logologo
09
MAY
2015

Are You Learning English? Try Globish!

voyages-organisesThe English language has now taken its place as the dominant global language, with over 400 million native speakers, and spoken in some form by about 4 billion people. 1 Chinese has more native speakers, but many of those also speak English!

How did this happen? Is it only because of globalization, technology and business?

There have been many dominant languages throughout history: Greek, Latin and French to be specific. 2 The French language was even the official legal language in Great Britain after the Norman invasion in 1066. But English colonization, especially in the original 13 North American colonies but as well as India and elsewhere, is the biggest reason that English is as widespread as it is today. 3

With English being spoken all over the world in some form or another, some are worried that other languages will slowly disappear. But time has shown that something else has happened instead. And it was the French-speaking former Vice President of IBM, Jean-Paul Nerrière, who put his finger on it when he coined the term “Globish”.2

Instead of everyone learning to speak proper English, the kind that native speakers use, a more simplified version of English can be heard today all over the world. This language, based on English, uses generalized vocabulary that avoids having to learn every word of the English language. If you have ever traveled and spoken English with non-native speakers, you have probably already heard something resembling Globish. For example, someone may speak of “the son of my brother” or “the room for making food” instead of using specific vocabulary, often difficult to remember, such as “nephew” or “kitchen”. This allows people from all different cultures and languages to find common ground and an ability to communicate simply. This way of speaking “pidgin” English has evolved naturally over time, and has only increased in recent years with the influx of the internet and global advertising. In 2008, the simple message of Barack Obama was echoed and understood around the globe:  “Yes we can!”

Mr. Nerrière offers more than just a name for this phenomenon, however. He proposes Globish as a global commuication tool, a veritable language using only 1500 words and simplified grammar structures and verb tenses. He came up with the idea while doing business with Asian businessmen and noticed a new kind of English being used in a standard way all over the world. 2

Not meant to replace proper English, nor to wipe out existing less-spoken languages, Globish should be seen strictly as a tool. It will never replace the language used for literature and great discourse. But there could be trouble for native English speakers, who will have to adapt to the idea that “the Queen’s English” will not be mastered by most, but that this simplified form of the language will be slowly taking over as the most spoken form of English. 2

Besides, it’s not the first time English has been broken down and repurposed: the Americans made sweeping changes to the language after their Revolution, creating a version with more practical spelling and new vocabulary words to set themselves apart. Thanks to that, as well as revolutions in other former British colonies, English is also known as a revolutionary language—one that inspires change and empowers the downtrodden. 3  So its not surprising that this would be the next step for the language that will surely be used to shape our world to come. There is a lot of information about Globish on the internet, and many books available too!

And what does this mean for you, an English student? It means you don’t have to worry so much about being perfect, speaking with a perfect accent, vocabulary and grammar. English is a living thing, evolving every day, and being spoken as Globish by more and more people!

 *****

Have you heard or spoken Globish before?

Do you think Globish is a practical tool for communication, or is it better for everyone to learn proper English?

We love to read your comments!

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April is an e-marketing specialist, English instructor and freelance writer living in Grenoble, France.

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