This is what, apparently distinguishes the old world languages from the new.
In Swahili, a language whose origin is shrouded in mystery, there is no such gender distinction. In fact there is no 'gender' at all in its grammar but rather class distinction. Its grammar posses 8 classes and 1 class is to distinguish living things but not plants which fall in another class.
Example, 'kaja', an act of coming, could mean 'he came' or 'she came' of if the context was about a bird or a dog then it would mean the dog came or the bird came.
The other 7 classes go into an elaborate distinction of objects and concepts.
A similar languages would be Sanskrit, of which almost all the European languages are founded on which had 16 classes, but it is not a living language anymore.
This distinction of classes is not merely the addition of a single word in the sentence such as he or she like in English but rather modifying the entire sentence with the class key word in such a way that every word in the sentence denotes the object being spoken about.
The language also has pre-fixes and suffixes just like any other but it also has inter-fixes interspersed between words as well as size distinction.
Example, 'mtu' is a person, 'jitu' is a superlative, a very big person and 'kijitu' is a small person.
And best of all these distinctions are merely simple syllable. In fact the entire grammar of the language is based on them.
I hope this helps.