Inclusive or neutral language in translation

Published on 31/10/2022

As a translation agency we face a number of challenges on a daily basis. One of the most beneficial for society as a whole is to include each and every individual in society. How can we achieve this? With inclusive or neutral language.

1. More and more clients are requesting inclusive or language-neutral translations

The providers working with our translation agency limit themselves to translating the texts they receive from the clients with the needs they have for a the particular service. Sometimes, it may be possible to use synonyms if the language allows it, but in general the work consists of obtaining the same result in a different language in an accurate and correct way.

But what happens when a client asks for the translation of a text focused on a specific target group? As much as we want to include all possible readers of the various sentences we will translate, we have to stick to the order placed by the company or client who puts their trust in AbroadLink’s team.

If you notice, right in this last sentence we could have talked about "employee" or "manager" (which in other languages would have resulted in much greater differences than in English), but we chose "team" which makes it even more inclusive.

It’s obvious that in this new era, more and more companies are requesting this type of translation. But why? Firstly, by being aware of how important gender discrimination is. At the same time, these companies are aware that limiting their text to a specific audience may not resonate with other target audiences who may also be interested in their product or service.

2. The evolution of inclusive or neutral language in translation

Our translation company has undergone an evolution in the use of inclusive or neutral language when translating and when requested.

We have been making changes for years when translating from Spanish to English, German to Italian, or any other language requested. We deal with many languages, but how do we exactly achieve the results? Specifically, with an inclusive or neutral language that has little to do with the language of yesteryear.

You don't need to go back too far in time, to find the typical joker of using “Ladies and Gentlemen” to include everyone.. But what about the people who don’t not identify with any particular gender (non-binary)?

It was certainly important to include both men and women, but society had to go further to include everyone for real. Then society as well as companies started to apply a series of keys that created a new feeling of inclusivity to communicate with everybody.

3. Keys to translating with inclusive or neutral language

Perhaps the company placing an order with a translation agency targets its product or service to a gender particular audience. In these very specific cases, inclusive or neutral language may not make much sense, but in most situations it is very useful and beneficial for everyone. How can we apply that? It is not too difficult, if you use the following tips.

Try to replace the non-inclusive word with the neutral form: “the person”. For example, “in case you are tall” would become “in case you are a tall person”.

You can also choose to change the verb tense, transform the adverb into a noun or even replace adjectives with adverbs. We should also note, that there is another tip: instead of using singular, try to use the plural form. However, this last tip may not always include everyone because, in many languages, it is masculine.

In order to provide a varied text, we recommend to follow the tips described above. This way, the translation will be linguistically rich and all of us will feel included.

Other articles you may be interested in:

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

Add new comment