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Subject: Re: UKNM: A quick Language question (long- non fiction)
From: Jim Sterne
Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 14:11:59 GMT

At 08:45 AM 10/26/98 , Neelesh Sonawane wrote:
>An American friend is in a dilema. He is designing a site for a translator
>and represented the English language with an American flag. I pointed out
>that it may anoy some English folks so now he is at a twist as to what to

At 09:16 AM 10/26/98 , Chris Locke wrote:
>A flock of EF logos.
>On the backpacks of language students.
>Moving slowly down Oxford Street like a lazy cloud.

Psuedo Hiku aside...

At 09:18 AM 10/26/98 , manouatpostmaster [dot] co [dot] uk wrote:
>Do they really speak English in the US?? Just kidding...

A single people separated by a common language.

At 09:20 AM 10/26/98 , Felix Velarde wrote:
>if it's for a translator and s/he were only able to translate into
>American English, then use an American flag. Otherwise, best to use
>both, even if that requires an animated icon.

I believe that was "moderation in all things," not

Here's an exchange I had a few months back about the
same issue which I wrote about thusly:
I actually have been involved in a debate at a recognizable, but
please-don't-tell multi-national company asking me for advice on whether their
home page should be English or American.

From: xxxatxxx [dot] com>
To: Jim Sterne <jsterneattargeting [dot] com>
Subject: King's English vs. American English
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 17:42:03 -0600

Hi, Jim: I met you when you were speaking at a conference in San Fran last
year (and I even bought and read your World Wide Web Marketing book!). I am
the Webmaster for xxx --a new TRADEMARK for all the existing xxx companies
around the world which are part of the xxx group of companies. The Web site I
work with represents all of our companies around the world, although most (90
percent ) of our business dealings are conducted in English either in the
UK or
the United States.

Questions 1) What is your opinion about consistency of language VERSION use
(King's English vs. American English) within a single Web site? 2) If English
is our chosen language of business, would you recommend we use King's English,
American English or some combination on our site? 3) Could I HIRE you

(immediately!) to write a short summary of your opinion (King's English vs.
American English) backed by some convincing facts and logical examples?

I'm trying not to reveal my hand in terms of where I stand on this issue, but
it might be all too clear. Please let me hear your thoughts, Jim.

Thanks very much.
I was quite intrigued (and flattered) and responded thusly:

To: xxxatxxx [dot] com>
From: Jim Sterne <jsterneattargeting [dot] com>
Subject: Re: King's English vs. American English

>Questions 1) What is your opinion about consistency of language VERSION use
>(King's English vs. American English) within a single Web site? 2) If
>English is our chosen language of business, would you recommend we use
>King's English, American English or some combination on our site?

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you Mark.

OK - English is the stated language of record. But which one? The first
question is - who is the company? Is it an American company or a UK
company? Or
is the HQ elsewhere?

Next, but perhaps the most important question of all: Who are your customers?
The answer is: all of the above.

I recommend to all my international clients that they localize their Web
Here's why. A Web site is not a corporate brochure. It's a single individual's
experience. It's not your publication, it's an electronic relationship.

Now, if I call the good people at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited and spoke
with somebody with an American accent, I would be appalled! My whole sense of
that firm is exceedingly British and not a whiff of Yank. All of the years
they've put into creating a strong brand would be dashed to bits in a jiffy.

But xxx is truly an international company. That means I expect to be serviced
by a local branch. I want to talk to somebody I can relate to. If I get a
representative who is about my age, went to the same school, remembers the
popular music - well, that makes the learning easier and the relationship
smoother and I just feel all around better about it. Provincial? You bet!

If I'm a Frenchman and I go to your site and it's all in English, you are not
making points.

If I'm a Brazilian and there is a portion of your site written in Portuguese,
I'm delighted. Until I realize that it was translated by somebody in Lisbon.
The language is right, but the idioms are all wrong.

You run into the same problem if you hire somebody who graduated from the
University of Mexico to translate pages for Web site visitors from Spain.

I always recommend catering to the people you are selling to. Make the effort
to really *localize*!

So, we now turn to the issue of the King's English or the 'Mercan version. I
vote for both. Your products are not the same in both places. Your pricing is
different. Your services vary.

I say you have the King's behind the Union Jack and the US version behind the
Stars and Stripes and maybe even a tip of the hat to our friends to the North
behind the Maple Leaf.

The home page? Tell me - where is HQ?

Surfing the Web is a very personal experience. Anything you can do to make to
easier and more comfortable for your visitors, the more valuable your site

be to them and the more return you'll reap.

>3) Could I
>HIRE you (immediately!) to write a short summary of your opinion (King's
>English vs. American English) backed by some convincing facts and logical

Jump back, Jack. No way, Jose. Later, Dude.
(Now translate those into the King's English!)

After another message from XXX, I replied once again and settled the issue:

To: xxxatxxx [dot] com>
From: Jim Sterne <jsterneattargeting [dot] com>
Subject: RE: RE: King's English vs. American English

At 11:37 AM -0600 2/23/98, xxx at xxx wrote:

>To clarify, we have no HQ. We are trying to portray that we are truly
>international. However, if we DID have a HQ and it was London, I'd say we
>should use King's English (honest). But since we are trying to portray that

Yes, sirree, Bob.

>Let's put it this way: I'm guessing that the use of King's English would
>strongly imply that we have a London HQ. However, the use of American
>English would not necessarily imply a U.S. HQ because more people would
>assume we are defaulting to a more commonly accepted form of the

Nope. Since the goal is to be international and of-the-net, then you need to
use the lagnuage of record which is the colonial version.

>Perhaps I'm being too arrogant about my homeland by assuming that
>American English is not just the language of choice, but the language
>VERSION of choice.

You're right on.

>In your opinion, am I blissfully ignorant and arrogant? For the
>sake of communications consistency (and because I was a journalism major),
>I STRONGLY resist any attempt to mix English language versions.

Hear, here!

>What would you do?

Punt. (Ooops! Isn't that something you do on the Thames?)

I say American English.
(And that's a certified, expert opinion.)


Jim Sterne Target Marketing of Santa Barbara
jsterneattargeting [dot] com http://www.targeting.com
Author, Speaker, Consultant +1 805-965-3184
Internet Marketing & Customer Service Strategy Consulting
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  UKNM: A quick Language question, Neelesh Sonawane

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