April 5, 2023

Translating Gender-Neutrality: An Interview with MS in Translation & Interpreting Faculty Member Roxana Dinu

How does gender-neutral language benefit us? 

It depends on how we define “us.” If we are talking about “us” in terms of human beings, it benefits us because by using gender-neutral language we can promote inclusiveness, non-discrimination, care and respect towards women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. If we define “us” in terms of providers of goods and services, it can benefit us because it gives us access to a much broader audience, including more numerous and diverse segments of the population.

Why is gender-neutral language important to translators? 

Gender-neutral language is important to translators on three levels: first because translators need to faithfully render not just the text, but also the message of the original text. Second, because, even if our clients are not requiring the use of gender-neutral language, we can start this dialogue with them, help them understand the benefit of using such language to broaden their target audience, and the difference it can make. Third, and maybe most important of all, translators’ work intrinsically acts as a bridge between cultures, so we need to be fully aware of the social and cultural differences between the languages we represent. This can be particularly meaningful in the context of gender-neutral, and inclusive language.

What role does gender-neutral language play in bringing about societal change? 

To answer this question, we need to go back to the broader question of whether society determines language or language determines society. There is certainly a two-way relationship between the two, because there is a constant interaction between language and society. As we know, language is a living thing and it changes along with the changes that take place in society. The use of gender-neutral language can definitely play a part in gaining more recognition for the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community, for them to be seen and heard. The daily use of certain terms shapes the way we perceive the world and brings about increased awareness, openness and acceptance of differences.

What is the greatest challenge to implementing gender-neutral language in everyday communication?

The greatest challenge is definitely “acceptance.” And when we talk about acceptance we have several tiers, namely: the legislative and regulatory bodies, the industry authorities and professional organizations, the linguistic authorities of each country and finally the users themselves (whether corporate entities or individuals). For gender-neutral language to become the norm, instead of the exception, all these tiers need to come together and accept and promote the use of gender-neutral language.

What do you hope for your students to gain from your research class in Translating Gender-Neutrality? 

First of all, awareness of this issue, which is a key issue at this point in time. Gender-neutral language is part of a bigger conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion, which is now taking place in different parts of the world and at different levels. Second, the ability to transpose this awareness into their linguistic approach to the texts they translate. Third, a practical set of best practices and strategies that they can use in their translation work. On a broader level, I hope my students, along with me, will gain a better understanding of how the use of gender-neutral language can benefit all people.

Roxana Dinu is a freelance translator, editor and conference interpreter for over 25 years, including 11 years spent working as a documentation specialist in the legal department of a French bank in New York. Her expertise is in legal/financial translation. She delivered various presentations at the ATA and NYU Translations Conferences.

She is former president and secretary of the New York Circle of Translators, and an active member of the American Translators Association, accredited for French into English translation. She taught French into English courses at NYU-SPS as part of the master’s program and the certificate program since 2002. These courses include: Commercial Translation I and II, Financial Translation I and II, Simultaneous Interpretation and the Capstone thesis course.

She is Deputy Language Chair of the Romanian ATA Certification Program. Member of the ATA Ethics Committee.

This semester she is teaching Special Topics: Translating Gender-Neutrality.

A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for PALA’s MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.


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