Importance of a correct translation of units of measurement into American English

Correct translation of measurements into English in the U.S. market

For companies that wish to establish themselves in the U.S. market, it is important for the English translation of any document to be correct. It must also be considered that units of measurement should be processed with an appropriate localization process to avoid potential errors. Localization, also called regionalization, is the adaptation of proper nouns, units of measurement and local expressions in documentation translations.

The new EU–US Free Trade Agreement will enable a 28% increase in exports from the European Union to the United States. This constitutes a market opportunity for U.S. and European companies. Therefore, export companies see a strategic market in the United States for their international expansion, and to achieve it, they must translate all of their products' business and technical information to American English.

In the localization process, units of measurement are what usually leads to confusion because there are many cases in which lengths, weights, areas, volumes and temperatures are presented in different units of measurement. Here are some examples of these variants:

1.      Measures of length: Inch (in), foot (ft), yard (yd) and mile (mi). Below are the equivalents:

  • One inch is 2.54 cm
  • One foot equals 0.3048 m
  • One yard is 0.9144 m
  • One mile equals 1.609344 km

Inches and feet are used to describe objects. Yards and miles are used for distances. In addition to describing objects, feet also serve to measure altitude, for instance, flight altitude is measured in feet.

2.      Measures of weight: The pound (lb), which is equal to 0.45359237 kg, is the measure of weight used, and when the pound is divided into parts, we speak of ounces (oz). Specifically, one pound is the same as sixteen ounces.

3.      Measures of area: In this case, we speak of square feet (sq ft), a unit used in the construction industry. One square foot equals 0.09290304 m2.

4.      Measures of volume: The gallon (gal), quart (qt) and ounce (fl oz) are the three most used units of measurement to determine volume.

  • One gallon is 3.7854118 liters
  • One quart equals 0.94635 liters
  • One ounce is 29.574 milliliters

The gallon is used to measure gasoline and other fluids such as water or milk in large containers. For smaller beverage sizes such as cans or bottles under 500 ml, the ounce is used.

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


The job of translating should not be simply left to the words. All of the information should be made comprehensible in order to make it easy for possible buyers to understand the product. In the case of units of measurement, which is the topic discussed in the text, it is paramount to localize the text, especially when submitting an economic bid. If the units have not been "translated", the client is obligated to convert those units, which may be a nuisance and annoyance. Due to this deficiency, a transaction may be lost to a competitor that did take into consideration this localization of data.

Protecting yourself from bad practices in localization and translation may mean achieving professional excellence, and with that, businesses stateside.