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https://www.duolingo.com/AurosHarman

Indirect object "le" should be translated to English as the singular "they" in many cases.

I've noted that most of the time, if I translate a "le" as "they" -- for instance, translating from "Tengo que decirle todo," to, "I have to tell them everything," -- Duo will mark this wrong.

Singular they has been used in English for hundreds of years. You can find it in Shakespeare. In a context where you do not know the gender of a single person, it is entirely appropriate and comprehensible to normal English speakers.

http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/singular-they-and-the-many-reasons-why-its-correct/

(Additionally, with the trans* community increasingly visible, it's important to have SOME way of referring to an individual who declines to be identified as a "he" or a "she", and the singular "they" is pretty much the only option that the language affords, in common speech. In writing you can use stuff like s/he, but that just doesn't transfer to speech well.)

4 years ago

11 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Yes, I support this. Using "they" as singular and plural is already an automatic practice for me. I've come across many English sentences with unfamiliar usage, yet I was easily able to accept that for some people and places, there are just different ways of saying things. But, using "they" as singular, many people treat it as a special case, one they cannot adapt to. I challenge that notion.

In support of the gender-inclusive, singular they: If someone is new to learning a language, they are adapting to all sorts of things. If they get confused, they can do a Google search just like for everything else they are learning.

In Japanese, I've noticed that "the" is being translated as あの (pronounced ano). In Japanese class, we never used あの as "the". We were only taught that it means "that" for an item located far away. However, I was able to adapt to this new usage. Now I have two different usages in my brain. And outside of Duolingo, I will find the contexts I need to guide me.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Raftus
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Yes, good point, I agree. Not just indirect object: "If anyone tries to get in, stop them and ask them their name." Very common. And nothing really to do with unknown gender either. You may know that the person you're going to stop in my example can only be a man, or woman, but you'd still refer to them as them.

Just keep suggesting it as an acceptable answer when you come across it, that's the only way I know of to get it accepted.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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My roommate just made a great point, even if Duolingo is not teaching that "le" can be "they", if a speaker can already make that connection, they should be allowed to enter it as an example. Even if people argue that le as they is an advanced concept (which, I disagree for many of the reasons below, especially the one made by Plymouths :

[...]Knowing that it can translate as ANY of "he" "she" or "they" is important[...]

), then "advanced" speakers should not be penalized for having a more complete grasp of the language.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Raftus
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Yes, exactly. It's not that you have to use that expression, or that Spanish speakers will be confused, but just that that's what people say who speak English, therefore we should aim to include it in list of acceptable answers the normal way, by requesting that "my answer should be accepted". That way we flesh out the answers that Duo accepts, and it becomes better. It always alienates me from Duo to be marked wrong for typing the most natural way I'd say something in English that I can see in Spanish.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lphoenix

Same here, Raftus. I've come to accept this part of Duolingo, which used to seriously frustrate me, and to just be glad that I suddenly actually knew just how to say what the Spanish meant. Having become more wise over time to the bot's ways, to get through I will sometimes give it a translation I feel is actually awkward but more likely to be accepted by it. But I take notes, and for the future, I'll note that more natural translation, especially when native speakers have backed that up in discussion, and then, for now, I'll note what Duolingo will insist on in this instatnce. These notes come in really handy.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lphoenix

Thanks for noticing this. It seems so obvious now that you've pointed it out!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/arismartin

Hello.

The language works in the framework of a context. In DL it's obvious that we lose the context because the sentences can not be too long and in addition they are isolated. So, we don't know many times if the indirect object refers to a her or him. In these cases, normally, the rule indicates that we use the "him" form... However, according to my experience DL accepts both "her" or "him". I'm Spanish and about the "they" question can not tell a lot, but sometime in somewhere I read that it was a form in disuse ... or almost.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AurosHarman

No, in fact, singular they was very common historically (you can find it in the work of classic writers -- Shakespeare, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis) but went through a period when it was falling out of favor in the mid-20th century. Use has become increasingly common again in the last couple decades, as people have rejected both "generic he" and awkward constructions like "he or she". Also, a growing trans* community that rejects gender labelling has popularized the use of "they" for individuals.

English went through a similar process when the use of "thou" for 2nd-singular-informal fell out of favor. "You" was originally both 2nd-plural and 2nd-singular-formal, but came to be used for everybody. (I kind of wish that instead we'd shifted to using "thou" for all 2nd-singulars, because it's left us with only regionalisms, like y'all and youse, if you want to be clear you're using 2nd-plural.)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Raftus
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In English it's used all the time, it's a very common way of referring to people.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Plymouths

Singular "they" is not accepted in FORMAL writing by most style guides, but conversationally it is very much in use.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Raftus
Raftus
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Ha ha, so much the worse for formal writing guides! Who needs 'em?

4 years ago