In my last entry, I exemplified the differences between dialects of the English language through comparing American English and British English. Now where these two dialects may be the first to spring to mind, at least for a British national like myself, there are many other dialects of the language spoken across people spanning all but one of the world’s continents. There are representatives of Europe (United Kingdom), North America (USA, Canada), Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore), Oceania (Australia, New Zealand), Africa (South Africa) among others that I haven’t mentioned – and with that knowledge, it becomes evident that there are a lot of people and different English-speaking markets to cater for, and a potential market base that is impossible for an international company to ignore if it is targeting any sort of success. Speakers of other international languages like Spanish will understand well that a company targeting Argentina or Mexico would do well to adapt their material to that variant of Spanish. Well, the same happens if you target English-speaking countries: you need to adapt and translate English for Africa and Asia. It is not the same targeting the US, South Africa, Australia than the United Kingdom.
South African English (SAE) is arguably the greatest variant of English in both vocabulary and pronunciation. Modern SAE makes up part of a complex linguistic and indeed cultural mix; with many politicians denouncing the English language as representing South Africa’s dark colonial history. However such as the globalising economy, both black and white parents in South Africa consider Enlish to be the language of aspiration. There are many complexities of the South African variant of the language; with commonly used words that string from Khoi or Afrikaans (pre-colonial native languages) as well as Dutch – words such as kloof and springbuk that are very much entrenched in SAE. A word such as kaffir (a name given to black peoples in SA) is nowadays considered deeply offensive. The great variation of SAE to other English dialects renders it essential for native SAE speakers to make up any effective translating team.
Hong Kong English (HKE) may refer to one of two different concepts. The first is the English dialect spoken in Hong Kong, however the second is more of an adaption of the language itself and is referred to as Cantonese English. The English dialect is very similar to British English and American English, and is a dialect that does not have that much of a linguistic identity. It is the dialect that tends to be spoken between the rich of the country, and those that return from visits to the USA and the British Isles. Native Hong Kongers will often be found speaking Cantonese English – or how it has been amusingly dubbed Chinglish. The effects of Cantonese on the English language is profoundly based on the non-Romanic origins of Cantonese – a language that uses symbols to represent a word or a phrase and therefore cannot be directly translated into English, and thus some rules of the English language are ‘broken’ in this dialect e.g. the use of prepositions such as “on”, “in” and “at” are interchangeable.
The differences of the English language in continents that are culturally far from home are plain to see, and it is essential that these differences be properly adhered to when translating a document into (or from) these two forms of the language. Therefore, when you have drafted your text, think that not only you need to adapt it but translate English for Africa and Asia.