English: British, American or International English?
There was once a picture in a Scottish pub that said "English spoken, American understood ". A good summary for our blog post on what English to use.
How many people speak english
With 375 million native speakers and a total of 1.5 billion English speakers, English is English the most widely spoken language in the world and therefore became a "lingua franca" for the international economy.
As it is spoken in different parts of the world, it is influenced by several social, political and cultural aspects, with the result that there are many local variants.
Besides the fact that English is the official language in more than 60 countries in the world there are only 6 countries where it is spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the population.
It happens, it is also summarized under the term "Anglosphere", that these countries are also home to the most widely accepted variants of the English language. There are also significant numbers of native speakers in several other countries such as South Africa, Singapore and Nigeria, as well as many Caribbean countries where a Creole English is spoken.
English variants: which one should you choose?
This is a strategic decision that should be carefully considered. Above all, it is important that everyone in your company is informed about which approach you have chosen, because written English in the different variants differs in terms of spelling, grammar and vocabulary. When you translate your content into English, it also influences the right choice of translator and interpreter.
Even if the Standard written form understood by all English speakers a US English speaking citizen will not identify with a text written in British English and vice versa.
So your decision depends on what type of relationship you want to have with the reader. You should advance ask the following questions:
- Which countries do you focus on?
- What is the goal of my content? Is it about passing on information (as with technical documents) or do I want to sound like my target group (in the case of marketing materials, social media, etc.)?
- Where are the main competitors and what form of English do they use?
Once you have an idea of this, you can choose between the following four variants:
British or American English?
British English (UK-English)
British English refers to the Dialect of English spoken and written in the United Kingdom. British English is the preferred variant in most European countries as well as in English-speaking countries in Africa and South Asia (i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh). However, even within the UK, regional accents and dialects are very different - an Irish person, for example, sounds very different from someone from northern England. When we think of British English, many of us think of it "Queen's English". The Queen's accent is known as "Received Pronunciation" and is actually only used by 2% of the population! You can learn more about some of the different accents and dialects in the UKhere read.
American English (US English)
As the name suggests, US English is the one variant of English spoken in the United States. US English is the preferred variant in Latin America and East Asia (i.e. China, Japan, and the Philippines). Just like British English, American English varies greatly from state to state, and there are many regional differences in vocabulary and accents. This map shows some of the interesting regional differences in US English!
What are the differences between British and American English?
US English differs from UK English in terms of spelling, word meaning, and grammar rules. If you'd like to test your own knowledge of the differences between US and UK English, why not watch the short video clip with Ellen Degeneres and Hugh Laurie.
The Oxford Dictionary website has made a list of British and American terms that may be helpful, especially when doing SEO.
There are also:
Canadian English sounds like US English, but when written it combines elements of US English (due to its proximity) and UK English (due to its history) and has many Canadianisms.
Australian and New Zealand English
Australian English and New Zealand English are based on UK English in terms of standard spelling, while the English spoken in Australia and New Zealand is very different from other versions of English.
What is international English?
Can't commit to one of the options? Then you could opt for International English. There is no uniform definition for this version, but the idea behind it is to develop a neutral language whose spelling is free of cultural references and mixes American and British so that everyone feels addressed.
Whichever English you choose, keep in mind that different markets use different systems of measurement. In particular, the US still uses the imperial system while UK English uses both systems, imperial and metric. You should do this with the Localization of your content for a given market. At Acolad, we work with a team of experts who can localize your content for almost any market. Our translators have all been fully trained and only translate into their native language, so they are ready to handle your American or British English requests!
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