Internationalize this: Translating tech, tweed, trifle, and tea

Though the US and the UK share a common language, the dialects are different and the language varies greatly across the pond. Can Google and Chrome come to the rescue?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

My Senior Technology Editor, Jason Perlow often goes through my work and misunderstands the dialectic differences between our words and phrases. From "marking" to "grading" and the constant differentiation between "school' and "college" to my native collegiate and university system.

There are no rights and wrongs. Except that is when you are writing as an international journalist with a predominately US-based audience. But then again, the "We British pretty much made you" card gets thrown in and the status quo is once again restored.

Who actually discovered America, anyway?

I'm under the impression after my visit to New York last year, that all English people sound like this; seemingly incomprehensible to the vast majority of Americans.

And though our English language (which at very least one could argue that it was ours first) is one and the same, they differ in such a way that makes British-written copy for American readers struggle to understand at times.

As I approach the three year mark writing for ZDNet, I still get emails through from readers claiming I spell words incorrectly. Dyslexia aside, I write in my native tongue. When I speak to Americans, I adjust the best that I can but only to extend a common courtesy; just as you would try and speak your host nation's language while on vacation (holiday!) there.

While it is tempting on a part to blossom out into a slight of xenophobia and argue on both parts that neither of us can write nor correctly spell words of our native language, we should at least try and find a technological solution.

I say Chrome, it can be done.


If Chrome can automatically translate text from websites using Google's Translate facility, it cannot be too difficult in theory to translate dialectically different texts in the same language but from different regions.

The culture difference between the east and west coast contrasted to the southern states of the United States might well compare best to the dialectically different constructs of text in the north and south divide of the United Kingdom. As a man from the north of England, my accent and language further distorts against the typical Englishman view many have had of me.

So when I would write, "alright my duck", this would be translated to, "hello there, my friend". Ultimately it could be part of a wider scheme to improving the language barrier many of us still feel.

Translating text automatically is not an exact science and has significantly improved in the last decade. But more still needs to be done to break down the barriers of language. The web is a border-less, open network, available for anyone and everyone to access -- yet the one thing that holds us back is the language difference.

Once language translation can be mastered on the web, the web will be truly international. And I think, with enough time and effort, Google could be the first one to do it.

Is language translation a priority for today's web?

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