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Gender Inclusion / Neutrality
Thread poster: TamaraHerz
TamaraHerz
Local time: 22:47
English
Sep 7, 2004

Hi,
Can anyone direct me to articles or books on guidlines for gender inclusion in translation (ex. modifiers - I am happy)?
So many times I find translators either don't want to implement the gender inclusion (our company generally translates questionnaires), or do it in an unorganized fashion which leads me to believe that there are not steadfast 'rules' or conventions out there. I'm thinking of both romance languages and non (germanic, slavic etc). I'd appreciate any assistance or guidance you might be able to provide.


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xxxMichaelRS
Local time: 05:47
You have to also consider what was written in the source text Sep 7, 2004

Most of the grammar and style guides (like The Gregg Reference Manual) have sections on gender inclusion / neutrality.

Maybe it's simply a matter of the translators using old terms instead of modern terms - flight attendant, letter carrier, firefighter etc.

But you have to remember that a big goal of translation is to get as close as possible to the meaning in the source language. Some people write in a politically correct style in the source language, and some don't.

To take German as an example, I would get the idea of where the writer was coming from - and translate the text in a corresponding way - if he or she wrote "MitarbeiterInnen" for "employees" in German. But some people always refer to a generic employee as "er" and I would then translate it as "he".

You have to be careful not to introduce your own ideas about phraseology into a translation if that's not what was written in the source text - that's a modification in the meaning. I personally think that my job is to translate the meaning and style of a source text as closely as possible - without introducing any of my own ideas into the translation.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
gender-free writing Sep 7, 2004

Michael42 wrote:


You have to be careful not to introduce your own ideas about phraseology into a translation if that's not what was written in the source text - that's a modification in the meaning. I personally think that my job is to translate the meaning and style of a source text as closely as possible - without introducing any of my own ideas into the translation.


I agree with you, generally, Michael, but I am all for gender-free writing, and for the 10+ years that I have been 'writing', I have never had any major dilemmas, fortunately.

However, in my SLs (and note that my SLs are very gender marked in favour of males, if a reference is made to "he", when women could be represented by that "he", I don't exclude the women, i.e. I would say he/she (e.g. in references to other researchers or doctors, for example).

I wouldn't go to any extremes, though. I prefer the 'he/she' to both the 'he' and the 'she'...some people deride the use of hyphens, but it's only a question of learning to accept it as a small price to pay for visibility/equality.

Note that most academics and writers on the subject of translation, on principle, support the notion of gender-free writing. One example of a well-known writer is Peter Newmark. He would disagree with you about "(not) introducing any of (your) own ideas into the translation" when it comes to gender-marking language.


Finally, it is a very cultural thing. It is relatively easy to make adaptations in EN, for example. But to make ES or PT gender-free would probably require the creation of a whole parallel set of words!


[Edited at 2004-09-07 22:54]

[Edited at 2004-09-07 23:05]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
very language specific Sep 7, 2004

TamaraHerz wrote:

I'm thinking of both romance languages and non (germanic, slavic etc). I'd appreciate any assistance or guidance you might be able to provide.


The issue is very, very different, depending on the language in question, so maybe you should identify the specific languages you are interested in, and list them here or visit the forum for the language in question.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:47
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Bit like censorship Sep 8, 2004

To change the meaning of a text in this way is a dangerous field. In order to know what the intention of the writer was one has to go back to the source text.

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xxxMichaelRS
Local time: 05:47
Old Doonesbury cartoon Sep 8, 2004

This is getting into the more general field of changing statements to reflect your own political ideology, but I remember that the cartoon "Doonesbury" in the United States had a translator character back in the 1970s or so.

She interpreted between English and Chinese and would translate a statement like:

"The small business owner hired a new employee"

as:

"The capitalist exploiter bound a new person to a condition of servitude so that he could extract unearned profit while providing poor pay and working conditions"


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 05:47
French to English
A few ideas and resources concerning the English pronoun issue Sep 8, 2004

I just translated a huge project on nursing training programs in different countries, and was faced with this sticky issue.

My final choice was usually the "he or she / his or her" option. For example, "the head nurse must ensure that his or her team...".

Stylistically not great, but better than using "they/their" as a singular pronoun.

I think in the United States I would have chosen "she/her" throughout. This seems to be general (albeit politically-correct) practice in fields like nursing or education where the generic persons involved are generally women (even though this does exclude the men working in the profession).

Usage varies depending on the field (a software manual vs. a sociological document, for example). I think the best course of action is to determine what is most appropriate to the field and target audience.

Here are a few interesting discussions of the issue:

"Sex and Gender Avoid the awkward s/he and his/her. The easiest way to write copy that applies equally to men and women is to use plurals. If the singular must be used, use both pronouns, joined by a conjunction. (For guidelines on when to use sex and when to use gender, see the Word List.)"

"According to the senior lexicographer at Houghton Mifflin, commenting in Copy Editor newsletter, their is becoming more established and accepted as both a singular and a plural pronoun. In part, this usage derives from attempts to make writing nonsexist. Most professional writers, however, reserve their as a plural pronoun and rewrite copy to avoid using it as a singular pronoun. Because we write for an institution of higher education, we recommend using their only as a plural pronoun until common, published usage has changed significantly."

http://www.colorado.edu/Publications/styleguide/inclusive.html

"Use “He or She,” “His or Her” as Appropriate

Example:A person in need is defined generally as someone who is unable to provideadequately for himself or his family on the basis of a test that relates hisliabilities to his assets.

Change to: Persons in need are defined generally as those who are unable to provideadequately for themselves or their families on the basis of a test that relatestheir liabilities to their assets.

A person in need is defined as someone who is unable to provideoradequately for himself or herself, and his or her family on the basis of a testthat relates his or her liabilities to his or her assets."

http://216.239.59.104/search?q=cache:Oy9XrcEIz0UJ:www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/GenderGuideline.pdf%20gender%20pronoun%20inclusion&hl=en

"Why, then, should the singular "they" be allowed to chart a course to Acceptabilityland? Frankly, there's no valid alternative. And there is a need for a single, genderless pronoun--whereas the example "ain't" is a flavoring contraction that we can (and do) live without.

So how can the singular "they" become a respectable alternative? By using it, and announcing its use. People currently use the singular "they" all the time, but either with a sense of shame or unknowingly. However, the singular "they" can become an acceptable term if people begin to use it proudly and with authority.

Language is formed by those who use it. We can no longer afford to live without a genderless pronoun! The mighty "he" has fallen, long live the singular "they!"

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/6/16/143616/593

By the way, I don't think that this issue has anything to do with censorship or changing the meaning. It is simply a sticky stylistic issue in English for which there is currently no easy answer.

Happy reading!

Sara


[Edited at 2004-09-08 06:51]

[Edited at 2004-09-08 06:54]


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TamaraHerz
Local time: 22:47
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank You Sep 8, 2004

I send a heartfelt thanks to all who have responded to my issue. I have a lot of reading to do! But at least I will feel better informed.

In a project we worked on, I saw 2 different ways of saying the same thing.
ex. Soy el mismo encuestado (la misma encuestada)
Soy el(la) mismo(misma) encuestado(a)
This occurs in many languages, not just Spanish, and I\'m trying to get to the bottom of how these types of cases should be handled.

I was told that there are even languages where the verb changes depending on the gender of the person addressed!
Tamara


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Dora O'Malley  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:47
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
just use common sense as in the oral language and the text will be legible Sep 13, 2004

Hi, Tamara,

My recommendation, as usual, is to think about our oral language and the way it solves those gender issues. If we apply those principles to writing, we would have more legible sentences.
Just compare these cases:

Soy el entrevistado. (leaves aside any females)

Soy la persona entrevistada. (works for all genders)

Compare those cases to these:
Soy el o la entrevistado(a).
Soy el/la entrevistado/a

(These last two examples do not make much sense, the person (first person singular, in this case) should know which ending to use.)

Sol el mismo encuestado (soy la misma encuestada)
(not recommended)


Soy el(la) mismo(misma) encuestado(a)
(terrible to read, I rather speak another language or read another page at this point)!

Dora


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
Late reply Sep 26, 2004

....... the important thing here is the target language, and if it's EN, then it's generally accepted that gender bias is simply unacceptable, becuase the readers will expect non-gender bias. It would, in fact, be a bad mistake, to write EN with gender bias. Crude averages, the 'average reader' , at least 50% plus of the 'average readers', i.e. women, and probably a lot of men, would find it 'strange'.

I obviously cannot speak for other languages other than the single one I translate into (EN), but the whole issue of gender-free writing is very much the norm in the English language, and to introduce gender bias would, in fact, alienate readers, of that there is no doubt.

Other countries/languages will have different norms, and in many languages the notion of gender-free writing requires a much larger shift, whether culturally or in linguistic terms.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
reality! Sep 26, 2004

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

To change the meaning of a text in this way is a dangerous field. In order to know what the intention of the writer was one has to go back to the source text.


To acknowledge that both men (he) and women (she) can be doctors, to use a simple (and very traditional) example, does not change the 'meaning of a text, surely?! After all, authorship isn't THAT sacred that a writer can actually distort REALITY!

We are not talking about changing 'meaning', we KNOW that a male who wrote 20 years ago using 'he' to refer to all doctors -when there were many female doctors among the doctor population - was a product of his times.....

Take a scientific article about radium, dated say about 1960 or 1970, in which the male pronoun referred to all scientists... if questioned the writer would have acknowledged... 'well yes, in my text about radium, when I said 'he' I obviously did include Marie Curie......!'

[Edited at 2004-09-26 00:46]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
gender-free writing does not imply distortion Sep 26, 2004

Michael42 wrote:


She interpreted between English and Chinese and would translate a statement like:

\"The small business owner hired a new employee\"

as:

\"The capitalist exploiter bound a new person to a condition of servitude so that he could extract unearned profit while providing poor pay and working conditions\"


That is another issue Michael, I simply cannot see any gender bias in either of the sentences you quote. There seems to be distortion, but I don\'t know Chinese so I cannot judge. But gender bias is not the problem here, and gender-free writing does not necessarily imply distortion of meaning.


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Dora O'Malley  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:47
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good article about this issue: ¿Es sexista la lengua española? Oct 7, 2004

Tamara,

This is a good article about this subject.
I do not know if it has been translated. It states the difference between grammatical gender and sex in Spanish and talks about many misconceptions about gender and compares sexism in English and Spanish. The language of the "machos" is not as "machista" as people may think.


I think that each language has its own special way of dealing with gender equality. What works in English does not necessarily work in other languages because those languages may already have a system in place to avoid that problem, so the translator should not copy the English “solution” and impose it on another language.


You can read the article at:
http://www.medtrad.org/Panacea/IndiceGeneral/n3_GarciaMeseguer.pdf

Dora


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