Examples of translation localisation

At The Language Factory, localisation plays a key part in what we do. The localisation of text ensures that your communications reflect your key brand principles and cultural differences, and also prevents anything being lost in translation.

Localisation is simply the process that converts text written for region A suitable for region B.

However, whilst the concept appears to be simple, if you’ve not encountered the issue before it can be complex. Here, we’re going to look at how localisation can impact a piece of text by exploring the differences between two countries speaking English.

UK English v US English

Word choice

English is, of course, one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world. However, the two main speakers of the language – the US and the UK – continue to differ in their use of certain words. For instance, garments worn on the lower half of the body are called pants in the US and trousers in the UK. The UK, meanwhile, uses the word pants to describe a man’s underwear. Other common examples include:

  • Jumper: A garment in the UK, and someone perched on the edge of a building contemplating suicide in the US! (The US equivalent of the UK word is ‘sweater’). A jumper in the US could also be what the UK calls a pinafore dress.
  • Trainer: A piece of footwear in the UK. The US word is ‘sneaker’.
  • Chips: a type of hot sliced potato in the UK (‘Fries’ in the US). Cold corn snacks in the US (UK ‘Crisps’).

What does this mean in practical terms? Well, that the words chosen can completely change the tone of a piece of text. An advert reading ‘As warm and comforting as a plate of chips’ would definitely confuse readers in the US as the chips they are used to might well be comforting, but would be not be warm.


In addition to the different word choices, US and UK English also differ in the way that they spell a number of words. US English tends to spell words in a more phonetic way (center rather than centre, meter rather than metre), and they also regularly drop letters that they consider to be unnecessary (traveler rather than traveller, reveler rather than reveller). Again, the practical implications of this are obvious: any documentation that makes use of the incorrect spelling will look unprofessional: not the impression a business wants to make. These are theoretically minor changes, but the results can be major. And yes, speakers of each language will notice the difference.

The use of tense

This difference is a relatively simple one: UK English uses the present perfect tense to talk about events in the recent past: ‘I’ve just arrived home’. Speakers of US English, meanwhile, have begun to replace this with the simple past tense: ‘I just arrived home’. The tenses can also apply to questions, with an American asking ‘Did you do your homework yet?’ instead of ‘Have you done your homework yet?’ Again, the results of not localising tenses can make your text seem unprofessional, and on many occasions will confuse readers. Even those who don’t know why it seems wrong will still notice the errors.

For the grammar aficionados, another distinction between UK and US English is the use of the conditional, or “would”. In the UK, so-called “if clauses” are formulated using the pluperfect followed by the conditional perfect. For example, “if I had seen the film, I would have liked it”. In the US, the formulation would be “if I would have seen the film, I would have liked it”. To use the US version in the UK would sound very strange and vice versa.

Going beyond English, there are a number of languages that are spoken differently in multiple countries, including:

  • French
  • Arabic
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Italian
  • German

Any company looking to have materials translated must take localisation seriously. Localisation allows you to speak to people in their language in a way that is suitable in that country or region. Give The Language Factory a call today to find out more about how our specialist local translators can help you.

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