ENG>DUT translations of gender-neutral or non-binary pronouns
Thread poster: Robert Kleemaier

Robert Kleemaier  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:15
Member (2004)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jul 3, 2017

Dear colleagues,

Earlier today I read the following article: www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34901704 (if the link doesn't work, google "Beyond 'he' and 'she': The rise of non-binary pronouns"). In it reference is made to linguistic accommodations being implemented at various American universities to make LGBTQ+ students accepted or feel more accepted.

Needless to say, this presents some linguistic challenges for translators. Has anyone come across this type of text already? If so, how did you deal with it? What is the current trend in the Netherlands & Flanders, Belgium for dealing with these neologisms?

I'm interested in receiving your feedback for back-translation reference purposes. It will help me to oversee future projects that are translated into my first foreign language & other projects (editing/proofreading) into my mother tongue.

I look forward to your reply.

Cheers,
R.

[Edited at 2017-07-03 21:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-07-03 21:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-07-03 22:36 GMT]


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 10:15
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
One rule? Jul 4, 2017

Very interesting article. I see some real difficulties with everyone choosing their own pronouns. That may work for internal university use but if you are not at that particular university and you don't know the person, how can you tell? Just like for everything else in a language, there should be a uniform rule, one designated set of pronouns for the LBGTQ community that we can all use (and translate), similar to the use of 'Ms.' for women, regardless of marital status. A language is not built on personal preferences, it is built on generally accepted terms.

As things stand now, it looks like everyone, including translators, can solve the problem any way they want to. I think if I came across this situation, I would start by using the person's proper name as much as possible and then I would use they, them, their, since that seems to be one of the more popular options at this time. But as always, it also depends on what the client wants.


 

Robert Kleemaier  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:15
Member (2004)
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Linguistic chaos? Jul 4, 2017

Good points, Tina. Unfortunately, this is tantamount to tyranny by a linguistic minority. The rules of the English language took centuries for people to agree on, and even then it's been a hodgepodge of different elements, more so than in, say, Dutch or German. What's more, the meaning of foundations of the English language like its pronouns cannot IMHO be unilaterally altered, and certainly not to such an extent. (After all these years, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around using "they" instead of "he" or "she" and prefer to avoid this issue entirely by moving to the plural where possible.) Such a linguistic decision by universities to accommodate the personal preferences of an extremely small percentage of society, however laudable that might be from a human-rights perspective, is problematic at best and runs the risk of a backlash at worst. It will be interesting to see whether this ends up being a blip on the radar of English-language history ("eendagsvlieger") or has staying power.

As regards the translation thereof, I see more problems than solutions here. That being said, the proposed solution of "Mx." is interesting, but the rest could still easily lead to linguistic chaos. At this rate we will inevitably get to a point where we're going to be chewed out by and/or lose a client because we've offended somebody in their circle of friends/acquaintances/family/colleagues. Even worse, we could increase our liability exposure depending on the target audience. Can you imagine trying to incorporate something like this in a legal text, especially one that has to be certified? Just wow.

[Edited at 2017-07-04 17:58 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-07-04 18:00 GMT]


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:15
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
If not he or she, its "it" Jul 5, 2017

Fortunately we in Finland don't have that problem, because all persons are "hän". In Swedish they try to introduce "hen": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hen_(pronoun)

 

Robert Kleemaier  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:15
Member (2004)
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Finnish & Swedish efficiency Jul 5, 2017

Hi Heinrich,

Thanks for your feedback. Whereas "it" is, technically speaking, an option in English, that particular pronoun has to my recollection never been used in a widespread manner to define a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Not that I've studied it much, more of a gut feeling on my part. By comparison, Finnish & Swedish are simply much more efficient in this regard.


 


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ENG>DUT translations of gender-neutral or non-binary pronouns

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