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Lady or gentleman?
Thread poster: AlisaIWW
AlisaIWW
United States
Russian to English
+ ...
Oct 9, 2009

Here is one for you, um, ladies and gentlemen: I presume that most of us communicate with our clients/agencies mainly through e-mail or chats, rarely over the phone. So you get this e-mail with a job offer from a country of which you have little knowledge. It is in perfect English, but the first name of the client/contact person is totally foreign to you, and you have no way of knowing if the person is a man or a woman. Of course you can get around this at first by going informal and using the person's first name, but some time after some sort of a business relationship is established this missing little bit of information can become a problem. Not a huge one, obviously, but still. Any ideas?

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Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 19:36
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Something I've tried in the past Oct 9, 2009

Hi Alisa,
I know what you mean, I had that problem once myself.
What I did was use Google Images. I just googled the first name, and looked at the results
Of course, this only worked because it was probably a common name.
Have a nice weekend!
Laureana


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 23:36
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Ask the client? Oct 9, 2009

Or you could write Mr. or Mrs. in your correspondence, and then perhaps the client would chose to correct you

Depending on the client, of course, I would prefer to simply ask.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:36
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Dear Sir or Madam, Oct 10, 2009

Or you could take the old formal route and use this.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:36
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A Google image search on the first name and the country Oct 10, 2009

That's what I try first. If it does not work, I follow Jack's route with "Dear Sir or Madam". You can also simply say "Dear Japhamaluni," using the first name.

If I was to search whether Japhamaluni is a female or male and I know that this person is from Fiji, just as an example, in Google I would do a search for

Japhamaluni site:.fj

(.fj is the country domain code for Fiji) And then I would click Images in Google to see what comes out. If each and all people in the pictures are male or all female, you can more or less safely use that information in your communications.

I have to use this method very frequently with my Nordic customers, specially Finnish ones. My Spanish instinct would assign the wrong gender to about 50% of the people!


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:36
Member
French to English
+ ...
Google, or even Proz.com Oct 10, 2009

Although I've never committed a blunder that I'm aware of, I did once find out after over a year of ongoing communication that one of my customers was male when I had assumed all along that he was a woman...

Now, if I'm unsure I generally Google the name and try to find examples (or images) and go from there. If you're really stumped, you could probably check with colleagues here at Proz.com - someone's bound to know!

Good luck,
Jocelyne


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Oleksandr Kupriyanchuk  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 00:36
Russian to English
+ ...
Names (M vs FEM) can be deceptive. The case of Alex :) Oct 10, 2009

Let alone China, Singapore, Fiji (the example above) etc.

My staff was dealing via email - for a couple of months, with an invoice paid! - with "ALEX," a client's PM.

He firmly believed Alex was a man, until we learnt (in a phone conversation, then in person) SHE was a pretty woman.

It came as quite a nice surprise to me

What a pity we do not work with HER anymore...






[Edited at 2009-10-10 10:13 GMT]


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Suzanne Smart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:36
Italian to English
+ ...
Omit the name or phone them Oct 10, 2009

Googling images is a great idea but it's not 100%. For example Hilary which is my mother's name. People don't generally think she's a man but you do get the odd male Hilary in the UK. I think Hilary is male in Australia as well (?). Having said that, if you were a man called Hilary I'm sure plenty of people would make the mistake.
You could avoid it by simply ommitting the name, e.g: starting your email, "Hi there, just checking which TM to use...". Although in other languages that may be more difficult.
Or invent a reason to phone them - see if they have a male or female voice! ;o)


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AlisaIWW
United States
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all! Oct 10, 2009

It's nice to know I am not the only one facing this. Like I said, it's not a huge problem, but still, if I go the formal route (Sir or Madam), I sound too formal for my liking and give away my confusion. It's just that I know from experience that people can be very sensitive about their gender image. BTW, Pcovs, you might want to avoid 'Mrs' and use 'Ms' instead, as the former implies a married woman, and some people can be touchy about that too, believe it or not - sorry if you knew that already:-)

I really like the google-image suggestion, surprised I didn't think of it myself. No, nothing ever works 100%, but at least if I do make a blunder I'll know I did my best to avoid it. Thank you all again, a great forum.


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B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:36
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Avoiding the problem Oct 10, 2009

If after googling the name I am still unsure, I avoid the problem by writing
"Dear Joe Bloggs," or whatever their name is. At least it is personal, unlike Sir or Madam.


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xxxblomguib  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:36
English to Flemish
+ ...
L.S. Oct 10, 2009

I have always found a way around this problem by using "L.S." (lectori salutem)....don´t know why I started with this, but that is my standard practice at the moment

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Oleksandr Kupriyanchuk  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 00:36
Russian to English
+ ...
"DEAR" etc. usually does have (F/M/...) GENDER... Oct 10, 2009

B D Finch wrote:

... I avoid the problem by writing
"Dear Joe Bloggs," or whatever their name is. At least it is personal, unlike Sir or Madam.



... in most languages -- in contrast to English.

But you won't be get caught


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AlisaIWW
United States
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just to reiterate, Oct 10, 2009

my question doesn't really apply to the initial response, the ways around the potential initial blunder are pretty straightforward, as suggested by many here. My problem is a little bit further into the business relationship. Not that it happened to me yet, but I was just the other day approached by an agency where the contact person's first name had me stumped, and I started thinking 'what if?':-) When I first posted this I was thinking along the lines of some international first-names encyclopedia or something (which would be kind of neat in and of itself), but Google Images sounds like a great idea.

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Zamira*****  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:36
Member (2006)
English to Uzbek
+ ...
Facebook Oct 10, 2009

AlisaIWW wrote:

Of course you can get around this at first by going informal and using the person's first name, but some time after some sort of a business relationship is established this missing little bit of information can become a problem. Not a huge one, obviously, but still. Any ideas?


Alisa, you can look them up on Facebook.


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AlisaIWW
United States
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Zamira: Oct 10, 2009

Yes, FB is also a good idea. I guess a person's FB profile would pop up on Google anyway, as would LinkedIn. Although many people on FB only disclose info (including a picture) to "friends", it would make less sense for someone who's there for business purposes in the first place. Thanks:-)

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