Parlez Vouz Globish?

I recently came across Jean-Paul Nerrière and Globish.  I was immediately intrigued and, after reading several articles on it, I couldn’t wait to find out more.  Briefly, Globish is a subset of English with a limited vocabulary and simple grammar that allows non-native English speakers to communicate with each other.

Something I realized was that Globish is simply graded English, albeit a very specific version.  I also understood that I often found myself speaking something like Globish while interacting with non-native English speakers both at work and during my travels.  Sometimes I find myself purposefully using the wrong tenses simply because it’s easier for the person I’m speaking with to understand me.  All those excess words serve only to confuse them.  Like Nerrière says, the goal is not to speak perfectly but understandably.

One of my Russian friends, whose English is impeccable, recounted several experiences when she was abroad where she spoke to the locals in perfect English but without any result.  But, when she reverted to “broken” or imperfect, simplified English, communication became easier. 

Interestingly, Nerrière acknowledges that Globish is English without English culture.  There is no slang, no idioms.  It is a tool for communication, not a way of life.  This implies that language often communicates ones culture, a concept that has already been realized, researched and written about in the past.  The existence of Globish only seems to confirm this.

The only thing I disagreed with in the article is the statement: “The fluent Globish speaker will not be understood by native English speakers.”  How is this possible if Globish is English?  I am a native English speaker and I’ve been able to understand people who speak atrocious English and probably aren’t even proficient in Globish.  Does all it take is practice?  Am I used to hearing accents by now?  When my two Russian friends visited my family and I in America, my parents had a difficult time understanding them because of their accents.  My response, “What accent?”  I’m simply unable to hear it anymore and have attuned my ears to the words they’re saying, not how they’re pronouncing them.

So what are your thoughts on all this?  Needless to say, I’m impressed, fascinated, and inclined to agree that Globish is the answer.

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4 Responses to Parlez Vouz Globish?

  1. Bill Chapman says:

    I’d rather see wider use made of Esperanto. Esperanto is relatively easy to learn and, of course, has no homelands as English does.

    • JMS says:

      Saluton! Thank you for your comment! I had Esperanto in the back of my mind the entire time I was writing that post. In some ways I hink Esperanto is definitely a better choice than English, especially because, as you mentioned, it has no homelands. It’s often important for people to feel that they have an equal footing when speaking a language and Esperanto can help achieve this. Esperanto is relatively easy to learn and takes less time than even Globish which I think is said to take 180 hours and Esperanto only 150. But overall I’ve found English (Globish/graded English) to be very helpful simply because more people speak (at least a little) English than Esperanto. Perhaps there should be more of a push made for ESL (Esperanto as a Second Language) education in schools instead of English. Regardless, it’s all very fascinating! Thanks for creating a dialogue about this!

  2. Brian Barker says:

    I agree with Bill Chapman.

    Globish reminds me of another project called “Basic English” Unfortunately this failed, because native English speakers could not remember which words not to use :)

    So it’s time to move forward and adopt a neutral non-national language, taught universally in schools worldwide,in all nations.

    As a native English speaker, I would prefer Esperanto

    Your readers may be interested in the following video at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

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