Featured Article: “How language lessons transcend gender binaryBy Molly Lipson
Many languages, including Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic, use binary pronouns, such as he / she and male / female, which means that other gender identities are not officially recognized in these languages.
In this lesson, you will learn about teachers who find ways to make the expression of gender identity in all languages more inclusive. Then you will see which neutral pronouns and vocabulary are available in a language you are learning.
Do you speak or have you ever studied a Romance language such as Spanish, French or Italian? What about Hindi, Arabic or Hebrew?
If so, you know everyone uses gender as the basis for their names – and the male form is the norm.
So, for example, the masculine “todos”, which means “everyone”, is used in Spanish to address people in a group regardless of their gender at events such as conferences or official speeches. . And the presence of a single man in an otherwise feminine group tends to entrust the gender of that group to the masculine.
Have you ever noticed this? Does it bother you? This is just one problem that you will read about in this article.
In the language (s) you speak, what pronouns exist? In your opinion, how inclusive is this language for people who identify both within and beyond the gender binary? Why?
Questions for writing and discussion
Before reading the article, if you want to better understand some of the terms you will find there, check out this list of “The ABCs of LGBTQIA +” on the language used to discuss gender identity and sexuality.
Then read the article, and answer the following questions:
1. How does Tal Janner-Klausner approach the fact that Hebrew is a language with binary pronouns? How do they bring this conversation to their classroom?
2. “As societies that speak gendered languages have become more open to nonconforming identities, native speakers have devised mechanisms to remove or avoid the gender element of words,” writes the author of this article. But the language course schedule is often lagging behind. Why could it be? Have you ever encountered problems like this in the language courses you have taken?
3. What is the history of pronouns they or they and them referring to the third person singular in English? Do you or others you know they they pronouns? Do the communities you are a part of generally accept these pronouns?
4. How does masculinity dominate many languages? What is your reaction to the fact that masculine is the default in many languages when speaking to groups of people, even when there is only one man in the group?
5. How did Louis Moffa’s understanding of his gender identity change as he learned Italian? How Mx. Does Moffa approach it in a language learning environment?
6. What are some of the linguistic developments that Kris Knisely introduced to his French students, and what effect did these teachings have on them?
seven. What is your reaction to Agnès M.’s experience in Spanish class? What do you think their Spanish teacher could do to make sure they are able to express themselves fully in class?
8. Finally, now that you’ve read this article, what do you think? How important is it for teachers to introduce their students to non-sexist or inclusive vocabulary in language learning lessons? Which examples in the article do you think offer the best ways to do this?
Have you always felt that you could easily express your gender identity in any language you speak or learn? To what extent have your language teachers used gender-neutral or inclusive vocabulary?
If this article is fair and the language course curriculum lags behind how native speakers navigate gendered words and phrases, maybe with a little research you can help.
First, choose a language, whether you study at school or speak at home. Next, research its use of gendered language, as well as new developments native speakers have made using gender neutral pronouns or other types of inclusive language. (To get started, you can check out these guides and videos in French, Hebrew, and Spanish. To find more languages, you can search online for “gender neutral pronouns” in a specific language, or do a keyword search. on TikTok or Instagram. If possible, you may also consider interviewing native speakers of this language.)
Next, make a list of several suggested ways to update the curriculum to include more gender inclusive language. If you do this as part of a language class, you can then share your findings with your classmates and your teacher, and together decide which one to adopt for your class.
Learn more about the Daily Lesson here and find all of our daily lessons in this column.