Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lost in Translation - UK English

It's funny. I thought that there would only be a language barrier with countries that speak other languages. I was wrong.

My husband works for a swiss company and we have had the pleasure of visiting Lucern. I learned some German and expected a language barrier. The city was great and most people knew English so it was fine. And when I tried to speak german, they were gracious and smiled as my American accent lacked the harsh accents that fuel the language.

I work for a UK company. I am a marketing manager for the North America office. I figured it would be a much easier transition. Boy, was I wrong. Not in speaking the language, but in deciphering their language and culture differences when it comes to advertising and crafting corporate messaging.

In addition to getting used to UK spelling and constantly updating our materials to reflect the US English, there are also subtle differences with what seems to work in advertising. I am learning how to politically and creatively communicate so as not to insult them when we work on an ad or direct mailer. It seems that those mentos ads really weren't a joke. Our humor is different as well as our corporate messaging. It is a battle that I continue to fight.

I went to visit the office one time and was also amazed to find that their slang and the speed in which they spoke was very hard to understand, even though they spoke "English". It's like those Guy Ritchie movies like Snatch where it takes a good 30 minutes of listening to the dialogue before you have a clue as to what they are saying.

So, I guess this lesson I learned is that things can be lost in translation, even in English. Who uses the word "whilst" anyway?

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