Re: Converting American English to British English

Subject: Re: Converting American English to British English
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2004 07:53:55 -0800 (PST)

David Neeley wrote:
Best practices for localization or translation should always include a person whose primary language and cultural experience is of native familiarity. No list of differences can be exhaustive, and as you know technical docs are often very specialized and beyond the ken of the lists such as you have alluded to.
Generally, I would agree. I hold the same belief of second/foreign language teaching as well. But I think in the case of a technical manual that is being translated from one dialect to another, the linguistic differences would be marginal, and as other people have pointed out, can be handled by a list.

Cultural issues pose a different problem than linguistic issues, but I think anyone who is steeped in the target culture would do fine. In fact, it's been my experience that the ~philes out there usually know more about the culture for which they....~phile, than those who participate in it, so perhaps a foreigner would be the way to go after all. Also, with a native, you _might_ get a host of prejudices and preconceptions that are held by natives of the culture (and for which you might not be aware), and that in turn can affect your documentation in a negative way. I'm not saying that a ~phile would never have the same problem, but I am suggesting that a non-native may have a perspective that a native lacks.

Just throwing something out there, but what about subcultures? This thread has discussed British culture as though it is a monolithic thing, but it does, in fact, have subcultures. So, wouldn't the issue really be one of finding someone who knows the subculture of your _target audience_, and not just finding someone who knows a thing or two about Britain in general? :-) This little wrinkle could lead to that Bristish editor you've just hired to localize your docs causing more problems (in much the same way an American editor who doesn't understand the target audience can mangle a manual) than a non-native who knows your target audience.

Sean Hower - tech writer

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