At English Trackers we are always keen to keep abreast of interesting news in the field of language, so when when I saw an article in The Economist about a book written by Robert McCrum detailing the rise of English and the emergence of Globish, entitled Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language, I was keen to find out more.

The book charts the history of the English language and how it has risen and spread all over the globe to become the ‘world’s language’. Aided by the legacy of the British Empire and the growth of the economic might that is America, English has conquered all other languages to become the most commonly used language in global communication, particularly in the corporate world.

However, McCrum suggests that this language that is spreading to all corners of the globe is in fact not English as we know it, but ‘Globish’, a simple, broken version of English used by non-native speakers.

The brainchild of Frenchman Jean-Paul Nerriere, Globish is now being marketed as a new language for global business communication. Nerriere developed the concept after witnessing the kind of simple, broken English used by businessmen to communicate with each other in international business meetings and has written three books on the subject (Don’t Speak English: Parlez Globish, Decouvrez le Globish and Globish The World Over). The Frenchman noted through his own experiences in the corporate world that native English speakers were often left out of ‘Globish’ conversations between international businessmen, unable to make themselves understood because the English they used was just too complex and subtle for others to understand.


So, if we are to believe McCrum and Nerriere it would appear that the rapid diffusion of English across the globe has taken on a new trend of its own, which native speakers seem unable to control. Nerriere comments that “Anglophones no longer own English” and now advises native English speakers to learn and speak Globish themselves. During the 3 minute long explanation of the language provided especially for English speakers on the website, native speakers are told that “If you are an English speaker speaking Globish… are to blame if others don’t understand. They are not stupid and you are not so intelligent just because you speak English…… If you do business with Globish speakers, more of the world will like you”. Well in that case we’d all better get learning!

As for the rules of Globish, it has a total of 1,500 words and users must avoid anything that could potentially cause cross-cultural confusion, such as metaphors, abbreviation and even humour (Nerriere comments on the Globish website “One thing you never do in Globish is tell a joke”). The Frenchman admits that “the language does not aim at cultural understanding…..It is designed for trivial efficiency”. Nerriere emphasises that Globish is not a language in the same way that French, Japanese or other foreign languages are; it is a means to an end and because of its simplicity only requires six months to learn. However the grammar rules are essentially the same as those for the ‘proper’ English language.

I’d be very interested to hear people’s opinion on this one. Do you think that Globish will be helpful in facilitating global business communication and in making English more accessible for a wider audience? Are you of the opinion that it’s all just hype and a product of clever marketing? Do you think that native English speakers will lose out if Globish continues to spread? Or do you think that they will always have the upper hand?

Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via photopin cc

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