You’ll have noticed already that we’ve introduced high confidence segments onto the interface. These are segments that we’re confident are correct. However, we know that one of the biggest problems with this is that some of these segments either have some mistakes in them or don’t work with the context of the text as a whole.
Your job when working with segments is to do two things: make sure that the segment is a) completely correct and b) works in any context. One of the main issues with the latter can be grammatical gender, so let’s take a look at what this could mean.
As you probably know, English is unusual across the languages that we work with in that it doesn’t have any grammatical gender markings in everyday use. This isn’t an issue with objects (e.g. in French la clé/le secret - the key/the secret) but it can be an issue when talking about people as there may be no choice but to make that information explicit, which will be a problem because when an editor goes to work on a task with that segment in it because they won’t be able to edit it.
For example, in the phrase “my friend is happy”, we don’t know the gender of the person that the word “friend” refers to, or the gender of the person speaking. But the same sentence translated to other languages may need to make some or all of that information explicit.
As you know, Unbabel translates customer service interactions between an agent and a customer, so it’s common for these issues to arise.
Since in segments tasks you’re asked to translate individual segments from these conversations, you won’t have information on gender or number. Where possible, you should work to provide a translation that is completely neutral and can be used in any context.
There are two types of markers to watch out for:
- Words referring to animate entities (the agent, the client, or a third person being talked about)
- Pronouns referring to inanimate entities where the original entity is not explicit, for example “I sent it to you”.
It might seem like this is difficult, but there are plenty of tricks that can help. Take a look at the following examples:
Example 1: Hello Lucy, my name is Sandra and I’ll be assisting you today.
Example 2: Hello Lucy, I’ll be happy to help you.
Example 3: Can you please ask your colleagues for help?
Example 4: Can you please send it?
Example 1 is the ideal situation. You know the gender of both the speaker and the addressee, so you already know all the gender markers you’ll need to use, if applicable.
Example 2 is a bit tougher. Although you know the gender of the person who’s being addressed, you don’t know the speaker’s. This may cause problems in some languages, but there are usually ways around it.
For example, if we were translating this into French it would require gender markers if we translate it directly. However, it’s perfectly possible to translate this in a way that’s neutral.
EN: Hello Lucy, I’ll be happy to help you.
FR: Bonjour Lucy, je suis heureux de vous aider. ✘
FR: Bonjour Lucy, c’est avec plaisir que je vais vous aider. ✓
In the first example, “heureux” is the masculine form, so by translating it this way we’ve made an assumption that the writer is male and the text is therefore no longer gender-neutral. In the second, we’ve avoided adjectives pertaining to the speaker and produced a gender neutral variation which is of equivalent quality and meaning to the first.
To see more examples on how to produce context-independent sentences, take a look at this article.
Example 3 is quite a bit harder. You’ve got quite a few things that might need gender markers and no information to work with, and it will depend on the language.
However, one thing to be aware of in particular is that you should never use dual or mixed gender forms such as the examples below. This is because they are rarely standardised and can cause quality issues.
DE: Liebe KollegInnen
PT: o/a cliente/a
Example 4 refers to the second type of marker - inanimate objects. In a lot of languages, this may not be an issue all the time, but in some it may be impossible to translate this in a context-independent way.
EN: Can you please send it?
PT: Pode enviá-lo por favor? ✘
In Portuguese, for example, it will be very difficult to translate this in a gender-neutral way.
If you have exhausted all other options and cannot create a context-independent translation because it would involve heavy rephrasing or because it simply can’t be done, choose a generic, masculine translation and select the “context-dependent” checkbox.
Here is a flowchart to help you with the process: