The city government of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has banned the use of “gender-neutral” language in the education system. The move came after officials discovered some schools were replacing commonly used words with new variations and made-up terms that cannot be pronounced.
Instead of “amigos”, the Spanish word for “friends”, some Spanish speakers use “amigues”. Instead of “todos” or “all”, some write “todxs”. And some signs that would say “bienvenidos”, or “welcome”, now say “[email protected]”
Spanish is a gendered language spoken by half a billion people around the world. Academics and politicians have said the changes degrade their language and violate language rules. French, Italian and Portuguese also have gendered grammatical rules.
Argentina appears to be the first country to draw a line in the sand, with Peru, Mexico and Brazil also considering proposals to do the same.
Predictably, trans activists were upset and said the language changes were needed to promote inclusivity. Education Minister Soledad Acuña said it was not a ban because “the language itself is neither more nor less inclusive, it all depends on how people use it. use”.
On the same day the rule was introduced, Ms Acuña said, the ministry released several guides on how to be inclusive using traditional Spanish grammar. They suggest, for example, to write “los/as estudiantes” or to use neutral words like “personas” or “people”.
Some parents and teachers applauded the rule. Gender-neutral language “isn’t even that inclusive,” said Vanina María Casali, principal of an elementary school in Palermo, an upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires. “In our school there are children who have learning difficulties, and such language makes it even more difficult for them to learn.”
Ms Salvarezza added that it is plausible that gender-neutral language could complicate learning. “There’s no way to create a syllable in Spanish with the ‘x’ or the ‘@’ because they’re not vowels,” she said. “It might confuse young children.”
Binary spokesperson Kirralie Smith said words and meanings matter.
“Language is important in civil society. Time-honored meanings and expressions are necessary for harmony in society,” she said.
“Activists who want to commandeer words to promote their own political ideology sow discord and division.
“It is unnecessary and harmful, especially for the development of children. To violate the rules of a language is to go too far.