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How gender rewriting works in machine translation

This is how Fairslator deals with gender-biased translations.

Gender rewriting is a simple technology for removing gender bias from machine translation. It works by taking a gender-biased translation and rewording it into a different gender (or into a gender-neutral form). Here’s a handy series of infographics I tossed up recently to explain, in three easy steps, how Fairslator does this.

It begins with a gender-biased translation

In this example we have an English sentence which has been machine-translated into German. The source text contains the word lawyer which has been translated into German as Anwalt. Anwalt is the masculine word for lawyer, which means that the translation is biased in favour of the male reading of lawyer. What should we do if the lawyer we are talking about is actually a woman? We ask Fairslator to rewrite the translation from male to female, of course!

A gender-biased translation

Step 1: Change the noun

The first step is to change the masculine word Anwalt to the feminine word Anwältin. Fairslator looks the word up in its database of gender-paired nouns. Most such words are occupation terms, like in this example.

Step 1: Change the noun

Step 2: Change the neighbouring words

The next step is to look around the word we have just changed and see if any other words need to be changed on its account. Fairslator reinflects any dependent adjectives and determiners to keep them in grammatical agreement with the changed noun.

Step 2: Change the neighbouring words

Step 3: Change any co-referring pronouns

We’re almost done, but before we finish up, let’s look through the rest of the text. Are there any words elsewhere in the sentence that refer to the changed noun and need to be reinflected too? In this example we have one such word, a relative pronoun.

Step 3: Change any co-referring pronouns

Voilà, here is the result!

Finally, we copy all remaining words unchanged, and here is our rewritten sentence which is now using the female word for lawyer.

A gender-rewritten translation

Gender rewriting is something you can easily do manually if you speak the language. But if you don’t, or if you want to spare yourself the trouble, Fairslator can do it for you at the click of a button: try the web-based demo and checkout the API.

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What next?

Read more about bias and ambiguity in machine translation.
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Faislator blog

| Announcement
Introducing the Fairslator API
Like what Fairslator does? Want to have something similar in your own application? There's an API for that!
| Status update
What’s new with Fairslator #3
Fairslator is now available as a browser plug-in, and other news.
| Machine translation
Google Translate versus gender bias
How does Google Translate handle gender-ambiguous input? With difficulty.
| Status update
What’s new with Fairslator #2
Fairslator now speaks French, and other news.
| Gendergerechte Sprache
Kann man das Gendern automatisieren?
Überall Gendersternchen verstreuen und fertig? Von wegen. Geschlechtergerecht zu texten, das braucht vor allem Kreativität.
| Oh là là
Three reasons why you shouldn’t use machine translation for French
But if you must, at least run it through Fairslator.
| Ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge
Tusa, sibhse agus an meaisínaistriúchán ó Bhéarla
Tugaimis droim láimhe leis an mhíthuiscint nach bhfuil ach aon aistriúchán amháin ar gach rud.
| Status update
What’s new with Fairslator #1
A new language pair, some new publications, plus what's in the pipeline.
| Machine translation
Finally, an Irish translation app that knows the difference between ‘tú’ and ‘sibh’
It asks you how you want to translate ‘you’.
| Forms of address
Why machine translation has a problem with ‘you’
This innocent-looking English pronoun is surprisingly difficult to translate into other languages.
| Male and female
10 things you should know about gender bias in machine translation
Machine translation is getting better all the time, but the problem of gender bias remains. Read these ten questions and answers if you want to understand all about it.
| Machine translation in Czech
Finally, a translation app that knows the difference between Czech ‘ty’ and ‘vy’!
Wouldn’t it be nice if machine translation asked how you want to translate ‘you’?
| Gender bias in machine translation
Gender versus Czech
In Czech we don’t say ‘I am happy’, we say ‘I as a man am happy’ or ‘I as a woman am happy’.
| German machine translation
Finally, a translation app that knows the difference between German ‘du’ and ‘Sie’!
Wouldn’t it be nice if machine translation asked how you want to translate ‘you’?
| Strojový překlad
Představ si, že jseš stroj, který překládá
Proč se překladače nikdy neptají, jak to myslíme?
| Maschinelle Übersetzung
Stell dir vor, du bist DeepL
Warum fragt der Übersetzer eigentlich nicht, was ich meine?

Fairslator timeline

icon December 2023 — Fairslator presented a workshop on bias in machine translation at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation, attended by translation-related staff from all EU institutions.
icon November 2023 — Fairslator went to Translating and the Computer, an annual conference on translation technology in Luxembourg, to present its brand new API.
icon November 2023 — We were talking about gender bias, gender rewriting and Fairslator at the EAFT Summit in Barcelona where we also launched an exciting spin-off project there: Genderbase, a multilingual database of gender-sensitive terminology.
November 2023 — English–French language pair added to the Fairslator API.
July 2023 — The Fairslator API was launched. Explore the API or read the announcent: Introducing the Fairslator API »
icon February 2023 — We spoke to machinetranslation.com about bias in machine translation, about Fairslator, and about our vision for “human-assisted machine translation”. Read the interview here: Creating an Inclusive AI Future: The Importance of Non-Binary Representation »
icon October 2022 — We presented Fairslator at the Translating and the Computer (TC44) conference, Europe's main annual event for computer-aided translation, in Luxembourg. Proceedings from this conference are here, the paper that describes Fairslator starts on page 90. Read our impressions from TC44 in this thread on Twitter and Mastodon.
icon September 2022 — In her article Error sources in machine translation: How the algorithm reproduces unwanted gender roles (German: Fehlerquellen der maschinellen Übersetzung: Wie der Algorithmus ungewollte Rollenbilder reproduziert), Jasmin Nesbigall of oneword GmbH talks about bias in machine translation and recommends Fairslator as a step towards more gender fairness.
icon September 2022 — Fairslator was presented at the Text, Speech and Dialogue (TSD) conference in Brno.
icon August 2022Translations in London are talking about Fairslator in their blog post Overcoming gender bias in MT. They think the technology behind Fairslator could be useful in the translation industry for faster post-editing of machine-translated texts.
August 2022 — A fourth language pair released: English → French.
icon July 2022 — Germany's Goethe-Institut interviewed us for the website of their project Artificially Correct. Read the interview in German: Wenn die Maschine den Menschen fragt or in English: When the machine asks the human, or see this short video on Twitter.
icon May 2022Slator.com, a website for the translation industry, asked us for a guest post and of course we didn't say no. Read What You Need to Know About Bias in Machine Translation »
April 2022 — A third language pair added: English → Irish.
February 2022 — Fairslator launched with two language pairs: English → German, English → Czech.