Beyond “English”: How International English Benefits Translation Clients

A large group of about a dozen flags of different countries wave in the wind to represent International English


English is the global language of business, travel, and communication. It’s also the most commonly spoken language in the world. If you count both people whose first language is English and those who learned it as a second or third language, there are nearly 1.5 billion speakers of English globally. But English isn’t a single monolithic language. It comes in many different varieties. From the US and the UK to Australia and India, regional variants abound.

So, when a company or an international organization wants to translate documents for audiences in countries around the world, they usually choose English. But it’s important to choose a variant of English that is clear to as many people as possible. This is where International English comes in. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what International English is, discuss the pros and cons of using it, and explain when translation clients should consider it for their translation projects.


The main features of International English

International English has been around in some form for centuries. However, it rose to prominence following World War II as international commerce and travel increased. In a nutshell, International English is a variant of English that is as neutral as possible in order to appeal to the widest audience. International English has the following main features:


  • Uniform spelling: Primarily based on British English, with the exception of “-ize” endings (e.g., “realize” instead of “realise”). This consistency eliminates confusion for readers accustomed to different spelling conventions.
  • Reduced regionalisms and idioms: Slang and expressions specific to a particular region are avoided. This ensures the message is understood by a wider audience without unclear cultural references.
  • Simple syntax: Straightforward sentence structures enhance readability for non-native speakers. Complex sentence construction can be a barrier for those with varying levels of English proficiency.
  • Clarity and precision: This is especially important for audiences whose native language isn’t English. International English prioritizes common vocabulary and avoids ambiguity to ensure the intended meaning is clear.
  • Consistency: Different terms may be used in various language variants. International English can help avoid the use of multiple synonyms for the same term or concept.
  • Plain English: International English prioritizes clear and unambiguous language to prevent misunderstandings. Technical jargon or overly complex sentence structures are replaced with simpler alternatives for improved comprehension.


International English is not a replacement for regional variants. Instead, it builds bridges of understanding among speakers of different regional variants. Imagine a legal document intended for an Australian audience. An American English term like “attorney” might be unfamiliar, while the term “solicitor” might not resonate either. Choosing a global variant (for example, “lawyer”) improves the communicative value of the text. Or think about all of the US English expressions that relate to baseball: “to hit a homerun,” “to knock it out of the park,” “to come out of left field.” All of these references may be lost on English speakers who do not live in the US or are not familiar with US sports culture.

The pros and cons of International English

Why is choosing a language variant important for translation buyers? Deciding on the right language variant can reduce friction for your target audience. Whether you’re an international company looking to increase sales in a particular region, or a global nonprofit active in different parts of the world, choosing the right variant can be crucial. There are several pros and cons to using International English. Translation buyers must weigh these factors and determine whether to use a specific language variant or a global option like International English.




  • Enhanced readability: The use of clear vocabulary, simple sentence structures, and consistent spelling makes International English easier to understand for a wider audience, especially those for whom English is a second (or third) language.
  • Reduced ambiguity: By avoiding regionalisms and idioms, International English minimizes the risk of misunderstandings due to cultural references or slang. This ensures the message is interpreted as intended.
  • Global reach: International English removes barriers associated with regional dialects, enabling effective communication with a broader audience across the globe.
  • Cost-effective translations: Clear and concise language in International English often requires fewer revisions during the translation process, reducing overall project costs.
  • Minimized cultural faux pas: International English avoids culturally specific references that might be offensive or confusing in certain regions. This promotes culturally sensitive communication.




  • Loss of local flavor: International English’s neutral tone might not resonate as strongly with audiences accustomed to a specific regional variant. This can be particularly important for marketing materials or creative content where a regional touch can be beneficial.
  • Reduced emotional impact: The emphasis on clarity and precision can sometimes come at the expense of emotional impact. Nuances and cultural references that evoke emotions in a specific region might be lost in International English.
  • Potential for homogenization: The widespread use of International English could lead to a decline in the richness and variety of regional dialects. This can be a concern for those who value linguistic diversity.
  • Limited creative freedom: For creative writers or advertisers who rely on wordplay or regional slang for their work, International English might feel restrictive.


While such disadvantages must be taken seriously, in some cases the pros may outweigh the cons. Businesses and other organizations must weigh the advantages and disadvantages for themselves to determine if International English is the right choice for their translation project.

What does this mean for translation clients?

So, when should translation clients consider using International English for their translations? The decision hinges on several factors:


  • Target audience: Is the intended audience global, or a specific region with its own dialect? International English is ideal for global communication, while a regional variant might be more suitable for content targeting a specific country or area.
  • Purpose of the communication: For technical documents like user manuals or legal contracts where the goal is absolutely unambiguous communication, clarity and precision are paramount, making International English a strong choice. However, for marketing materials or creative content where the purpose of the communication is to have an emotional impact and connect on a local level, a regional variant might be preferable.
  • Overall tone: What feeling do you want to evoke with your communication? If a formal and neutral tone is desired, International English is a safe bet. For a more casual or culturally specific tone, a regional variant might be a better fit.


Remember, International English is a valuable tool for global communication, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding the target audience and the goals of the project are key to choosing the most effective English variant.


International English provides a powerful tool for companies and organizations seeking to communicate with a global audience. By prioritizing clarity, simplicity, and cultural neutrality, International English can bridge the gap between languages and ensure your message resonates with audiences worldwide.


If you’re looking for a translation services partner that understands linguistic diversity, the nuances of language, and the needs and expectations of different audiences around the world, get in touch with GLS today. We’ll help you assess your project and identify the right communicative approaches and strategies for your texts.


By Jim Cohen