Many of my Japanese students often ask me, teacher, “Do men and women speak differently in English?” The short answer is, grammatically, no. There is no grammatical difference between the way men and women speak in English. Unlike romance languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese there are no gendered adjective endings. For example, in Italian, if you want to say that a person is attractive, you would say, "bello" for a handsome man or "bella" for a beautiful woman. But in English, we do not use –o or –a gendered-endings for our adjectives. Similarly in Japanese, there exists many ways in which to say the pronoun ‘I’. In everyday conversation, a woman would almost always use 私 (Watashi or Atashi), while a man has a bit more freedom to use 私 (Watashi), 僕(Boku), or 俺(Ore), based on the context and present company involved in the conversation. Again this just does not exist in English. Basically any non-native speaker who is learning English should not be worried about the differences between female and male grammar.
But there are some differences…right?
Really, the only true lexical differences in the English language are simply semantic. I have made a brief list here of gendered nouns. Feminine vocabulary words are on the left and masculine on the right. This list is not exhaustive.
- Mrs. or Ms./Mr.;
- Miss/Mister, Mr.;
- Madam or Ma’am/Sir;
- Sister/Brother, etc
We Want Equality!
In fact, the English language strives for non-sexism and neutrality. For example, in many cases we have changed pre-determined language-gendered stereotypes into more gender neutral phrasings, for instance, ‘mankind’ becomes ‘humankind’, ‘humanity’ or ‘the human race’. We also use indefinite pronouns such as ‘someone’ or ‘one’ rather than the ‘he’ or ‘him’ masculine pronouns when speaking in general about a person. These changes in language reflect our cultural desire for gender equality.
The How and the What
The main difference that can be seen between the speech of men and women is not what they say but how they say it. It is no secret that men and women communicate differently based on societal norms and upbringing—this is called linguistic culture. Most people would agree that gender makes a difference in how we communicate. Yet these differences are not universal, for example, a man could be more conversational and a woman could be more analytical in their speech patterns.
What Should I Do?
The important thing to note as a student of English is not whether you are a man or a woman—but are you expressing yourself clearly? English is a very rich language. As native English speakers, our intonation and stress often go up and down and are almost never flat. We also use a lot of communication clues to reinforce our words and sentences, such as hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, volume and speed. Because this can be very difficult for students, in many ways, you must train yourself to use these expressive tools—whether you are a man or a woman.
Remember Our Similarities
In English we have the idiom, “Women are from Venus and men are from Mars.” This shows us that we are different and we communicate differently, but I urge you to remember that this phrase is only interesting and funny because we are, in fact, both from the same place, Earth. We are more similar than we think.