Friday, 28 June 2013

British English vs. American English: Opening a can of worms!

The differences between British English and American English are mostly pronunciation, spelling and a little bit of vocabulary, right? RIGHT?


When I started to think about the translation of my trilogy, it was crystal clear to me, that it has to be done in British English. After all the setting is London and the protagonists are Brits. Makes sense, doesn´t it? 

My translator, Claudia Rapp, comes with an American background, but my editor, Diane Ashfield, is English and she gave the text the British polish.

But then my doubts rose. How would American readers react? Would they like it? Would they consider British English exotic and interesting - or rather irritating? 

So I spoke to other writers who went down the road of “going international” before me. And the more I heard about their experiences, the more I came to realize/realise that a different version for the US was in order. 

I thought: ‘Hey, how difficult can it be to replace words like colour with color, sympathise with sympathize, and cupboard with closet?’

But that´s just half the rent, folks.

There are phrases like ‘in the circumstances’/ “given the circumstances”.
A British room mate is a roommate in America.
Mr Mason in England would be Mr. Mason in the States.
Brits say: ‘Something, whereas Americans say,”Something.
Even the grammar can be different and commas have to be added, deleted or moved.

Trust me, it´s a can of worms!

So I decided to do a SLIGHTLY Americanized version. The tone and the idiom in the dialogs will still be British. They will always play football and not soccer, and their skeletons are kept in their cupboards, not closets. Friends are mates, not buddies and there are numerous “Blimey!”, “Bloody hell!” and “Brilliant!”s.
But I adjusted the spelling, replaced some words (e. g. ambulance man with paramedic) and changed the quotation marks and Mr to Mr., so the reading experience for Americans (hopefully) won´t be too irritating and British words and phrases that stayed in the text are considered exotic and interesting.

The rest of the world will get the strictly British version, though.

I know I can´t please everyone – but I really do try hard to do so :)

If you´re curious now and you want to check your knowlege, here are some British English vs. American English quizzes:


  1. And I thought German is complicated *lol*

  2. What a really neat insight in your work. Being a verbal acrobat can be a tough job from time to time, but it's also much fun. Keep it up!