A Short Guide to Gender Inclusiveness in Italian Translations
This post was originally published at Mirta Boschetti Traduzioni. It is reposted with permission.
Do you wish for your Italian translations to be up-to-date and without fault when it comes to gender inclusiveness?
As you might already be aware, nowadays one of the most discussed issues in communication – and therefore translation – is the use of gender-inclusive language.
But while marketing content creators are every time more sensitive to the issue, gender neutrality is not always adopted for other types of texts, such as technical manuals, instruction guides, and the like. The issue, however, should be addressed in the translation process of such materials as well, especially when the target language presents different characteristics from the source language.
In this article, I intend to guide you through some of the most common pitfalls that I encounter in English to Italian translations that do not take into consideration gender inclusiveness, as well as what I believe to be the best practices to deliver gender-inclusive Italian translations.
Let’s have a look at some examples.
1. Welcome to our course!
❌ Benvenuto al corso!
✅ Ti diamo il benvenuto al corso.
The first sentence uses the masculine adjective “benvenuto”. This could be avoided by using “benvenuto” as a noun, which allows you to address a wider audience. It is also possible to use more recent and less recognised forms, such as “benvenut*” or “benvenutə“, but if you don’t like them, you can easily avoid them by resorting to the solution illustrated above.
Still, you should know that the gender-neutral translation in the example sounds less informal (there is a slight shift in the tone of voice), and that the use of * and ə is more and more frequent in Italian social media posts, blog articles, and newsletters. These forms, however, may encounter some problems when read out loud with electronic devices, as they don’t have an established pronunciation in Italian. The choice of which one to adopt will depend on a number of factors, including the type of content and the purpose of the text, as well as the brand’s tone of voice.
2. Employees, doctors, readers, clients, etc.
❌ I dipendenti, i dottori, i lettori, i clienti, ecc.
✅ Il personale, il personale medico, chi legge/chi ci legge, la clientela, ecc.
In Italy, we have been using the overextended masculine for a long time, and it is exactly what happens in the first translation: these are all masculine plural forms. On the other hand, the options given in the second translation are neutral: “personale” is a collective noun (meaning “staff/personnel”) and “chi” means “those who”.
It only takes a few minutes to rethink and transform the most direct translations to make them gender-inclusive, so that none feels excluded or hurt by your text.
Other solutions include repeating the noun both in its masculine and feminine form (“i lettori e le lettrici”, “i clienti e le clienti”) or using a slash to separate alternatives (“i/le clienti sono pregati/e di avviarsi verso l’uscita”). These solutions might be less elegant in marketing texts, but function quite well in more technical and formal documents.
3. Are you satisfied with your purchase?
❌ Sei soddisfatto del tuo acquisto?
✅ Il tuo acquisto ti soddisfa? / Hai apprezzato il tuo acquisto? / Ripensamenti? / Ci hai ripensato? / Abbiamo soddisfatto le tue aspettative?
In the first Italian translation, the problem is “soddisfatto”, which is masculine (you would say “soddisfatta” to a woman). All the other options are possible ways to address a client whose identity is unknown: some of them remain closer to the original and some depart from it. In this case, the choice should take into account the context: where does this sentence appear? Is it in the feedback section of an e-commerce? Is the customer thinking about returning the item purchased?
As you can see, there are numerous possibilities and solutions, and it is a translator’s job to find the most appropriate one for your needs. In order to be able to do so, however, translators and their clients should both be aware of what is expected from them in terms of gender inclusiveness.
Here are some suggestions about how to ensure things run smoothly when working on a gender-inclusive Italian translation.
#1 The power of a good briefing
After the first contact, it is paramount that the translator receives all the information needed in order to do the best job possible. This exchange of information usually takes place during a briefing session, which allows the translator to know better the client’s company, brand identity, communication style, and expectations.
At this stage, the translator should ask the client if they have any preferences regarding how to deal with gender inclusivity issues.
All translators should master their mother tongue, but language and writing need to be trained!
Translators undergo extensive training before and throughout their career, and a translator who followed specific training in inclusive language is more likely to spot gender-inclusive issues in your text and deal with them in the best way possible during the translation process.
This is important for both the original document and the translation. The source text should be consistent in its language choices, facilitating the translation into another language. However, the language professional in charge of the translation should also be very careful and adopt solutions which are consistent (for example, the use of * or ə) throughout the text.
There is much more to say about gender-inclusive language and its use in Italian translations, but I hope this short overview has encouraged you to take action, as well as given you a few tips to ensure your translations always look their best.
About the Author
Mirta Boschetti is a freelance English/French to Italian marketing translator and subtitler. Her areas of expertise include luxury goods and services, cosmetics, tourism, leisure, and the cultural industry. Find out more about her work and translation routine on Instagram and LinkedIn.