How to Translate Gender Without Causing Offence

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If you’re looking to learn a language, and you’re worried about offending someone by using the wrong pronouns, don’t worry – there are ways to use gender-neutral language in your translations. Some languages, like Turkish, Bengali, and Japanese, don’t have a gendered language, and so you can simply use ‘he/him’ when you translate from one of these languages to another.

Languages that have gendered language

When translating from one language to another, gender is a major concern. Some languages do not use gendered language, while others use a mix of male and female terms for the same thing. The most common of these situations are job descriptions. In German, a teacher is either a male or female teacher, while Portuguese and Spanish professors use ‘professor’ or ‘professora’ respectively. In these cases, you need to ensure that your translation does not cause offence and does not use a language that does not follow the same gender norm as the language you are translating into.

The term gender is problematic, with several overlapping definitions. The word gender comes from the Latin genus and Greek genos, and many languages have complex morphosyntactic classification systems for nouns. Other languages have numerical human/nonhuman classification systems for gender. And, in some languages, gender is a social construction. In a study by Hellinger and Bussman (2001), researchers investigated how language gender is represented in thirty different languages. While this research did not include Hungarian, other countries such as Turkish and Finnish do have gendered language.

Using male pronouns in Google Translate

When you use the Google Translate function, you may notice that the translations are largely skewed towards male pronouns. For example,’she’ is likely to be used for domestic chores while ‘he’ is likely to be used for intellectual pursuits. This problem was discovered by the social media user Dora Vargha, who tweeted the image below.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can use male pronouns in Google Translate with any impunity. There is still a pronounced gender bias, so using “he” or “she” in Google Translate can be problematic for many women. But luckily, Google has made changes to improve the translations and remove the gender bias that may cause offence.

Using -person as a gender-neutral alternative to -man

Changing how you address people can make your sentences more inclusive and avoid causing offence. The gender-neutral pronoun -person can be used as a gender-neutral alternative to ‘-man’, without causing offence. Gender nonconforming students may increase in number and may identify as female, male, a combination of both, or neither. They may also prefer pronouns like Zie or Hir.

Using -person in Hungarian

Using -person in Hungarian when translating gender is not as easy as you might think. Gender ideology, which advocates accepting transgender people as legitimate members of society, has made the political climate in Hungary a hotbed of racial, gender and social ills. The Hungarian government is particularly homophobic, and its propaganda machines seek to demonize and degrade all non-heterosexual identities. In fact, homosexuality is often seen as the equivalent of migration problems. Several EU norms are seen by some as detrimental to Hungarian values and imposed from outside.

The most common mistake made by Hungarian speakers is using the aorist form of “woman” to describe a man. In fact, this form of the pronoun is rarely used in English, despite the fact that gender is the only gender in the Hungarian language. Using -person in Hungarian to translate gender without offence is an essential skill in any language.

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