Date Formatting in Different Countries

By Stacey
May 8, 2016 · 3 min

An important aspect of translation is date formatting, and it’s something that every translator should pay strict attention to.

Date Formatting in Different Countries | One Hour Translation

An important aspect of translation is date formatting, and it’s something that every translator should pay strict attention to. Date formatting must be written intelligibly and correctly for the intended audience of the specific translation. So, as part of the translators job it’s necessary that they have a clear understanding of not only the correct way of writing dates in the target language but also how they’re written in the source language. This can be quite challenging when dates are written in the xx-xx-xx format, whereby the day, month and year are all marked by two digits. The format of D-M-Y (day, month, year) is widely used around the world, regardless of whether we count the number of countries that use this format or the number of inhabitants of these countries. It’s used in Africa, Mexico, Oceania, a large portion of Asia, most of Europe, and throughout South and Central America (with the exception of Belize).

Date Formatting in Spanish

When writing the date in Spanish it’s not usual to use zeros when the day or month is a single digit: for example, 3/9/2016 is preferable to 03/09/2016. It can be confusing in these cases as to which digit is the day and which is the month, so it’s recommended to write out the month in full or at least abbreviate it, like so: 3-Sept-2016 or Sept 3, 2016.

The format of M-D-Y (month, day, year) is pretty much exclusive to the United States. It’s also the way people in Micronesia and the Belize write dates; plus, in Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines it’s used as an alternative to the D-M-Y format. On the other hand, in China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Hungary, Taiwan, Iran, and Lithuania, the Y-M-D (year, month, day) format is used. This format is also used as an alternative in some countries in Asia and Europe. This format has been approved by ISO 8601, and because of this, its use is more internationalized. (ISO 8601 describes an internationally accepted method of using numbers to represent dates and times).

Translating Dates Is Not to Do with the Target Language, but the Country Where the Document Will Be Read

As you can probably see, the translation of a date has very little to do with the target language, but more to do with the country in which the specific document will be read. When translating a date into English, the result will be different depending on the target country - perhaps it will be the United States, the United Kingdom, or maybe a unified intermediate option will be selected. The M-D-Y format is used in the first case, the D-M-Y format is used in the second case, and in the third case it’s recommended to go with the ISO standard to avoid any confusion – meaning, the Y-M-D format. But, if we have a date to be translated from English into the Spanish language and the text is specifically aimed at the Latino population residing in the United States, then the client will probably prefer to retain the M-D-Y format because this is the preferred format in the United States.

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