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Language Register: Business vs Colloquial

Different ways of saying the same thing

Translators need to do much more than simply translating words and sentences — they need to be good at translating ideas. As translators become more experienced, they develop some essential expertise in their subject matter that makes their translation both more interesting and more accurate. Furthermore, specialised translators need to understand complicated concepts in various subjects such as technology, medicine, engineering, or law. Unless the translator understands the subject matter perfectly, they cannot convey the concept properly in the target language. However, there is more to translation than simply conveying information, translators also need to address the readers (or audience) in an appropriate tone or register. Usually we refer to this as Business vs Colloquial. Business English, for example, is more formal and more structured, while colloquial English is more casual and conversational.

Addressing your readers

The differences in how we address an audience are not about being correct or incorrect — both forms are correct. The language register (also called linguistic register or speech register) describes the way a person speaks in relation to their audience. We all understand instinctively that a speaker modifies their language register to signal levels of formality appropriate to their relationship to their audience, and intended purpose.

There are 4 primary factors that determine our register:

  • audience
  • topic
  • purpose
  • location

For example, we use very different registers (I hope!) when communicating with an employer, compared to a partner or friend. We speak differently when addressing a large audience, compared with a 1-to-1 conversation. Naturally our language changes when discussing a scientific concept, as opposed to what’s for dinner.

In marketing especially, it is important to consider the purpose — the register should be very different for a sales document, an ‘instructions for use’ guide, and your company Annual Report. For example, in Academic English, we might come across sentences like “The Experiment was conducted…” but in a report for the class, the student would more likely write, “We did the experiment…”. Business register often involves a higher standard of vocabulary, while in a colloquial register we use everyday phrases.

So, there may be registers for technical language and another for academic language and still another for mathematical language. For the translator to do a good job, they must understand the register, as well as the subject.

Business vs colloquial grammar

While in English, register usually involves using (or not using) technical terms, or slang. In many languages, such Spanish, German or Japanese it effects the conjugation of verbs, and pronouns used.

Language Review

So you have your document translated — but do you trust it? You perhaps know some of the target language, enough to get around, maybe even enough to prepare a presentation. And if not, there are free and readily-available Machine Translation tools (such as Google) to use for comparison. But your corporate messages should be clear, coherent and convey the quality of your brand. In marketing, the style and tone of the message is so important — do you really dare to send out a Google Translated sales pitch?

You are most likely not a native-speaker of the target language spoken in your new market or region, but your potential clients are. Probably, you are not a translation or communications professional either. That is why a native-speaking translator and/or proofreader can help you reach that level of superior quality that your company demands.

As well as translation, QuickSilver Translate offers a language review service — editing and proofreading, performed by qualified and experienced native-speakers.

The review service includes:

  • Grammar and spelling check
  • Editing for clarity
  • Localisation (Latin-American or European Spanish?)
  • Marketing language: brand style and tone
  • Synonyms and alternatives
  • Telephone consultation

Contact us to find out more

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