Global/International English Resources
April 3, 2009 2:04 PM   Subscribe

What tools are out there for globalizing/internationalizing English text?

My company is writing training manuals in English that will eventually be used across the globe. We teach in English in about half the countries we serve. I want to make sure that the manuals avoid American English idioms, contractions, and whatever else I’m not thinking of.

The perfect solution would be a tool that scans word documents for non-global terms and highlights or reports them. The next-best thing would be a website or reference book that lists guidelines for internationally-friendly English.
posted by tenaciousd to Writing & Language (3 answers total)
This is sort of coming at it from the other direction, but dictionaries of English idioms are readily available in print and online. If you find one with an API you might be able to put something together (though I have no clue how).
posted by carsonb at 2:15 PM on April 3, 2009

How about hiring good english majors for proofreaders/editors? They generally work cheap and are easy to find. When it comes to translations and spell-checking an average human can work better and cheaper than software.

The perfect solution would be to make sure the original technical writers were competent enough not to write with idioms.
posted by JJ86 at 2:23 PM on April 3, 2009

My company does a lot of work with globalization efforts for documentation. It's definitely a skill. Is anyone in your firm a member of the Society for Technical Communication? STC seminars, webcasts, and publications regularly address the complexities of globalizing documentation not originally written with the intent of easy translation.

For example, it often makes sense to move to single sourcing as part of a globalization effort (depending on the scope of the documentation - for a single manual, not so much - for 50 manuals and several online help systems, single sourcing helps whether you're thinking globalization or not). This may involve changing authoring tools to something like Arbortext or Flare if you're not already working in a modular XML-based tool, but repeatable modules make it easier to chase down idioms and other elements that increase the globalization cost.

That said, last year at STC I spent a good long time chatting with the sales team for acrolinx, an editing package which has a number of modules which would support globalization, including a multilingual terminology database which identifies variants on an acceptable term and standardizes language throughout the doc set. It was pretty impressive, and I wish we could afford it.
posted by catlet at 2:36 PM on April 3, 2009

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