The Battle of the Sexes in Language?
Why Do Differences in Gender Matter in Translation Services?
Not all that long ago, there was a bestselling book entitled, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” We suspect you’ve probably read the stories in the media about the science behind the differences between men and women, and as the French might say, Vive le Différence!
Feminine and masculine
Every language has its own rules about content. While English is primarily gender neutral, many of the world’s languages assign specific gender to particular words. In French, the work “book” is “livre,” a feminine noun. In Spanish it is “libro,” a masculine noun. Why is there a difference and does it really matter?
To answer the second question, yes, it matters. If you want your audience to be confident in your work, you must ensure that the gender is correctly used in translated material. Linguistico translation services use native speakers so there is no doubt or question about proper gender application.
Why is there a difference? Things don’t really have masculine or feminine features, so how does one determine whether something is masculine or feminine?
Yin and Yang
Think about the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. The revered Chinese text I Ching teaches that within every male element (yang) there is a little female element (yin). The reverse is also true. It has to do with the energies within both genders. There is always, in every person and in all matter both masculine and feminine energy acting like the earth’s magnetic poles looking for balance. The masculine and feminine complement each other.
It’s not about boys and girls
Gender was originally not meant to be considered male and female the way we think of them; rather they were animate and inanimate, based on the energy the element produced and the attributes they have. From those original linguistic uses, language has evolved based on ancient patterns, and the modern usage flows as a complex system that takes years to master. For translation purposes, gender is not about men and women – or Mars and Venus – but about understanding each culture and its linguistic particularities.