Assumptions Regarding Gender

Assumptions Regarding Gender  | One Hour Translation

Something that we see so often in translations to the English language is the common use of male generic pronouns when referring to a specific person, or even just referring generally to people.

Something that we see so often in translations to the English language is the common use of male generic pronouns when referring to a specific person, or even just referring generally to people.

Today, in this so-called modern world of ours where, in most countries, gender equality is a given, it’s not normally acceptable to refer to the general you or their as the masculine he – similar to other cases like where spokesman should actually be spokesperson, unless of course you’re referring to a specific person. It’s not acceptable these days to refer to doing things his way and mankind: these days are long behind us. The word man was once used to refer to all humans but today we used humankind or humanity, and man is generally reserved for male adults.

Gender Equality Policies in Business

Gender equality policies are quite strict in many companies, and it may be considered offensive or improper to submit a document referring to ‘the client’, like: ‘he should determine his marketing strategy as best suits him’. Instead, you should use gender-neutral pronouns like they and them.

A Confusing Topic for Native Speakers

But when translating from Spanish, where su refers to both females and the males, this topic can be a very frustrating and confusing one for native Spanish speakers: equally confusing as the gender-labelling of every object in the Spanish language for English speakers!

Just to clarify what we mean here; when translating su where it refers to a person in general, use the word their. When referring to a company or an object use the word it’s. And if you believe it’s more appropriate to use she/he instead of they - or her/his instead of their - then it’s appropriate to mix it up and put his and her if you believe it suits.

If you’re translating a document and you’re still confused about whether to use chairman or chairperson, or his or her, simply communicate with your client to determine what their gender policy is. As we’ve mentioned many times before, communication is the key to successful translation projects. If you have any questions at all regarding a translation project you’re working on, you should contact your client and discuss your queries.