Political correctness in Spanish vs not politically correct language

DON'T say THIS in Spanish! How to speak POLITICALLY CORRECT Spanish

Don’t say invidente (blind), say ciego (blind). Don’t say viejito (Little old man), say persona adulta mayor (adult older person).

Now what about “minusvalido(crippled) o “señora presidente” (president- ·female)  

That’s right, guys. Today we’re talking about politically correct Spanish!

Regardless of your opinion about using politically correct Spanish language, a language is always changing, so you WILL come across new forms of speaking. I’m Paulísma from Spring Spanish. ¡Empecemos! (Let’s begin!)

1. Political correctness in Spanish (Mexico and Latin America)

Let me start by saying that I hate the term “political correctness”! It makes me think of people pretending to be way nicer than they really are!

However, I do believe in inclusive and non-discriminatory language. That at the end of the day, in the year 2024, it is the accepted one as politically correct.

This is not the case for everyone in Mexico and Latin America.

Throughout the video, I will be sharing my opinion which doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Spring Languages. The vocabulary of inclusive language is vast. I can’t include everything in this video. If you want to read the official guide on this subject, there are plenty of resources.

Como este. (Like this.)

political correctness in spanish guide

First, we are going to talk about expressions that are not “wrong”, they do not constitute an insult. But they all have an alternative version that is considered more appropriate.

2. Expressions that do not constitute an insult

A. No digas “el hombre” (Don’t say “mankind”)

Mejor di: (It’s better if you say:) La humanidad. (Humankind.)

La humanidad ha creado grandes civilizaciones.
(Humankind has created great civilizations.)

B. No digas “las secretarias”. (Don’t say “the (female) secretaries”.)

Mejor di: (It’s better if you say:) El personal secretarial. (The secretarial personnel.)

El personal secretarial tiene la tarde libre los viernes.
(The secretarial personnel is off every Friday afternoon.)

C. No digas “los empresarios” (Don’t say “businessmen”)

Di: (Say:)

El sector empresarial.
(The business sector.)

D. No digas “la presidente” (Don’t say “la presidente”)

Di: (Say:) La presidenTA. (the president (feminine).)

El sector empresarial apoya a la presidenta
(The business sector supports the president (feminine).)

You have to know that for some people saying presidenta or gerenta is like a capital sin of the Spanish language, but it is now accepted that even if the original word “presidente” is “gender-neutral”.

In my opinion, It is important that in the rare occasion where a woman holds the presidential chair, the word, the title shows it. “PresidenTA”.

3. The controversy of the -E ending

Remember that in Spanish, nouns are either female or male. Maria Fernanda made a great video about it.

For example, in the word we use to say “classmate”. If it is “masculine”, we say compañerO, and if it is feminine, we say “compañerA”. But what if you’re non-binary?

This is the trend that makes a lot of people angry. Using the ending E in words that would normally end in O or A to mark the gender. Like in this viral video in Mexico: I’m not your “female” classmate, I’m your “compañerE”.

In the same logic, it would be TodEs instead of Todos o Todas or AmiguE instead of Amigo o Amiga.

¡Hola, amigues, bienvenides sean todes!
(Hello, friends, welcome you all!)

¡Suena interesante, definitivamente!
(It sounds interesting, definitely!)

In Mexico, this is not recommended by the Commission to Prevent Discrimination. They consider “following the rules of grammar” to be an important part of the construction of an inclusive language. What is your opinion?

I wonder what Maura thinks about this…

¡Holis! Pues, yo creo que hoy en día se trata más de género y representación, pero el lenguaje ha cambiado permanentemente a lo largo de toda la historia por múltiples razones y siempre ha habido un grupo que se resiste argumentando que esto dañará irreversiblemente el idioma y, sinceramente, eso no es lo que termina pasando. Si vamos a seguir evolucionando como sociedades, nuestros idiomas deben reflejarlo, o ahí si es verdad que viviremos disociados de la realidad constantemente, y eso es agotador para todos, todas y todes.
(Hi! Well, I think that today it is more about gender and representation, but language has changed permanently throughout history for multiple reasons and there has always been a group that resists arguing that this will irreversibly damage the language and, honestly, that is not what ends up happening. If we are going to continue to evolve as societies, our languages must reflect this or else we will live in constant dissociation from reality and that is exhausting for everyone.

I “super” agree, dear Maura!

If someone asked me to call them “compañerE” y no compañero o compañera, like in this viral video, yo sí lo haría (I would do it).

In my opinion, if it’s too much of a hassle to accommodate the naming preferences of a person. Well, then I won’t talk to that person altogether!

4. Los mas importantes (The most important ones)

Now, there are other phrases that are not only politically incorrect, but that nowadays are considered very inappropriate.

So, do learn them, if you want to sound respectful.

For example:

A. No digas “los viejos” (Don’t say “the old ones”)

Tampoco digas “los viejitos” ni “los ancianitos”. Di: (Don’t say “the little old ones” nor “the little ancient ones”. Say:) Las personas adultas mayores. (Older adult people.)

El Presidente de México creó una pensión para las personas adultas mayores. (The president of Mexico created a pension for older adult people.)

B. No digas “gente de la calle” (Don’t say “homeless people”)

Di: “Personas en situación de calle” o “población en situación de calle”. (Say “unhoused people” or “population in street situation”.)

Desafortunadamente, muchas personas adultas mayores, se encuentran en situación de calle.
(Unfortunately, many older adults find themselves unhoused.)

C. No digas “discapacitado” (Don’t say “disabled”)

Tampoco digas “persona con capacidades diferentes” o “capacidades especiales”. (Don’t say “differently abled people” or people with “special abilities”.)

At some time in recent history, estas palabras se consideraban políticamente correctas, pero ya no. (these words were considered politically correct, but not anymore.)

Se dice: Persona con discapacidad. (Say: Person with disability.)

No te estaciones ahí, es un espacio para personas con discapacidad.
(Don’t park there, it is a spot for people with disability.)

D. Nunca, nunca, pero nunca digas “malito” o “minusvalido” (Never ever say “malito” or handicapped”)

Por favor, tampoco digas ”, “paralítico”, “inválido”, “lisiado”. (Please don’t either say “handicapped”, “paralyzed”, “invalid”, “crippled”.)

Como muchas personas con discapacidad motriz, mi tío necesita usar una silla de ruedas.
(Like a lot of people with a motor disability, my uncle needs to use a wheel chair.)  

E. No digas “señora de limpieza” (Don’t say “cleaning lady”)

Di: La trabajadora del hogar. (Say: Domestic worker.)

La trabajadora del hogar viene todos los martes.
(The domestic worker comes every Tuesday.)

F. De verdad, en serio, no digas “retrasado”. (Really, seriously, don’t say “retarded”.)

“Enfermito”,“retrasado mental” y nunca nunca “mongol” o “mogólico”. (“Little sick one”, “mentally retarded” and never ever “mongoloid”.)

La forma correcta es: persona con discapacidad cognitivo-intelectual. (The correct form is: person with intellectual cognitive disability.)

In all cases, the person one wants to address has the last word.

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