The source language for any international organisation is key to the successful rollout of its content globally. This applies not only to the language itself but also to the structure and terminology of the source content. During the creative phase, taking into account how and where the content will be used, and by whom, is key to authoring translatable, useful and relevant material which can be effectively used in multiple languages and countries.
Ideally, in order to enable the successful integration of content with localisation technology, an organisation should specify a single source language with multiple target languages. This will allow contact teams to manage the single source more effectively and provide consistent and relevant content for translation and localisation. Multiple sources can be managed but it is more complex from a technology point of view and content created in languages other than the specified source may require back-translation into the source language, adding a layer of complexity to the process.
US or UK English? “Up against the barrier of a common language” (Dylan Thomas)
Many international organisations opt for English as their source language, with several or many target languages. The source can be produced in either US or UK English, but not a mixture of the two. There are significant differences in spelling and grammar – and local colloquialisms – between these two versions of English. If an agnostic English is selected as the source, choosing either US or UK spelling as its default, this can be used as the source for all localisation and that includes the US and the UK as target markets. The content can be modified, in effect translated, to achieve the correct spelling, terminology and country specific requirements*, in English as well as in other languages. However, many international organisations choose either their US or UK content as the starting point, in which case some cultural, and maybe regulatory, changes to the content will be required in addition to simple translation.
*Country-specific requirements may include, for example, address format, currency, date format.