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Posted on1 May 2013

The Anglo-EU Translation Guide – Not bad…

A friend of mine who is a non-native English speaker recently recounted how she had received an invite from a British colleague to attend their birthday bash, abruptly followed by the phrase “No worries if you can’t make it though.” Naturally, she was left puzzled by the intonations of this final comment, despite being fluent in English and having lived in the UK for many years.
While she took it as a sign of discouragement and that her colleague didn’t truly wish for her to join in on the celebrations, I was left to explain that this was not likely to be the case, and that us Brits often tag a comment like this on at the end of most invitations so that the person doesn’t feel obliged to go if they have other commitments, or if they simply don’t want to attend. “But I’d say if I was busy,” she remarked. A valid point, of course, which really got me thinking – why does ‘Britspeak’ harbor so many hidden messages that cracking its code becomes a worthy challenge for the likes of Inspector Clouseau?
This Anglo-EU Translation Guide humorously aims to ‘decrypt’ some of our most frequently used phrases in order to help non-Brits understand what we really mean by our baffling rhetoric. We may jolly well know what we mean by such comments, which have undoubtedly become a source of satire, but we of course shouldn’t assume that everyone else has the same understanding of our tendencies to downplay serious issues or say the opposite of what we mean so as not to cause offence…gosh we are a complicated bunch! Furthermore, our famous chit chat (namely incessant comments about the weather or enquiring after an individual’s general wellbeing) is often seen as ingenuous by other nations, including the Germans, whose language doesn’t even have an expression for “small talk”
Further to last month’s blog on the increasing use of ‘Britishisms’, this serves to underline the prominent role played by cultural difference and the need to go beyond the literal. An understanding of the particulars of not only a language, but also the behaviour and customs of the country, is essential in the translation process. Our highly qualified translators and interpreters are well-versed in the importance of these subtleties and are committed to conveying both accurate meaning and cultural nuance to ensure that your message isn’t lost. For a free no-obligation quote for any of our language services, give Atlas a call on +44 (0)1727 812725 or email

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