METM23 presentation

Going beyond inclusive language: an introduction to liberation through communication

Begoña Martínez-Pagán, Murcia, Spain

Even though they fall short of the mark when implemented in isolation, language reforms and language change have always been pivotal to society’s evolution, as they are at once the result of and toolkit for achieving a fairer, more just, and inclusive world. This talk will explore the role of translation and interpreting in promoting equity-based and inclusive communication, and discuss ethical concerns related to community-based language changes and their potential contributions to liberating oppressed humans – including ourselves.

First, we will briefly discuss the basics of intersectional views of the human experience and how to effectively communicate freedom, justice, and respect for everyone’s human rights, especially across different languages. We will examine the evolution of scientific findings that demonstrate the positive impact of these reforms on various aspects of society such as health, education, employment, and political representation, while also considering their pitfalls and costs.

Some forces require us to be invisible and neutral as translators and editors. This talk will showcase practical examples of communication strategies and techniques in English, Spanish, and other languages that provide useful insights and help challenge normative biases. While not exhaustive, the list of biases we will cover includes gender, sexual orientation, family configuration, age, ability, race, class, occupation, and geopolitical background. Thus, we will discuss gender neutrality, neopronouns, non-monogamy, person-centred language, intersex terms, generic masculine alternatives, and basic geopolitics such as land struggles and decolonizing.

To finish, we will reflect on how inclusive language could white/pink-wash harsh realities and put people at risk, and examine cases where translation could contribute to sustaining the systems responsible for power imbalances. We will also consider the pragmatic benefits and costs of implementing inclusive language in the translation industry.
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About the presenter

Begoña Martínez-Pagán is a translator, interpreter, and author based at the English Studies Department of the University of Murcia. Her activism, lecturing, and research include intersections of her profession with feminist and LGBTIQ+ literature, inclusive language, human rights, business organization, and open-source software.