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Inclusive Language in Spanish?

In the age of “Me Too” and “Ni Una Menos” it should come as no surprise that our everyday language is affected by these movements. "There is nothing outside the text", the famous philosopher Jacques Derrida said, referring to the impossibility of considering the human condition outside of language. When we think, simply put, we think in words, and our exchanging of words create culture. Therefore we might ask ourselves: How is Spanish adapting under the influence of feminism?

Spanish has masculine and feminine cases added to all nouns, including people. Masculine nouns usually end in –o, feminine nouns usually end in –a.

So how does Spanish grammar handle a mixed group, one with both genders together? In those cases, which are very frequent of course, the masculine plural is used.

A + O = OS

For instance, if you want to praise your friends Laura and Marcelo because they look great, you would say: “¡Están muy lindos!”. You would say the same if your two friends were men.

It doesn’t matter how many women Marcelo is with, the group is still referred to with the masculine ending –os. Grammatically speaking, the power of one man supersedes any number of women in the classification of the group.

A + A + A + O = OS

If Laura were with Elizabeth, however, you would say: “Están muy lindas”. For hundreds of years, this fact was not something questioned by many, or at least not by enough people to attempt a change. Nowadays, however, many people believe that this should be changed, that this way of speaking disregards women, and this is not just a gramatical peculiarity. In addition, Spanish grammar is complicated by being impregnated by gender.

We find it in:

articles: la, el, nouns: amiga, amigo, adjectives: buena, bueno, different types of pronouns: nosotras, nosotros, suya, suyo, todas, todos, etc.

Accordingly, for example, in a sentence like "todos nuestros amigos son divertidos" (all our friends are fun), eighty percent of the words have a gender component. As a consequence, we can say that both the problem and the possible solution can not go unnoticed. What is the solution suggested by those who want a change? The use of "e" to refer to mixed groups.

A + O = ES

So, if Laura and Marcelo look nice, you would say “¡están muy lindes!” And if all your friends are fun and it’s a mixed group, you would say “todes nuestres amigues son divertides”. These potential changes are resulting in fierce debates. Like many new things that arise, this transformation is not liked by everyone. Although no one is forced to use them, to many people these new forms sound too strange.

At the moment, the use of inclusive language is minimal. It’s heard and seen little, mainly but not only among teenagers, on social networks and also in secondary schools. Not yet in speeches or official documents of any kind. That being said, you will sometimes hear someone on television slide in an "e" showing their support for the movement.

There are also a large number of people who believe these modifications are for a good cause, but still have not changed the way they speak. These changes affect the language greatly, practically in every other sentence we say, therefore, their use is not something that will happen overnight. Maybe it will take generations. So if you are a Spanish student, you shouldn’t be afraid of having to unlearn what you already know.

How are things in your native tongue? Can you imagine changing some letters in every other sentence you say? What do you think will happen with this language snowball forming from the mountainside of culture?

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~I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~
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