How important is political correctness
POLITICALLY CORRECT LANGUAGE - HOW TO EXPRESS YOURSELF CORRECTLY?
The topic and the use of politically correct language seems more topical than ever. The reason for this is, among other things, a social change, a sensitization to certain topics and thus also an examination of one's own language usage.
While in the recent past chocolate kisses were still widely known as “Mohrenköpfe” or “Negerkuss”, these terms are nowadays avoided due to their racist connotation.
Another reason why politically correct language is currently the center of public attention is social media. As the collective mouthpiece of the population, so-called “shitstorms” regularly pour out on social media over companies or individuals who have consciously or unconsciously misused the language.
This also shows the social change. If discrimination based on origin or gender was socially acceptable for a long time, a change is taking place here, which should also be reflected in the use of language.
You can read more about politically correct language and the professional groups in which it plays a special role here.
What is Political Correctness (PC) in Language?
Politically correct usage of language, what does that actually mean? What is exaggerated? What is appropriate A very controversial question, which is always a new topic for discussion. Things that were part of everyday language in the past now give rise to storms of indignation. Or originally neutral terms later acquire a negative connotation as a result of social development and their use therefore also has a different meaning.
The Duden defines "Political Correctness" (PC) as
„Attitude that rejects all expressions and actions that discriminate against someone on the basis of their ethnic origin, gender, social class, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation“(Source: Duden, Keyword Political Correctness)
Discriminatory language, there are countless examples here, such as "gypsies", "slit eyes", "fagots" or "negroes". Also disabled is not politically correct. The politically correct term for disabled people is people with disabilities.
In short, the list of everything that is not politically correct and the detailed treatment of this topic are devoted to whole books such as “A question of morality, why we need politically correct language” or “The politically correct dictionary 2.0”.
At Swear words is a Insult often part of the word meaning, like an idiot or an asshole. But not all words that are offensive or discriminatory today have an offensive meaning inherently. That is, the word itself does not already have an insult as part of the word meaning, but only becomes insulting because it is assigned to a group via the negative stereotypes in a language community exist. For example, the word negro is borrowed from the Spanish, French, and Latin words for “black”. However, the word is highly discriminatory.
How and why has political correctness changed the language?
"Political correctness" is often about the question of where does discrimination begin and what else can you say? Are blonde jokes ok, but does the fun stop when it comes to racism? Opinions differ on these questions.
While some argue how important political correctness is, there are also those who speak of the language police, see it as a “dictatorship of opinion” and feel that their freedom of speech is restricted.
However, PC does not curtail freedom of expression, but should ensure that Discussions or conversations are free from discrimination.
PC reflects, so to speak, the development of our society. Our society is becoming more and more diverse and many terms such as “fagot”, “negro” or “woman” are terms of a society that does not respect differences, but discriminates them on the basis of them.
The PC is about much more than changing our use of language, it is also about our changing worldview. A change in language should therefore be accompanied by a corresponding change in behavior.
Politically correct language, examples:
Here are a few examples of words that were used in the recent past but are no longer considered politically correct.
Many of the derogatory politically incorrect terms are often used to insult someone who is not part of the designated group. For example, words or terms like “du Spasti” are often not directed at people with disabilities. “You throw like a girl” will probably not sound like a girl either, but a boy who throws badly.
Even at first glance neutral language can be discriminatory in combination with certain images and be perceived as politically incorrect. For example, the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) had to experience this. Since the euro changeover, the ticket for schoolchildren has been called the Schoko-Ticket, so far so good. However, when the VRR advertised the chocolate ticket with a black child, there were accusations of racism from all sides.
When and how gender-sensitive language is used is still hotly debated.
There are different possible forms of representation:
Entrepreneurs (I is capitalized)
Entrepreneurs (gender asterisk to also include non-binary people)
While gender-appropriate language, for example in job advertisements, is mostly common practice, it has not yet established itself in the world of literature. So many argue that it disrupts the flow of reading in a novel.
How do translators deal with political correctness?
Certain professional groups that work with language, such as translators, advertisers or journalists, are confronted with language and discrimination more frequently in their everyday work. For example, we explain what this means in concrete terms for everyday professional life and which decisions have to be made regarding the use or not of politically correct language for the profession of translator.
Intercultural Competence is essential for a good translator. After all, he is not only a language mediator, but also a mediator between cultures and that only works if he is also familiar with the cultures of the languages he translates.
He has to know the opinions of society and which words are used with which connotation. A word may be common in one language, while using the same word in another language is rather difficult due to the cultural and historical background.
For example, the words “Führer” and “Rasse” in Germany have a very negative connotation due to their history. While one can easily speak of a “great leader” in English, one would prefer to use other words in German. Depending on the context, for example a great boss or a leader.
New translation of classics
Sensitivity is required not only when translating current texts, but also when translating New translation of classics. Here the translator will find himself repeatedly confronted with the question "How do terms translate that are nowadays regarded as discriminatory or offensive?"
In order to avoid discrimination through language, for example, in the new translation by Pippi Longstocking, the “Negro King” became the “South Sea King”.
Basically, when translating critical terms, the translator has to ask himself whether this term was chosen deliberately, for example as an insult, or was chosen unconsciously.
If used unconsciously, the translator would use the politically correct term in German. However, if the term was chosen consciously, the decision is more difficult. Translating the word politically correct could change the meaning of the original text. Here, the translator has to weigh up to what extent a politically correct translation is contrary to the author's intention and what choice of words he or she would like the readership to expect or not.
The challenge with the translation is always not to falsify the message of the original text and still hit the right note.
As a language service provider, we at EHLION know how important intercultural competence is and not only attach great importance to this for our qualified translators and interpreters, we also offer intercultural training. Regardless of whether your company is very intercultural itself or you maintain international business relationships, intercultural training can improve cooperation or prepare you specifically for important appointments abroad. Our coaches are very familiar with the country, its people and their culture.
Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or if you have a translation project to commission. Our experienced project managers will be happy to help you.
Conclusion - The change in language use as a mirror of society
As society changes, so does your language. While discrimination against certain groups used to be socially acceptable, the voices for equality and equal treatment grew louder and with them, the politically correct language also gained relevance.
With society, language will continue to change and what is and what is not considered politically correct. Because, as mentioned earlier, many politically incorrect words do not have an inherently insulting meaning, the way a society uses these terms and what it associates with them can lead to terms becoming offensive or discriminatory.
As a full-service agency, EHLION is your partner for all topics of international communication. Whether it's a translation or localization project, we would be happy to advise you in detail.
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