Our guide for translating English

Approximately 400 million people are English native speakers. Other than that it is spoken by more 1-1.6 billion people  across the continents. 

With global businesses, English has long been the default language of trading and operating. Its major role in the global marketplace requires all international companies to invest very well in English translation.

I. The importance of English translation

English is the third most widely-spoken language in terms of native speakers and the most popular language for almost all international activities whether it’s trading or marketing or NGO or even in art forms. 

If you ask about people who speak it as a second language, it’s the most popular worldwide. 

In the developing nations all over the world, English is the preferred language in the business community or even their second official language such as Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines, etc.

II. 4 problems when translating English

1. You can’t rely on phonetics

English has multiple influences from Latin, German, French to even Celtic. The result is that its pronunciation follows many rules. For example, “ough” can sound in 4 different ways in “thought”, “cough”, “although” and “through”.

But before you get too down on the language, it’s important to remember that flexibility is also its strength. It is precisely this flexibility that has allowed English to function among so many dialects and in different countries across the globe.

2. Homonyms, homophones & homographs

  • Homonym is a word that is spelled and pronounced like another word but is different in meaning.
  • Homophone is a word that is pronounced like another word but is different in meaning, origin, or spelling
  • Homograph is a word that is spelled like another word but is different in origin, meaning, or pronunciation.

For example:

“The man decided to desert his dessert in the desert.”

“We must polish the Polish furniture.”

These tricksters may have the most diligent translator confused. Those complicated homonyms, homophones & homographs require that readers to have a good grasp of the context before correct meaning can be deduced.

3. Who and whom

The who vs. whom debate catches out both native English and non-English speakers. The rule is that if the answer uses the subject (I/he/she/they), then who must be used in the question. If the answer involves the object (me/him/her/them), whom must be the right choice.

Let’s look at this example:

Whom did you see? I saw her. (object)

Who saw you? She saw me. (subject)

That is the correct use of who/whom but it may not be the most common. English speakers tend to use who a lot more on a daily basis, even in written form. In order to assure your message to feel natural and related, a careful selection of words should be done by a professional language expert.

4. It’s growing too fast

English is rapidly expanding its vocabulary to the point that there are new words every couple months, especially among the young generation. “Selfie”, “Hashtagging”, “Smasual”, do they sound familiar to you?

Approximately more than 1.000 new or approved words are added to the Oxford Dictionary, every single year. It’s safe to say that English is one of the fasted developing language of the world. This growth results from the booming of technology, social media and the globalization where English serves as the major means of communicate.

This phenomena is interesting and matches the unlimited demand to express feelings and ideas of humans but it also becomes a serious challenge for translators to keep up consistently.

English may not be a hard language to translate because of its popularity but as we mentioned above, delivering a well-rounded translation work requires experts with thorough understanding of culture, as well as the language. If you need to translate from or to English, give us a call today!

Facts about the English language

  • “E” is the most common letter, it appears in approximately 11% of all words in the common English vocabulary
  • The most complex word in the English language is “run”, it has over 430 definitions and required a 60,000-word definition that covered 24 pages in the Oxford English Dictionary
  • More people have learned English as a second language than native speakers
  • The longest English words with no repeated letters are “dermatoglyphics” and “uncopyrightable”