Writing English for Non-English Audiences

A common reply I get after I tell my usual story about text quality, research work during translation and the necessity of a SME (subject matter expert) to clarify questions is: “The audience are not English native speakers. So, the translation need not be so precise.”


Actually this is a common mistake. And, actually, nothing could be more wrong…

Most English native speakers are very patient when it comes to speaking with foreigners or reading English texts that were written by non-native speakers. This is mostly, because they are used to tourists or co-workers who were born in countries where English is not the official language. Also, a larger number of people speaks English as a foreign language than as their mother tongue.

So, why is it that an English text primarily intended for an audience of non-English native speakers should be translated or written with even more care?

The answer is simple: When a text is translated so-so, the idiomatic colloquialisms of the original language are often not smoothed sufficiently. As a result, the translation may contain metaphors or phrases that are not generally used in the English language. Simply put, a sloppy translation produces a bad English text and many misunderstandings.

This is very confusing for non-native speakers of English.

As a rule of thumb, therefore, texts for audiences whose mother tongue is different from English should actually be double-checked three times before they are published. This avoids confusion and gets your message across much better.

Let your international readers be grateful


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