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https://www.duolingo.com/NidomyEnglish

Swedish and the gender-neutral pronoun

NidomyEnglish
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Is it going to be added? Or maybe he is already there. I just started to learn the language, but it only mentioned "han" and "hon", but no "hen".

2 years ago

14 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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The course only teaches you the basics of the language. Hen is not one of the 1500-2000 most common words (which is what at last most of the Duolingo courses aim for) of the Swedish language.

It's also not an entirely neutral word to use, so while it's certainly something for a learner to be aware of, it might not be wise to start using it actively right from the beginning when one doesn't yet recognize contexts as well as one does later.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zmrzlina
Zmrzlina
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Contributor's Thoughts:
The gender-neutral pronoun hen is alive and well for some Swedes, especially among urban young people and LGBTQI people. Regardless of what people think of it, it is used naturally by native speakers. Furthermore, there is an obvious gap that it can fill, when referring to nonbinary people or to people whose gender identity is not known or elsewise irrelevant.

In the course, our reasoning has been not to include it as a correct answer due to the fact that it's not yet considered mainstream enough for a beginner's course. We advise those who are interested to know of it, and if they want, use it. And since it works just like han and hon, it's no big deal to learn how to use it you already know a little Swedish. Also, please note that referring to people as den or det might be offensive, as that sounds like the person is an inanimate object of some sort. (Although some non-binary people prefer den.)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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I would like to add that people dislike the word hen for a variety of reasons, and that's fine.

Ultimately, the argument boils down to this: one group of people wants to be able to use gender-neutral pronouns in situations where they don't know the gender of a person, or when the gender is irrelevant, or for people who prefer calling themselves gender-neutral pronouns. Another group of people dislikes this.

The reason the anti-hen people are upset is that they feel that the word has been forced on them. You can find hen in newspapers, in formal text, in advertisements etc. today, and this is new. I can understand this argument - there are plenty of words I dislike, for a variety of reasons, and anyone is free to dislike any word for any reason.

However, it is important to understand that hen is not suggested as a replacement for hon and han. It's a word meant to fill a gap in the language - not one meant to threaten anybody's gender identity. You feel like a male? That's fine. You feel like a female? That's fine. You feel like both, or neither? That's fine, too.

There are lots of absolutely terrible arguments on either side of this discussion. There are some good ones as well. It's a heated topic that tends to bring out the worst in quite a lot of people, which is a shame. If the pro people could not use it on the anti people, and if the anti people could stop arguing against the pro people using it, that would be great. For now, it's perceived mainly as a political issue, which is not at all what it's supposed to be.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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However, it is important to understand that hen is not suggested as a replacement for hon and han.

It seems that this is the bit that many beginning learners of the language haven't realized, and which would be a good idea to spell out to them (in the tips notes of the course or somewhere).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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Good idea. I may try to write something to put in a post on its own, so we have something to point to when people ask.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zmrzlina
Zmrzlina
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Couldn't possibly have said it better. Thank you.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Arnauti
Arnauti
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There's a discussion about whether or not it should be added to the new version of the tree in the thread about the new version of the tree: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/11580398$comment_id=12307375

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PandaPandaInnit

Is "hen" used when you don't know the gender of a baby or animal and when it isn't obvious. I can see it being controversial and very political. Do people use it when they are unsure about their own gender? I do see using sush a word with a human that once comes of age to be able to communicate and understands it meaning becomes very controversial. If your unsure with somebody's gender would it be more offensive to guess their gender or (play it safe) and use "hen"? If that's a thing. Also can "hen" be used for the equivelt of "he/she". When people say he/she it sounds daft. With "he" coming first is that still not quite politically correct? So a commen gender word makes loads of sense. Even if "hen" isn't used in this context. I honestly like the to be able to have an equivalent in English. Especially with babies and animals. In English by default you presume it's male. You'd never call a human "it" but calling an animal "it" feel a bit soulless, because it is a being. All an all a very interesting word.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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We usually talk about it, which is either "den" or "det". "Den" is used for people or animals, while "det" is for things, as an simplyfied answer.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PandaPandaInnit

Ahh that is good to know. I see how that makes sense. Thanks.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WildSage
WildSage
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I honestly don't see why it is controversial as no one is required to use it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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It's perceived by quite a lot of people as part of a feminist political agenda, and/or as an intrusion of their own gender identity. I don't agree with their reasons, but I can at least understand why people are against it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WildSage
WildSage
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Agenda or not, how could it affect anyone if they just choose not to use it?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/devalanteriel
devalanteriel
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Let's assume for a minute that it actually is political propaganda. In that case, an anti-hen person who doesn't use the word would not want the pro-hen people to spread it further for their political agenda, would not want it taught in schools, etc.

And then there's the gender identity thing. A person who believes that binary genders are how things are supposed to be would, again, not want anything opposing that concept to spread. Especially if they believe that other people are going to use it do describe their own gender identities, which makes sense - if e.g. a trans person gets upset by other people calling them the wrong pronoun, that liberty should obviously extend to cis people as well. And there's a widespread though erroneous belief that hen supporters want the word to replace gender-specific pronouns.

I'm trying to keep this as neutral as possible, I have no desire to turn it into a political debate. Just want to try to explain why the reasoning makes sense, even if I don't agree with it.

2 years ago