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His/Her/Their
Thread poster: Lorraine Bathurst

Lorraine Bathurst
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 2, 2009

What do people think about choosing pronouns.

For example 'the spectator tries to get his/her/their bearings'

I am trying to stay faithful to the original becuse the structure of the text is like walking around an art gallery.
If I choose 'he or she' (as in the original text) I force it to become a gender issue where I have consciously made a decision to choose one or the other. 'Their', while becoming more acceptable sounds clumsly and ungrammatical especially for a text that will be published in a catalogue. I could make spectators/visitors plural - but then that takes away the feel of addressing individuals as to en masse groups.
Turning it into the passive all the time is also a bit dull and longwinded to read.
Asking the client is not really appropiate becuase they cannot correctly identify how the English speaking countries are affecfed by gender issues.
What do others do?


 

Paulo Eduardo - Pro Knowledge  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:52
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
use.. Aug 2, 2009

Are "the user; the logger; the technician; the engineer; the mechanic; the driver, etc."acceptable?

[Edited at 2009-08-02 09:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-08-02 09:59 GMT]


 

chica nueva
Local time: 11:52
Chinese to English
a similar thread? Aug 2, 2009

http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/110906-singular_use_of_the_word_they_their_in_english.html

[Edited at 2009-08-03 00:04 GMT]


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:52
Portuguese to English
+ ...
His/Her/Their Aug 2, 2009

Dear Lorraine,

I always use "his or her" when I translate.
"A/The spectator tries to get his or her bearings" is better than "his/her bearings".

If you don't like the gender issue, use a plural form:

"Spectators try to get their bearings".

I hope this helps.

PAUL


 

Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
Italian to English
+ ...
Complex debate! Aug 2, 2009

I had exactly this problem when translating texts for an art catalogue! I also had to think long and hard about what to use. The two points which you are already aware of are:

1) if you use "their" it feels as if you are taking away some of the poetic feel from the text

2) if you use "his/her" you are still adding to the gender issue that we are trying so hard to change!

I had a couple of friends studying sociolinguistics and gender and their view was that even though "their" doesn't sound very good right now, we need to change this view and keep using it so it becomes normal to hear it and in 10 years time maybe it won't sound so strange to use it and the gender issue here for possessive pronouns may be solved...

I would agree with Paul who says that "his or her bearings" sounds much better than "his/her". "Their" may not sound so good now, but it may in a few years' time! There are so many other aspects of the English language (nouns, grammar, forms of expression) that you have to change as times change, as perceptions of the world change, as new issues come to light. And this is another of those which needs a solution and this solution needs to be introduced if it is not there already.


 

Tina Colquhoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:52
Member (2005)
Danish to English
+ ...
Unbelievable approach Aug 2, 2009

>I had a couple of friends studying sociolinguistics and gender and their view was that even though "their" doesn't sound very good right now, we need to change this view and keep using it so it becomes normal to hear it and in 10 years time maybe it won't sound so strange to use it and the gender issue here for possessive pronouns may be solved... <

So what your friends are saying is that we need to repeat what is wrong so many times that it becomes right?

I wonder how many other spheres of life they'd like to apply that loathsome principle to...

Tina


 

Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:52
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
One solution Aug 2, 2009

These things have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but more often than not I switch the whole thing into the plural: "The spectators try to get their bearings."

However, sometimes only the singular will do (for style or clarity). In those cases I either use "his or her" or find a way to recast the sentence and avoid using a pronoun.


 

Lorraine Bathurst
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
no right or wrong Aug 2, 2009

Tina Colquhoun wrote:
<

So what your friends are saying is that we need to repeat what is wrong so many times that it becomes right?

I wonder how many other spheres of life they'd like to apply that loathsome principle to...

Tina


Well technically as we have no governing body in English telling us what is right or wrong then if something is used often enough it becmes 'right' or at least goes into the OED which is I guess as right as we can have. The original rules applied to the English language were designed for Latin and forced to apply - not always vey well - to English. While I cannot use their'' in this context because it is a professional formal document and I want a sing/plural concordance - I certainly do use it in informal and spoken English. TEFL books for advanced students will tell you the same.


 

Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:52
Portuguese to English
+ ...
"Loathsome"? Aug 2, 2009

Tina Colquhoun wrote:



>I had a couple of friends studying sociolinguistics and gender and their view was that even though "their" doesn't sound very good right now, we need to change this view and keep using it so it becomes normal to hear it and in 10 years time maybe it won't sound so strange to use it and the gender issue here for possessive pronouns may be solved... <

So what your friends are saying is that we need to repeat what is wrong so many times that it becomes right?

I wonder how many other spheres of life they'd like to apply that loathsome principle to...

Tina


This is the way language evolves. It is a living, not a static thing. Many, many words have become acceptable which were previously considered incorrect. What's so "loathsome" about that?


 

RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:52
German to English
Check out Language Log Aug 2, 2009

Lorraine,

I think you'll find that singular they/their/them are now quite widely accepted by intelligent, educated people who steer clear of the prescriptivist "grammar nazi" school of English pedantry. Depends on the context, of course.

I suggest you check out the posts on this subject at Language Log (which should in any case be a frequent reference resource for all translators into English). See e.g. the July 25th post "Against atheyism":

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1601

which also points out not only that the singular they/their/them is used throughout the canon of English literature, it's even used in the KGV.

It's certainly coming back into educated usage, and so much more elegant than the clumsy "he or she", "his or her", "him or her", etc. I certainly use it in financial/legal translations wherever possible, rather than resorting to artificially long alternative constructs. There again, I'm the sort of person who thinks that "Strunk & White is full of shite"....

icon_smile.gif

Robin


 

Lutz Molderings  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:52
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
evolving language Aug 2, 2009


There are so many other aspects of the English language (nouns, grammar, forms of expression) that you have to change as times change, as perceptions of the world change, as new issues come to light.


I certainly agree that language evolves, but I would argue that the majority of changes to the English language is unnecessary and a result of grammatical ignorance and a mental laxity underlying one's choice of words.
All too often a change is made (and becomes acceptable) which deprives us of a useful word or blurs useful distinctions of meaning.

When a change, or rather error, can be defined in grammatical terms, the issue is generally as much a matter of common sense offended as of grammatical rules broken: straight thinking nurtures grammatical accuracy. The two are inextricably bound together. If what is going on in our heads is indisciplined by the basic logic which we call common sense, then the discipline of grammar will be lost too.


[Edited at 2009-08-03 07:14 GMT]


 

Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 18:52
Spanish to English
This may seem like a silly question but Aug 2, 2009

What is the usage?

This is not a new problem by any stretch of the imagination, it must have been around at least since the sixties when it ceased to be common to assume the gender of the third person in question.

I feel a bit stupid not having done an analysis of how this is being treated in real writing and speech, but I know from experience you can use so much "He/she" reads "his/her book" because everything becomes totally unreadable.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Could you change to the second person? Aug 2, 2009

Lorraine B wrote:

For example 'the spectator tries to get his/her/their bearings'

I am trying to stay faithful to the original becuse the structure of the text is like walking around an art gallery.


In this particular context, you could perhaps say "You, as the spectator, try to get your bearings".

Impossible to say whether this would work for the whole text, but it could personalise the content - we and you are generally better than the third person if you want to sell something.


 

Jurate Janaviciute  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
English to Lithuanian
What about "one, one's"? Aug 2, 2009

When I was just studying English, I remember using "one" or "one's". And I remember myself thinking that it was a wonderful solution for gender issues! But my knowledge might very well be outdated. Is this pronoun ever used?

 

Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:22
German to English
Motivated Grammar Aug 3, 2009

RobinB wrote:
I suggest you check out the posts on this subject at Language Log (which should in any case be a frequent reference resource for all translators into English).


Motivated Grammar is another useful and interesting grammar blog, although I don't know whether its owner, Gabe Doyle, has touched on this particular issue yet.

http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/

Check it out, anyway. You'll find lots of insights into English grammar and usage.

[Edited at 2009-08-03 00:45 GMT]


 
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