I'm (amateurly) writing the subtitles for an English TV show. I'll illustrate my question using a small example, but I'm hoping to receive answers as general as possible.
One episode has a sentence such as "How are you?", addressed to a person who is behind a sealed door. In English, one who watches the show will learn nothing about the questionee's gender.
Let's assume that the identity of this person is considered a major spoiler (it will only be revealed many episodes later), and that revealing the person's gender will give a big clue regarding the person's identity.
Now, in the target language (Hebrew), this sentence is written differently for male and female questionees.
Let's assume that in our case we have no different wording that can save us.
As I see it, the translator has three options:
- Learn the spoiler (in the example above, the gender), and write the subtitles in the correct, yet revealing, manner.
- "Play dumb" and write the subtitles as though you don't know the spoiler (in Hebrew and in the example above, in would probably mean to write the subtitles using the male gender, which is Hebrew's "fallback" gender.)
- Write both male and female versions in the subtitle (for example write "את/ה", which is Hebrew for "you (female)/you (male)". I don't like this option as it implies that the gender is a vital clue for revealing the identity, and also it's not aesthetically pleasing.)
I think that the second option has the advantage of mimicking the situation where the translator really doesn't know the spoiler (perhaps because he didn't watch later episodes, or because those episodes aren't released yet), which in turn preserves the viewer's effect of surprise.
How is this usually handled with gendered languages where conveying the gender would be a spoiler?
Note about Hebrew:
For those unfamiliar with the language, Hebrew uses gendered verbs. That is to say, every verb has multiple forms - one for if the subject is male, one if the subject is female, and two more for plural subjects. Therefore, the translation problem is not simply a matter of obscuring pronouns but also every verb associated with the character.