Translation Service ElaN Launches ‘Unbias’ Button to Suggest Gender-Neutral Word Options

And challenges its mammoth competitor, Google Translate, to follow suit

The translation tool's 'Unbias' button suggests gender-neutral words. ElaN
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How many men would apply to be a script girl? It’s a supremely important job in Hollywood, almost single-handedly tracking and ensuring the continuity of movie characters and sets across each scene. But as more men expressed interest in the role, the name evolved from being gender-specific to the neutral “script supervisor.”

Today, of course, many gendered titles remain common across society and industries, despite the availability of gender-neutral options such as firefighter, police officer or chairperson. That’s why translation service ElaN—known for its savvy marketing via agency JWT Amsterdam—is rolling out a new feature to help more people embrace gender-neutral vocabulary (just in time for International Women’s Day on Friday).

ElaN’s new “Unbias” button alters translations to serve up ungendered terms when they are available. The video below explains how it works and why the company felt it was necessary:

ElaN—a relatively small player in the translation space, compared to giants like Google Translate—is hoping this effort will encourage more services to make room for language evolution.

“Now, it’s up to the giants of our industry to follow suit,” the ElaN video says. “They still offer hundreds of thousands of biased words every day, putting up unnecessary barriers of inequality all over the world. So this is our rallying cry to them: Let’s break the bias together.”

More than just a political-correctness effort, ElaN sees the Unbias button as a tool for helping more people around the world feel connected rather than separated by gender.

“As a translation, language and communication training partner, we are a strong proponent of gender-neutral language so that all readers can relate to the texts in front of them: men, women, and people who don’t identify with either of these,” said Robrecht Belien, ElaN Languages CEO. “Our Unbias button ties in seamlessly with our mission: helping people to understand one another better, and thus, creating a sense of belonging.”

For agency JWT Amsterdam, the Unbias button represents a rare coup in advertising—an agency actually helping shape its client’s product rather than just its marketing.

“We’ve been working with ElaN Languages for a few years now, and they’ve always been at the forefront of what translation means in the lives of people,” says Bas Korsten, creative partner at JWT Amsterdam. “That importance shines through in this new idea, for which ElaN adapted their online product—a fundamental change, which they felt was urgently needed to help achieve a gender-balanced world.”

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."