Gender-inclusive writing: Guidelines for translating from French

Section: Inclusive writing

Go to the main page of this section: Inclusive writing – Guidelines and resources.

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Introduction: Gender inclusivity and translation

The French language presents a different set of challenges and solutions for gender-inclusive writing. Sometimes, this can create ambiguities for translators working with both of Canada’s official languages.

Translating text about non-binary individuals

When you’re writing about a non-binary individual, note that they may use pronouns in English and French that do not completely correspond. For example, some individuals may prefer the pronouns “they” and “them” in English but choose to use il or elle in French. Likewise, use of the common French neopronoun iel does not always signify that an individual will use the common English gender-inclusive pronoun “they.” Remember to ask and follow the lead of the person in question.

However, when you’re not certain which pronouns an individual uses in English, the safest approach to translating iel or other neopronouns will generally be to employ the gender-inclusive “they.”

French sentence Inclusive translation
Iel a fondé son entreprise en Nouvelle-Zélande en 1994. They founded their business in New Zealand in 1994.
C’est alors qu’iel a commencé à réfléchir à son identité comme personne non binaire. It is then that they started to reflect on their non-binary identity.
Aujourd’hui, iel milite pour les droits des personnes non binaires partout dans le monde. Today, they promote the rights of non-binary people throughout the world.
« Comment s’est déroulé votre vol? », demanda-t-iel. “How was your flight?” they asked.

Translating other gender-inclusive text

In French, some sentences about non-binary individuals may avoid the use of pronouns. When the subject’s gender is unclear in the original French sentence, the gender-inclusive “they” is a strong tool for effective translation. However, you may also choose to apply other gender-inclusive writing techniques.

Additional information

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© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement
A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada

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