3 challenges you can face when using inclusive language
Updated: Sep 27
June is the LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and now that it’s coming to an end, I’m taking a look at three challenges you can face when you want to use inclusive language in your translation.
Writing inclusive texts may become a hard task, especially when your target audience speaks a language that makes it difficult to avoid some sort of exclusion due to its grammatical rules.
While there are languages that are grammatically genderless, such as Armenian, Bengali, Persian, Turkish, Georgian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (just to name a few), others have different degrees of gender representation.
Some languages lack grammatical gender but have a pronominal gender system. For example, in English, gender is represented in the pronouns – he/him, she/her. Then, many others have a strong gender system, where you can find gender markers in almost every other word (e.g., pronouns, adjectives). Portuguese is one of these languages.
Although the task of writing gender-inclusive texts may have different levels of difficulty, depending on what language you are writing in or translating into, it’s possible – and recommended –to produce gender-neutral contents. But, not without a few challenges…
Let’s dive into three of them:
Gender-neutral language aims at being inclusive and avoiding omissions in a way that can make some individuals invisible. However, keeping the text gender-neutral may be harder to do in some languages than in others. Some languages, such as Portuguese, cast the male form of nouns and adjectives as the generic norm, keeping women from being visible.
The term non-binary applies to a person who does not identify as "male" or "female". That being said, some people prefer being addressed using the “they/them” pronouns rather than the feminine or masculine pronouns. However, this is not as simple in other languages as it is in English.
In languages where gender markers go beyond pronouns, using non-binary language can become a challenge (sometimes a rather big one) if you are not aware of acceptable and respectful ways to do it.
3. Don’t be a hater (even if not intentionally)
Recognizing and avoiding stereotypes might seem something easy to achieve, especially if you consider yourself an open-minded, unprejudiced individual. Well, sometimes you mean well, but may end up offending someone or some groups. To avoid this, remember to always ask how someone wants to be addressed, but without being too intrusive into their privacy. For example, asking a transgender person questions like “What was your male/female name?” or “Which bathroom do you use in a public space?” is a big no-no.
Whether it’s for your website or product information, you want a translation that is as inclusive as the original text. A translator who is familiar with the inclusive language rules of the target language will come in very handy because they will make sure that your content addresses your audience in an accurate and respectful way
About the author:
Ana Catarina is an English to Portuguese translator specialized in Healthcare and Marketing. She helps foreign companies to launch their brand and products in the Portuguese market by translating, localizing and transcreating their client-targeted contents to make them appealing to the Portuguese public.