Language Justice Curriculum

Chapter 6: Ungendering Language


Welcome + Drawing Exercise – 25 minutes
Ungendering Sentences – 30 minutes
Ungendering Practice – 25 minutes
Close – 10 minutes

  • To prepare and encourage participants to think about, prepare for, and begin including non-sexist, gender-inclusive language when interpreting
  • To practice interpreting using ungendered language
Materials Needed


Step One:

  • Facilitators welcome everyone to the practice session.
  • Facilitators review the objectives for the session: To prepare and encourage participants to think about, prepare for, and begin including non-sexist language when interpreting, and to have an opportunity to practice interpreting using ungendered language.

Step Two:

  • Facilitators hand out paper and markers to participants.
  • Facilitators ask participants to take several breaths and settle into their chairs.
  • Facilitators explain that they will say a word and participants will draw what comes to mind when they hear each word.
  • Facilitators can say words such as: people, siblings, doctor, architect, children, boss, teachers, etc.
  • Facilitators say the words in Spanish or other language/s the group has in common. For example, gente, hermanos, doctor, arquitecto, niños, jefe, maestros, etc.
  • Facilitators ask participants to turn to a partner to share and discuss their drawings. Ask participants to consider the following questions:
    • What did you notice?
    • How are the drawings similar?
    • How are they different?
    • How do you think this is related to interpretation?

Step Three:

  • Facilitators call the group back together and conclude the exercise by explaining the following, in their own words if they choose: “This session will cover ungendering language. For those of us who speak Spanish or other gendered languages, we are used to defining and gendering nearly everything we see (for example, la silla, el mar). Spanish also defaults to masculine for plural (for example, todos, ellos, niños). It’s ingrained in us and therefore may take some time and effort to undo. We also want to remember that it hasn’t always been like this. Colonization brought with it homophobia, transphobia, and a limited worldview of gender and sexuality. Different indigenous communities in the Americas before colonization had more than two genders or saw gender fluidity as a gift. The way people talk about gender (and sexuality) is changing all the time and as interpreters we should be aware and prepared. For example, when trying to be gender neutral in written Spanish we typically used @, some people now use x (pronounced ex). As an interpreter, you may be asked to interpret in social justice, feminist, or LGBTQ spaces, or spaces where the majority of participants identify as females. As language justice interpreters who are working to create more equal communities, we need to continuously unlearn oppressive language and start thinking and speaking in ways that reflect and celebrate the diversity of our communities and the plurality of who we are.”


Notes for facilitators: The goal of these activities is not to create a definitive answer about how to be less gendered in the way we speak. The objective is to foster a discussion that starts an open conversation. You may encounter push back when leading these activities from people who know the “proper” way to speak/ write in relation to gender and the rules of a given language. However, the whole point of ungendering (and queering) language is to break free from the constraints of the rules assigned to us by society.
  • Facilitators divide participants into pairs or small groups (depending on the size of the group).
    • Each group is given the same set of sentences.
      1. The participants came to the workshop.
      2. The parents and teachers met to talk about the children.
      3. Everyone is welcome to this event.
      4. Tengo dos primos y una prima.
    • Each group has 3-5 minutes to translate the sentence to be less gendered.
    • Facilitators ask each group to share how they translated the sentence. After each sentence, the large group discusses the different possibilities.
  • To close, facilitators ask participants:
    • What was difficult?
    • What was easy?
    • Have you interpreted in this less gendered way before? If not, why not? If so, when and why?


Notes for facilitators: The following is one example that can be used for this topic. Feel free to explore and find an interview, video, or guest speaker to suit your group.

The next activity will provide participants with the opportunity to practice these new skills while interpreting a podcast in simultaneous mode. The best practice setup will depend on the time available and the size of the group. Facilitators can set up the practice in one of two ways:

  1. Each participant gets several minutes on the mic while the other participants listen to the interpretation using the equipment.
  2. Each participant interprets the audio quietly to themselves or records themselves interpreting on their phones. (¡OJO! This could get loud.) After the recording is finished, the participant can listen to their recording or have another group member do it, much like a peer evaluation.

Latino USA Podcast – Latinx:The Ungendering of the Spanish Language

  • Facilitators lead the group through a debrief by asking the following questions:
    • How did that go?
    • How do you feel?
    • What was easy?
    • What was difficult?
    • How did you interpret using more inclusive/ less gendered language?

Facilitators conclude the exercise by saying something like: “As interpreters who are practicing language justice, we encourage you to integrate less gendered language into your interpretation and use language that reflects everyone.”

CLOSE – 10 minutes

  • Facilitators ask participants to write on the back of their drawings three ungendering practices they will try next time they are interpreting.
  • Participants take their drawings home.
  • Facilitators thank participants for coming and invite them to the next practice session.


There are many good resources on this topic. For example: