Gender Neutral Pronouns Surface as New Linguistic Trend

November 4, 2015

‘Ze’ or ‘They’?

A Guide

to Using




Rule No. 1: Don’t assume you know someone’s gender just by looking at them.

Earlier this month, Harvard University made a buzz after allowing students to select gender-neutral options like “ze,” “e,” and “they” on registration forms. In doing so, it joined a wave of other major colleges in acknowledging that gender identity, and the pronouns that go with it, is more fluid than how previous generations understood it.

Among academic institutions, the University of Vermont led the change last year when it became the first school to allow students to select their own identifiers. Students chose their preferred first names and pronouns, which were then added to the campus-wide information system and distributed to professors, according to The New York Times. It was a welcome change for students like Rocko Gieselman, who is gender fluid and was born female bodied.

Gieselman explained to the Times:

“Every time someone used ‘she’ or ‘her’ to refer to me, it made this little tick in my head. Kind of nails-on-a-chalkboard is another way you can describe it. It just felt wrong. It was like, ‘Who are you talking to?’”

While younger generations and progressive companies like Facebook are more likely to embrace the fact that gender is not dichotomous, older generations and slow-changing institutions—such as K-12 schools and prisons—still have catching up to do. For those who don’t identify with the gender markerassigned to them at birth and don’t want to be pinned down by binary labels, the moves made by Harvard and UVM are a good first step.

With lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) folks fighting for more social and legal recognition, the restrictive options of “he” and “she” don’t cut it anymore. The singular “they” is one gender-neutral option, but some people just can’t get used to how grammatically unfamiliar it sounds in sentences like “Riley thought they would be late.” (Yet Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Geoffrey Chaucer—touted as the father of English literature—were all fans of the singular “they.”)

“’They’ and ‘them’ are great alternatives, but they’re not necessarily enough,” says Sam Dylan Finch, an LGBTQ activist and writer who identifies as transgender. Over the past century, there have been hundreds of other proposed options. Only a few have become common, like the ones in this table, put together by the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog:

Nominative (subject) Objective (object) Possessive determiner Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Invented pronouns
Ne Ne laughed I callednem Nir eyes gleam That is nirs Ne likesnemself
Ve Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likesverself
Spivak Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes
Ze (or zie) and hir Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likeshirself
Ze (or zie) and zir Ze laughed I called zir Zir eyes gleam That is zirs Ze likeszirself
Xe Xe laughed I calledxem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likesxemself

“It’s different for everyone,” Finch says. “For two years I used ‘ze’ and ‘hir’ pronouns, and it’s kind of a process of trying them out and having other people try them out to see how it feels and sounds.” (Finch now primarily identifies as “he” and “him.”)

Sometimes the decision can be heavily affected by social pressures, he adds. “Unfortunately, because of a lot of the transphobic pushback, a lot of people will abandon pronouns that they otherwise like to use,” Finch notes. For example, when University of Tennessee encouraged the use of gender-neutral language, conservatives dismissed the move as unproductive and lacking in “common sense.”

But Finch doesn’t get the backlash against introducing new pronouns. “Language is always evolving,” he says. “We don’t necessarily have as much argument when we decide to create new language around the internet, or when new things are invented.” Finch has a point: If new words like manspreading, hangry, and awesomesauce make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, why can’t pronouns? As long as humans and gender identities evolve, he adds, so will languages.

Those who aren’t familiar with gender-neutral pronouns might wonder: How do you determine which ones to use if you’ve just met someone and don’t know how they identify their gender? I posed the question to Finch and Dani Heffernan, senior media strategist at the LGBT group GLAAD. They offered a few suggestions to CityLab:

Ask yourself why you need to know. The person might not want to disclose whether they are trans or non-binary—particularly in a group setting, says Heffernan. That decision should be left up to that individual. By asking, you risk singling the person out and putting them in danger. Heffernan suggests simply listening and “paying attention to what pronouns people use to refer to that person.”

Start with an introduction. If context clues don’t give you an answer and you still would like to know how to best refer to the person you’re speaking with, both Heffernan and Finch say it’s best to introduce yourself and your own preferred pronouns. It’s an invite for the other person to do the same. “I wish more people would do this, to be like ‘Hi, my name is Sam. My pronouns are ‘he’ and ‘him,’ how about you?’” Finch says. “If you start the conversation with yourself, you’re not putting someone on the spot.”

Don’t ever assume. “Appearance and gender expression are different from gender identity,” says Finch. Heffernan offers a tip: “Instead of saying ‘the man in the back,’ you might say, ‘the person in the blue shirt,’ and not make assumptions about someone’s gender identity.”

But it’s OK to make a mistake. That is, as long as you make an earnest effort to correct yourself and be respectful to the person you’ve met. “They’re pronouns. They’re important, but it’s also good to remember that you are allowed to make mistakes,” Finch says. “It is a very unconscious process.” He admits that even he’s been guilty of assuming someone’s gender. Just make the correction and move on, says Heffernan. Don’t make your error a big deal; that will only make both parties uncomfortable.

Above all, take someone’s preferred gender identity seriously. Of course, people are complicated; a pronoun is not the only thing that defines them. But as Washington Post Civilities columnist Steve Petrow puts it, “Language is about respect.”



Original article by Linda Poon at


October 28, 2015


Listening to Music

October 9, 2015

Há muita discussão sobre como os hábitos de se ouvir música mudaram nos últimos anos. Poucos ainda escutam discos, cassetes ou CDs hoje em dia. Mesmo rádios estão ultrapassados com os novos serviços de Streaming. As palavras agora são Streaming, Spotify, Internet Radio, Playlists. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Discuta este e outros temas em nossas sessões do Conversation Club às terças-feiras de 20h as 20h45 ou sábados de 13h às 13h45 e 14h às 14h45. Professores nativos de diversas nacionalidades o aguardam para este bate-papo que acontece em uma de nossas salas de video chat no Acesso VIP (portal do aluno).


What is Streaming Music?

Streaming Music, or more accurately known as streaming audio, is a way of delivering sound without the need to download files of different audio formats. Music services such as Spotify use this method to provide songs that can be enjoyed on all types of different devices.

Streaming Audio Delivery

Typically, if you want to listen to music, or any other type of audio, you need to download an audio file.
However, when a streaming delivery method is used then there isn’t the need to download a complete file first. The basic way that this process works is that the audio file is delivered in small ‘packets’ in order for the data to be buffered on your computer and played virtually straight away. As long as there is a steady stream of these packets delivered to your computer, you’ll hear the sound without any interruptions.

This method of listening to music is particularly useful for situations that need instantaneous delivery, such as live broadcasts or music services that typically provide 30-second music clips before you buy.

Learn a lot more about streaming music and/or discuss your favorite bands live, face-to-face with one of our teachers right now. Join our Conversation Club.


Is this she? Is it her on the phone?

September 30, 2015


Com tantos de nossos alunos trabalhando em grandes empresas, é comum a pergunta:
– quando atendo o telefone, devo responder “this is he/she” ou “this is him/her”?

A seguir, uma pergunta que ilustra e explica sobre esta questão:

Q. I answer our company’s main phone line, and frequently get calls for myself. Today when someone asked for me saying, “Is Charlotte available?” I responded, “This is she.” The caller promptly corrected me, informing me that I should have said, “This is her.” Which is correct?

A. Your response was the correct one. “This is she” is grammatically correct. The verb “to be” acts as a linking verb, equating subject and object. So “this is she” and “she is this”; “she” and “this” are one and the same, interchangeable, and to be truly interchangeable they must both play the same grammatical role—that of the subject.

However, this rule gets broken all the time. I suspect that people expect an object (as is correct for constructions such as “you say me” or “what’s wrong with me?” or “go talk to her”) so they choose an object, unaware of the nature of a linking verb.
Now both forms have come to be accepted – it’s a matter of how formal you want to be. If you’re a 1950s-style Hollywood garage mechanic who grudgingly picks up the phone, with greasy hands, when nobody’s “manning” it, the conversation might go like this:

– Hullo?
– Hey, Charlie?
– That’s me, Mac. Whaddya want?

You can try to avoid the issue by using your own name, rather than a pronoun: “this is Charlotte” is never wrong! :)

English as a Universal Language

September 21, 2015

Slide1Leia este artigo sobre o Inglês como Língua Universal. Deixe seus comentários para interagirmos – em Português ou English!

Depois, caso queira, discuta este e outros temas interessantes em nossas vídeo classes on-line no Rizvi Conversation Club.

Lembre-se que para participar, basta enviar uma mensagem para e envairemos todas as informações necessárias.


English as a Universal Language

by Carlos Carrion Torres – Vitoria ES – Brazil

English is without a doubt the actual universal language. It is the world’s second largest native language, the official language in 70 countries, and English-speaking countries are responsible for about 40% of world’s total GNP.

English can be at least understood almost everywhere among scholars and educated people, as it is the world media language, and the language of cinema, TV, pop music and the computer world. All over the planet people know many English words, their pronunciation and meaning.

The causes for this universality are very well known and understandable. English first began to spread during the 16th century with British Empire and was strongly reinforced in 20th by USA world domination in economic, political and military aspects and by the huge influence of American movies.

The concept of a Universal Language is more significant only now, in the era of world mass communication. Before this era Greek, Latin, French were to some extent universal languages, though mainly in Europe.

By a lucky coincidence due to factors above, English, the Universal language, is one of the simplest and easiest natural languages in the world. The only other simple and easy languages are constructed ones.

Of course the concept of easiness is relative, and it depends on which language you know already. However the concept of simplicity is undeniable: English in an easy language to learn, understand and speak. A complex language such as Hungarian would be a very unlikely candidate for a universal language.

First of all, English Language uses Latin alphabet, the most universal, simple and short one (only the Greek alphabet is shorter and simpler). In addition, in English, the Latin Alphabet presents its most “clean” form as a true alphabet with only 26 basic letters and no diacritics;

Verb conjugation is very simple and easy. Even for irregular verbs, there is almost no variation in person (except 3rd singular in present tense).

Regular verbs have only four forms: Infinitive + Present, Past Tense + Past Participle, 3rd person singular Present Indicative, Present Participle.

There are almost no Inflections. No number or gender inflection for adjectives, articles, adverbs. For adjectives there is only comparative and superlative, almost only number for nouns. In pronouns there are gender and number inflections and only three declension cases (Acc/Dat, Nom, Gen).

English is one of the most analytical languages, with no significant synthetic, fusional or agglutinative characteristics.

Could be there any other alternative for Universal Language, instead of English?
There are other languages that are quite simple and synthetic, with almost no verb conjugation, no declension, such as Asian languages like Thai and Chinese, but they are written with complicated scripts and are tonal languages. However if Chinese were to be written with the Latin alphabet, it could potentially become a univeral language.

There are other strong languages that, due to population and economic power, could be univeral languages, but they have a number of disadvantages when compared with English.

Some examples:

Japanese: has very regular verbs but also a very complicated script.
Chinese: no conjugations or declension, but a very complicated script and tones.
German has many more inflections than English.
The major Romance languages, such as French, Spanish and Portuguese, have fewer inflections than most of languages, but their verb conjugation is very complicated.
Russian has both complex verb conjugations and numerous noun declensions.

In conclusion, it is lucky for us that our universal language is the simplest and easiest, even though that simplicity and easiness weren’t the reasons that lead English to that condition.


#profissionaisemidiomas  #rizvilanguage

September 16, 2015

Workshop Week

Workshop Week Works

September 15, 2015


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