Embracing Gender Inclusivity in Translation

Embracing Gender Inclusivity in Translation

Language is a powerful tool that shapes our perceptions and influences our interactions. In the realm of translation, the choice of words carries significant weight, particularly when it comes to gender inclusivity.

In this article, we delve into the importance of embracing gender inclusivity in translation, exploring challenges, innovative solutions, and actionable steps for language professionals to foster a more inclusive world.

The Challenge of Gender Inclusivity in Translation

We recently joined a call with a client who wanted to make their products more inclusive from a language perspective as well.

gender neutral

As many of you may know, for languages such as Italian this is a particularly difficult challenge. The Italian language defaults to masculine forms when addressing mixed-gender or unspecified groups: there is still no standard for effectively conveying gender neutrality, and the most common way therefore to do so is to rearrange sentences so that we do not have to express at all costs the gender of the person being referred to.

In short, this is a real challenge for many translators working with English as a source language, where a noun does not necessarily have a gender attached.

We were positively impressed that for this client, making their communications gender-neutral was a real priority.

Innovative Solutions: Breaking Gender Norms in Language

As we celebrate Pride Month, it is essential to reflect on the role of language in fostering inclusivity. In translation, gender-neutrality can make a significant impact. As language professionals, we have the power to either perpetuate stereotypes or promote inclusivity through our translations.

inclusive language

Language shapes our reality and influences our perceptions. In translation, failing to use gender-neutral language can reinforce harmful stereotypes and exclude non-binary individuals. The challenge of gender inclusivity in language extends beyond translation to how languages inherently structure gender.

For example, in Italian innovative solutions are emerging to address this issue. Some people are adopting the use of the schwa (ə) or an asterisk (*) to create gender-neutral words, like “studentə” or “student*”.

While these forms are not yet widely accepted or standardized, they represent a significant step towards more inclusive language practices.


Unveiling Bias: Gender Inclusivity in Machine Translation

If you are familiar with post-editing, you may have also noticed that Machine Translation (MT) systems often mirror societal biases present in their training data.

For instance, if you enter on a machine translation engine the phrase in English “The nurse completed the report”, you’ll probably get “L’infermiera ha completato la relazione” in Italian. Here, “L’infermiera” (nurse) is feminine, suggesting that nurses are female. Similarly, if you enter “The CEO gave an interview”, in French you might get “Le PDG a donné une interview.” “Le PDG” (the CEO) is masculine, implying that CEOs are male.

Addressing gender bias in MT is an ongoing process. Machine learning models must be trained on diverse datasets that reflect gender inclusivity. Additionally, collaboration between linguists, developers, and the wider community is essential to identify and rectify biases. By doing so, we can ensure that our translations are not only accurate but also inclusive and respectful of all gender identities.


Paving the Way for Inclusivity: Actionable Steps for Language Professionals

As language professionals, we can take several steps to ensure our translations are gender-neutral and inclusive. Awareness and continuous training are crucial; staying informed about gender-neutral language practices helps us refine our skills. Using inclusive terms whenever possible is also vital. Consulting style guides and resources that emphasize inclusivity in language is another effective approach. Furthermore, advocating for change within our professional circles can lead to broader adoption of an inclusive language in communications.

Gender-neutrality in translation is not just a linguistic preference but a social responsibility. By choosing inclusive language, we can create translations that respect all individuals, regardless of their gender identity.

This Pride Month, let us commit to making our translations more inclusive, ensuring that our words contribute to a more respectful world.

Happy Pride Month! Let’s celebrate diversity and inclusivity in all forms, including the language we use every day.

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