Importance of correctly translating units of measurement into American English

30.05.2013
translating into American English

The correct English translation of measurements in the US market

It is important for companies wishing to operate in the United States market to have all documents correctly translated into English. It is also important to bear in mind that units of measurement must be subjected to the correct localisation process in order to avoid potential mistakes. Localisation, also referred to as regionalisation, is the adaptation of proper names, units of measurement and local expressions in documentation translations.
The New Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the European Union will enable exports from the European Union to the United States to increase by 28% and this represents a marketing opportunity for American and European companies. For this reason, exporting companies see the United States as a strategic market for international expansion, and in order to achieve this, all of the commercial and technical information on their products must be translated into English.
It is units of measurement which generally lead to confusion during the localisation process, since there are many instances where length, weight, surface area, volume and temperature are given in different units of measurement. Here are a few examples of these variants:


1. Measurements of length: Inch (in), foot (ft), yard (yd) and mile (mi). The equivalents are as follows:
a. One inch is 2.54 cm
b. One foot is equivalent to 0.3048 m
c. One yard is 0.9144 m
d. One mile is equivalent to 1.609344 km
Inches and feet are used to describe objects. Yards and miles are used for distance. In addition to describing objects, feet are also used to measure altitude, for example, flight altitude is measured in feet.

2. Measurements of weight: A pound (lb), which is equivalent to 0.45359237 kg, is the measurement of weight used, and fractions of pounds are known as ounces (oz). In concrete terms, one pound is the same as sixteen ounces.

3. Measurements of surface area: In this instance, we refer to square feet (sq ft), a unit used in the construction industry. One square foot is equivalent to 0.09290304 m.

4. Measurements of volume: The gallon (gal), quart (qt) and fluid ounce (fl oz) are the three most commonly used units of measurement for determining volume.
a. One gallon is 3.7854118 litres.
b. One quart is equivalent to 0.94635 litres
c. One ounce is 29.574 millilitres.
The gallon is used for measuring petrol and other liquids such as water or milk in large containers. For smaller-sized drink packaging such as tins or bottles holding less than 500 ml, ounces are used.

5. Measurements of temperature: Temperature is measured in degrees Fahrenheit. Conversion is more complex and requires the following formula, ºF = (ºC x 9/5) + 32

Translating should not be simply a matter of words. All of the information should be made comprehensible to make it easy for potential purchasers to understand what the product is. With respect to units of measurement, which is the subject discussed in the text, it is vital to localise the text, especially when making an economic proposal. If the units have not been “translated”, the client is compelled to convert said units, which could be tedious and inconvenient. As a result of such an omission, a business deal could be lost to a competitor who would have paid attention to localising this information.
Protecting oneself from bad localisation and translation practices can aid in attaining professional excellence and consequently securing business transactions in US territories.

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