Is it trunk or boot? A hood or a bonnet? A truck or a lorry? An elevator or a lift? An apartment or a flat? Vacation or holiday? Zip code or postcode? Shopping cart or shopping trolley? The list goes on...
Does it matter what you write?
YES. It’s a matter of respect and professionalism especially in the business world.
With almost 3 decades in the translation industry at TSI, we find variation in all languages that have segmented into different countries or different regions. I use English USA and English England as an example here because this is the language you’re reading right now. We can find similar anomalies in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Canada and wherever English is spoken as a predominant language. This is occurs in a more dramatic fashion in Spanish, from the fatherland Spain to the more than 20 countries where Spanish is the official language.
Chinese or Mandarin is the official spoken language in Mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore. Although it’s mainly spoken in only 3 countries, it has the largest number of native speakers, surpassing more than a billion. Spanish comes in second with 440 million and English comes in third with 360 native speakers.
Why is it good for our clients to know this? If a company wants to sell their products abroad, they will reach more customers if they speak to them in their local or regional language.
Technical Translation English to Spanish
For a technical translation example, we recently translated a technical instruction and maintenance manual for an industrial company that manufactures off-the-road machines such as pay-loaders, forklifts construction hammers, bulldozers, backhoes, drills, excavators, pavers and hydraulic mining shovels among other heavy equipment. They wanted to sell their products in Latin America but they did not want to have 20 different versions, so we suggested a generic Spanish that would be understood (but perhaps not specifically spoken) by their customer base.
One of the words in question was the translation of a large “bolt” used to fasten a transmission to a motor housing and frame. We chose the common translation “tornillo”. Other accepted translations are perno and bulón. Two customers, one from Uruguay and another from Argentina wrote back and said that the word “bolt” in their country is translated as “bulón”. I inquired if they knew the word “tornillo” with which they replied with a hint of humor, “yes, but we don’t call it that in our part of the world”.
In this particular instance, the word bulón was universally understood as a technical term and therefore used. It’s important to have translators who understand the intricacies of technical translations and here at TSI this is our area of expertise. If you find yourself searching for technical translation online, feel free to contact us for information about our services. We can explain the process as well as how we determine technical translation rates per word.
So I’ll end this artcile with a simple “goodbye”, “cheerio”, “so long”, “farewell” and “gotta boogie” “see ya later” “until next time”.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.