Translation of politically correct vocabulary from English to Russian

    Political and social changes in society rather strongly influence the structure of the language. They are slow, but the result is clear.

    The topic of political correctness is one of those that had a tremendous impact on world society, and it continues to influence it today. The English-speaking society is gradually rejecting words that define a person’s gender or race, which is reflected in other languages.

    Interesting fact

    The changes concern not only words that directly have an offensive meaning like “niger” or “fagot”, but also completely neutral common words.

    In many American restaurants, the notions of “waiter” and “waitress” no longer exist. Instead, an impersonal phrase "waiter person" appeared.

    This makes it difficult for translators, because in fact in Russian there is no equivalent to the addition of a “person” in this key, which simultaneously indicates the male and female gender.

    Politically correct terminology: 5 tactics of translation into Russian

    Over the years the introduction of the policy of political correctness and multiculturalism, a large number of new vocabulary has appeared. Some of the terms migrated to the Russian language in an unchanged form, while others require extended explanations and transformations during translation.

    In the first group, which remained unchanged, include the terms: sexism, feminism, racism. Their Russian equivalents (sexism, feminism, racism) are used quite widely and completely coincide in meaning with the English original. There are no difficulties with their translation.

    Another thing is less used words: fattism, sizeism, elitism, lookism and other nouns formed with the help of the prefixes -ism and which express the basic values ​​of political correctness.
    It is noteworthy that the amount of vocabulary that expresses deviations from the norm of politically correct behavior is much more than the vocabulary that describes it.

    Similar language development can be observed in the medical field, where the number of vocabulary and terminology of diseases and deviations is about 90%. A healthy state - only 10%.

    From such a comparison, it can be concluded that “absolute political correctness” is considered a necessary norm in an English-speaking society, and any deviations from it are pathological.
    Political correct terms and phrases in English, which today do not have a complete analogue in Russian, should be given special attention.

    Ways to translate politically correct vocabulary

    In the case when the Russian language does not have a full equivalent to the English term from politically correct vocabulary, translators often use various techniques and tricks to convey the meaning of a specific word as accurately as possible, taking into account Russian grammar.

    Let's look at these methods.

    1. Translation matches

    In essence, this is a search for a Russian-language equivalent of the English term. The difference between full compliance is precisely in the fact that you have to look for the most similar word or combination in the Russian language. Sometimes the coincidence of meanings may be incomplete.
    For example, the phrase “indigenous people”, which is often used instead of “natives”. To be honest, we do not understand what is so offensive in the word "natives", but still.

    The closest correspondence between “indigenous people” in Russian will be “indigenous people” or “indigenous peoples”.
    Often, a politically correct word in English has a wider range of meanings than Russian correspondences can transmit; therefore, its translation depends on the context.

    For example, modern American airlines often use the phrase “flight attendant” instead of the usual “steward” and “stewardess”. It can be translated into Russian in three ways: “flight attendant”, “steward” and “stewardess”. It depends on the translator how accurately the translation option will be chosen for a specific situation. You may have to use several at once - for example, “flight attendants and flight attendants” instead of “flight attendants”.

    2. Descriptive Translation

    It occurs most often - in about 40% of cases of translation of politically correct vocabulary. Direct translation of politically correct vocabulary is often possible grammatically, but the result will be meaningless in Russian. This is especially true of newly-formed euphemisms and phraseological units. Therefore, translators use the semantic equivalent.
    A few examples:

    • "Golden ager". In fact, it can be translated as “a man in a golden age,” but this does not reveal the meaning of the concept. Therefore, translators often translate it as an “old man”. In Russian, this is a very polite and politically correct phrase, the meaning of which is clear to everyone.
    • "Chinese Americans". “Chinese Americans” is a bad translation. But the "Chinese Americans" - is better.
    • "Ableism". The meaning of this term is “discrimination of people with physical disabilities”. And this description is the best possible translation of the term.

    The main thing in translation is to convey the essence of the term. And despite the fact that in the case of a descriptive translation, you often have to use more words, it is very effective.

    3. Counting

    In essence, this is a transfer of the direct meaning of terms from English to Russian with a word-for-word translation. It is used in cases where direct translation sounds more or less adequately and conveys the meaning of the original term.
    For example, the term "Biological mother", which is used in documents for adopted children. It can be safely translated as "biological mother". In this case, it fully retains its meaning, even if earlier such a phrase was not used in Russian.
    4. Transcribing

    This is how the first terms of political correctness were translated from English to Russian.

    Gay (gay), feminism (feminism), racism (racism) are transcribed translations. But due to the wide use of their meaning is known to most, so they do not require additional explanation.

    5. Combined translation

    As you can guess, there are several translation methods used simultaneously. Often, the combined approach is used when it is necessary to further emphasize political correctness in terms or euphemisms.
    Несколько примеров:

    Транскрибация и описательный перевод. «Seizism» — «сайзизм, дискриминация на основе габаритов человека».

    Описательный перевод и калькирование. «Chemically challenged person» — «человек, страдающий зависимостью от психоактивных веществ».

    Странности и «заскоки» политкорректной лексики в английском языке

    Interestingly, many terms that have recently appeared in the English language during the pursuit of political correctness have retained translations of the old “politically incorrect” terms.

    For example, instead of the common “cameraman”, they increasingly use the “camera operator”. Despite the changes, the euphemism is translated as “operator” - and the word does not bear any negative nuance in Russian.

    Similarly with the word "postman". Instead, in the US, they increasingly use the “mail currier”, although it translates as “postman”. And despite the male gender of the word, in the Russian language there is simply no equivalent equivalent for the female gender.

    Quite often, such strange English terms have to be replaced by familiar ones for a Russian-speaking person who do not formally comply with the principles of political correctness, but which in fact do not carry any negative meanings.

    It comes to the fact that in Western society they are trying to change the terms only because of the presence of the grammatical foundations of “man” or “woman” in them. For example, the word “mankind” (humanity) can hardly be called offensive, but the adherents of political correctness succeed. Naturally, such cultural peculiarities should also be taken into account by the translator.

    And they take into account. Translators are rather reluctant to convey the concepts of "superpolitality", replacing them with the usual well-known equivalents, because in Russian such concepts will sound extremely stupid. Differences between cultural features of speakers of English and Russian are affected.

    We will not go into philosophical debates about the correctness of the norms of the language that are used today, but you will agree that it will sound extremely crazy if the lines “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” appear in the birth certificate of a child. The political correctness of Russian-speaking people has not yet reached such a level. And, in our opinion, this is for the best.

    So, the translation of politically correct words and phrases from the English language is not just a matter of linguistics, but also compliance with sociocultural norms, which are very different in English-speaking and Russian-speaking countries. - online English learning platform

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