Feminine or masculine (or both)?

Gender issues have been tricky in many languages, especially those that differentiate between feminine and masculine, like Italian (great…) or French. When translating operation manuals, the user (almost) invariably becomes a male one in Italian.

I have been translating screenings and discussion guides aimed at healthcare professionals and the rule that can be drawn from previous entries in the TM is that everything becomes referred to male professionals. For examples, ‘oncologists’ becomes ‘oncologi’ (male) and not ‘oncologhe’ (female) and so on. Do female physicians feel excluded?

I have thought about pros and cons of using the masculine form only, here they are:


– You save on paper, ink, space and so on, as ‘degli oncologi’ (of the oncologists’ is definitely shorter than the more inclusive version ‘dele oncologhe/degli oncologi’, especially if you have a lot of those cases in a text.

– Employing the masculine form has become a convention which has lost any exclusive connotation.

– It is easier to read a text without several slashes (/) dotted around, especially if that piece of writing has to be read out.


– Since there has been a considerable effort in including women, languages (and therefore translations) should reflect this.

– Some women might feel excluded by the language and therefore be taken aback. In some caes this might affect survey answers, which is usually not what marketing and research experts want.

– There is no reason why the source text should be inclusive and its translation exclusive, i.e. mentioning men only.

Finally, I have never thought about talking to the client and ask if they apply the same language policy to other gender-sensitive languages such Spanish, but it would be nice to know how you have been addressing this issue with your clients and in your translations. Do you have any suggestions/experiences you would like to share?


About Chiara Vecchi

A blogging translator working from English and German into Italian. You are more than welcome to visit my blog https://squirreltranslations.wordpress.com!
This entry was posted in Culture, Translation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Feminine or masculine (or both)?

  1. I believe that in that case you should have asked your client about his gender policy. Since translation should reflect the author’s intent it seems to be the best thing to do. Then nobody can blame you for excluding women or too long text.

    • Thanks for your comment, Barbara! Maybe in the future I should always specify in advance to let me know about any gender policies the client has, just to avoid all this mental turmoil!

  2. Pingback: Weekly favorites (May 28-June 3) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

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