August 6, 2006

Globish.

What is the future of English? Here's the NYT article, and here's my Instapundit post on it. Discuss! In English. Try your hand at Globish, perhaps.

32 comments:

James R. Rummel said...

How in the world is this different than the pidgen English that the Brits used in Hong Kong or India?

And I thought that pidgen was a hated relic of Imperialism, with a strong association with racism.

Is this Nerrière guy pining for the bad old days?

James

The Drill SGT said...

When considering what languages are going to dominate the Global stage I think there are 4 factors to consider:

1. Cultural Power: How much content is available in a particular medium. Leader English. Contenders, Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish

2. Economic Power: How much business / Travel is done using the medium. Leader English. Contenders, Japanese, Chinese, German

3. Demographic Power: How many speakers will there be now, in 50 years, in 100 years?

Today Leader Chinese, Contenders, Hindi, Arabic, English

Future: Leaders English, Arabic,

4. Ease of Use: Spanish, English, Hard to use because of written language, etc: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese.


One measure of a languages staying power would seem to be it's use as a second language for religious, cultural or economic reasons. Here the leaders are clearly English, Chinese, Arabic


Overall, I think that English is going to win the race as a global language and unlike the authors, I think it will be a more complete and purer English than Globish. This will be driven by the informal EU and Indian adoption of English as a second language. Though the Europeans are dying out as is their economy, India is booming on both fronts. Similar throughout Asia and South America, English is the predominant second language.










English is the default world language of business and travel.

Editor Theorist said...

The idea of Globish, differentiated from a more complex and flexible but culture-specific English, is an excellent one.

Indeed, I have argued that it has already happened - more or less, by unplanned evolution - in science:

www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/globalization

I edit an international medical science journal, and the language requirement is English but of a purely functional type - unambiguous communication is all that is required.

The point is that Globish/ scientific-English will not displace English within English-speaking cultures; but it will make global communication much easier and more effective - with benefits to economics, politics, business, science and technology, and any other areas that benefit from international cooperation.

Elizabeth said...

I suppose the term pidgen does carry with some stink of colonialism, but it was a practical, unavoidable outcome of trade as much as a relic of, or even moreso than, of Imperialism. If I remember correctly, it arose not from the Brits themselves, but from the collision of at least three cultures, usually in trading circumstances, and is probably a Chinese bastardization of the word "business."

A pidgin becomes a creole once it's spoken by a native generation. Globish doesn't sound like it has that potential, to become a unique language of its own, in each culture where it takes root.

Where pidgin is short and to the point, with simple S+V+O construction, where Globish sounds unnecessarily wordy and complex, with lots of prepositions and qualifiers.

Jason said...

How in the world is this different than the pidgen English that the Brits used in Hong Kong or India?

Well, for one, it has a rigidly defined vocabulary, in the best French tradition...

The Voice of America calls their 1500-word list
Special English
-- not to be confused with Basic English, Simplified English, or Simple English, which all serve exactly the same function.

From the sound of it, all Nerrière did was swipe their list, rename it Globish, and call publicity for his new book.

Madison Guy said...

I suppose that Nerrière, being French, had to coin a new word -- Globish -- simply to avoid admitting that the lingua franca of today's world is, in fact, English -- and not the "language of the Franks."

Michael Farris said...

Nb, I didn't look at the link but I've seen similar stuff.

As a teacher of (among other things) English, there is a valid point to ideas like Globish (though IIRC I wasn't impressed by Globish itself).

Basically, native speakers and non-native speakers want different things from English. Native speakers want a rich, expressive language that expresses their cultural identity.
Non-native speakers (about 95% of the ones I teach) don't care about those things, they want something practical and simple (and stable!!!) that doesn't threaten their identity. Keeping up with all the latest trends in usage and fine grained distinctions of usage is really not what they want or need. To that end, something apart from native speaker/writer English for cross linguistic communication isn't a bad idea.

The Mechanical Eye said...

In the Instapundit post you ended saying that "It's infuriatingly dessicated! Or should I say it is so dry it makes me mad."

Part of it is his temerity to "plan" a human language, even a pidgin. The chinese pidgin wasn't planned or designed, it arose out from necessity. His splendid, artifical language is already doomed - Nerrière apparently doesn't know about Esperanto.

Further, there's his insistence that native English speakers will have to learn just as much from this artificial lanaguage as non-natives. I wonder if he hopes for this - "at last, even the English will be shakled!"

Finally, he's supremely overconfident when he insists that global English, if it arises, will have no literature or culture of any kind. How can he be so sure? Human language and communication isn't as predictable as Nerrière implies.

So it's not that he's dry - he's dry and irritatingly sure of his own codified plan triumphing over human experience.

The Drill SGT said...

Nerrière is a modern French Canute attempting to hold back the tide of global English with his Globish.

As others have said:

1. It's not a new idea.
2. Global English usage at some level seems unstoppable, absent Islamic Victory (empowering Arabic usage and destroying the English cultural engine)

Even if Nerrière were correct in the establishment of this artificial limited English, it would provide a transfer mechanism that would vastly facilitate the global exposure and dominance of popular English big media and culture whether in Hollywood or Ballywood.

dearieme said...

The international language of science is broken English.

With Globish, you have to decide whether it's for writing or speaking. The problem of comprehensibilty of most spoken non-native-speaker English comes not from vocabulary or grammar, but from pronounciation. It's elocution lessons that are necessary.

Michael Farris said...

"The problem of comprehensibilty of most spoken non-native-speaker English comes from (...) pronounciation."

Not to mencion spelling.

P. Froward said...

Melanesian "pidgin" isn't a "hated relic of imperialism"; it's an official language in Papua New Guinea.

The Mechanical Eye is right: These things are improvised in response to need.

What college was that, where instead of building paved paths between buildings, they waited for a year and then paved the worn spots in the grass?

If "Globish" were needed, it would exist. The fact that Globish doesn't exist is a bit surprising, when you think about it. I suppose there's not enough of the right kind of contact. It almost seems as if there was more, and more personal, cross-cultural contact between 19th century imperialists and those they exploited, than there is among nations now.

Is there any form of simplified Spanglish emerging in the American southwest?

P. Froward said...

P.S. I'm not advocating 19th century imperialism.

CB said...

I don't know which is stranger: that one can buy pasties at amazon.com, or that they showed up as a targeted ad on althouse.

garrison said...

I know all of Boeing's tech manuals are written in "simplified technical english" and have been for years. When it's important to have others understand what we are saying it only makes sense to use a carefully chosen subset of the language.
Whether this will prove to be the model for other less specialized conversations between different cultures is not clear. Although one benefit of these subset languages is that they are easy to machine translate, making universal instantaneous translation a real possibility.

Anyhow the requirements of simplified english seem reasonable enough:
Use the active voice.
Use articles wherever possible.
Use simple verb tenses.
Use language consistently.
Avoid lengthy compound words.
Use relatively short sentences.

altoids1306 said...

English superiority in the near-future is assured. All you have to do is witness a Korean international student asking for help from a Hispanic shop attendent. It is very rare for two people of different ethnicities to speak a common language other than English. English will become the universal second-language (if it hasn't already).

100-200 years in the future, and it's anyone's guess. Although it is interesting to note that Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam are making deliberate efforts to re-integrate the Chinese influences on their languages.

Dusty said...

Don't you just love this approach to "learning English": "He [Nerrière] said he was working on software to identify words that fall outside the vocabulary limits and propose substitutes from Globish writing."

Binary thinking anyone? If there is one reason computers don't rule the world it's because they are created by humans.

On the human side of language, however, did anyone read the commendation letters at the VOA Special English page that Jason provided a link to? Those folks writing to VOA have either progressed way beyond SE or SE is rather broad and deep in its scope.

Yes, those letters are prepared text, not "chat". The point, however, is that learning a language is progressive and not static. And it is progressive even though the source precipitating the learning is static. For example, who in their right mind would continue to use "son of my brother/sister" after hearing of the better word "nephew" and explain it when encountering those who are still using "son of my brother/sister". Right, and what does Nerrière sell again? Abacuses?

Everyone pretty much moves on. Those VOA correspondents certainly have. To be more precise, they progressed in their fluency no matter that the VOA method of communicating remains the same and/or remains a continuing source of learning for them.

From my largely limited experiences (and those who are more experienced will not let this slide without correcting or expanding on it), I think the larger problem (calling it bumps in the road would be more accruate) in communicating with this widely expanding use of English is not the words used or sentence structure created to convey a thought. As one VOA letter writer noted, it is pronunciation. That may be why the Korean and Kenyan used more words and more basic words to communicate -- one poorly pronounced word that can't be understood by one or the other may be understood by six words of which all or the majority can be.

Some of the poor pronunciation reflects the pronunciation traditions (for lack of the appropriate term) of the speaker's native language. For me, and some others I know, all native American English speakers, Chinglish can be extremely hard to understand, though other native Chinese speakers have no trouble at all with it. My wife says it is the pronunciation, not the words that stifles my understanding.

So, back to the Korean-Kenyan example, was there an added difficulty which keeps this example in Nerrière's mind, i.e., a Korean who learned American accented English speaking Korenglish to a Kenyan who learned British accented listening 'in' Kenglish? If so, then it would be appropriate to review Nerrière's proposal so that we do not fixate on the wrong solutions to the problems of international communication. After all, time is money, so why be encouraged to use, or listen to, five words when one will do.

Johnny Nucleo said...

"Globish" does not sound cool enough. I propose we call it what Isaac Asimov called it: Galactic Standard.

Michael Farris said...

"The fact that Globish doesn't exist is a bit surprising, when you think about it. I suppose there's not enough of the right kind of contact."

The beginnings do exist. But you need to know where to look (hint: not in any English speaking country).

Go to non-English speaking tourist cities and pay attention. The tourist English used by locals and non-native English speaking visitors is not pretty and not the sort of thing most native speakers would want to spend much time listening to, but it works well enough, if not elegantly.

The Drill SGT said...

Couple of comments:

garrison said...
I know all of Boeing's tech manuals are written in "simplified technical english" and have been for years.


Two concepts are combined here. The Army writes all its tech manuals at 8th grade English with simple structures S-V-O. I expect all manufacturers follow a similar princple and I know there is SW that checks vocab and structures. Secondly, English is the international language of aviation. All communication Air-air and air-ground is in Engolish as are all instrumentation and charts. Makes sense that both flying and maintenance manuals are in the same language.

altoids1306 said...

100-200 years in the future, and it's anyone's guess. Although it is interesting to note that Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam are making deliberate efforts to re-integrate the Chinese influences on their languages.


As I mentioned above: One measure of a languages staying power would seem to be it's use as a second language for religious, cultural or economic reasons. Here the leaders are clearly English, Chinese, Arabic.

English usage is driven by Business and Culture. Arabic by Religion. Chinese, by the ethnic dispersion of overseas (including Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam) chinese.

Old Settler said...

Jean-Paul Nerrière is a copy-cat. He lifted Globish from the works of Englishman Charles Kay Ogden.
Ogden called his conception Basic English, and it achieved considerable attention in the 1930s. Basic English comprises a lexicon of 850 core words and a special method of sentence construction. It can be used to express virtually any thought. Check it out at the Basic English web site.

Old Settler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PersonFromPorlock said...

Globish kind of looks like the archaic Norwegian vocabulary I picked up from my father, where a library is a 'bookroom', a dictionary is a 'wordbook' and aunts and uncles are indeed father's-brother and mother's-sister.

On the other hand, anchovies are 'goffelbeider', which truly enrichens the world.

P. Froward said...

Michael Farris,

That's pretty cool. The trouble is, few tourists stay long enough to be really involved in the process, so I wonder if there isn't a limit on the degree to which it can develop as an independent language: One half of every conversation is always new to it. But what do I know?

Is there anything in print about this? It sounds really neat.

That's why I'm curious about the southwest: There, you've got two populations in permanent contact, and they need to talk to each other.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, yes, my Anglo-Saxon dictionary is called a Wordhoard. Cool.

There's lots more to say about that but I must rush off; a person from Porlock has just knocked at the door...

Jim Chen said...

Very nicely done, Ann. This article inspired my own post on the subject.

Editor Theorist said...

One of the factors blocking the - immensely useful - spread of English as a universal second language is the 'cultural elites' of each language group - whose prestige depends upon their mastery of their native language (amongst other things).

For instance, the French political elite does its best to prevent the use of English as the obvious (and inevitable) language of the European Union.

But hostility to the Globish-trend will also come from the English-speaking cultural elites of the USA, UK etc - just wait and see...

BTW the national cultural elites are the same people who have made 'colonialism' and 'imperialism' such bogey words, because rule and influence from other nations diminishes the status of the local ruling class.

But the mass of ordinary people don't care much about who rules them, but would very likely be better off governed by rule of law in a thriving economy run by foreigners than starving under the totlitarian rule of local rulers. (These being the avialable choices, often).

So - like other forms of globalization - the Globish trend will benefit most of the people most of the time, but will disadvantage the very powerful local elites - which form an immensely powerful pressure group.

This is the reason why English isn't already an international second language - not because it would not be massively useful and efficient, but because it disadvantages national ruling classes.

Timothy K. Morris said...

At least one commentor mentioned Basic English, which has been around since the 1930s. For anyone who is interested, here is one of several web sites dealing with Mr. Odgen's baby.

http://www.basic-english.org/institute.html

Michael Farris said...

"This is the reason why English isn't already an international second language - not because it would not be massively useful and efficient, but because it disadvantages national ruling classes."

I assume you're aware of the difference between foreign language and second language? People's need for the former varies due to lots of different circumstances and many people's need/use for a particular foreign language doesn't need to be very deep or profound.

A second language is one where extreme fluency is the standard (basically the closer to native standards the better).

English as universal second language would require millions of teachers (that don't exist) and lots of other expenses and effort (I'd say six to seven years of fairly intensive study for ... what goal exactly do you think this would fulfill that couldn't be met in any number of other ways?

Editor Theorist said...

Michael Farris said...English as universal second language would require millions of teachers (that don't exist) and lots of other expenses and effort (I'd say six to seven years of fairly intensive study for ... what goal exactly do you think this would fulfill that couldn't be met in any number of other ways?

I say - There are tens of millions of people who could teach English (if not 'English teachers') to the standard required: in effect, any native English speaker with a high school diploma (or equivalent).

Six or seven years of intensive study - yes, about half the time that people spend at school in developed nations. Alternatively, about three months of 'saturation' langauge learning (every day, several hours a day).

Advantages? The same as for globalization generally - by reducing transaction costs/ improving communication (like the internet).

But at a personal level, advantages are greatest for people in small and poor countries, because English enables mobility.

Incidentally, I saw some stats (in Why Men Earn More by Warren Farrell - excellent book) - that suggest that people in the USA who study foreign languages (eg. majoring in French, Spanish, German) actually earn less money as a consequence - probably because it is too enjoyable for them to learn languages, they fall in love with the language they study and want to use it in their work, and the intense competition keeps their wages down.

Michael Farris said...

Editor, I'm on my way out the door, but ...

"There are tens of millions of people who could teach English (if not 'English teachers') to the standard required"

Who's going to pay them? Or are they going to volunteer?
"any native English speaker with a high school diploma (or equivalent)."

I teach English as a foreign language (among other things) and there's a word for this kind of teacher in the business: "bad" (not always but about 90 % of the time). Trust me, being a native speaker isn't enough to actually teach a language (unless the students unless the students are already fluent and want to work on idiomatic usage). And ... such teachers usually are proudly ignorant of the local language and culture and have to be babysat in negotiating most of life's hurdles.
Most of the time they're more problems than they're worth IME.

Editor Theorist said...

Actually, I think there probably will be a big out-going migration from the US, UK etc to less modernized nations. It will be a counter-flow to the influx migration of computer specialists, mathemeticians, engineers and other kinds of technically-skilled labour which will be coming from India, China, Central and Eastern Europe etc.

Globalization works both ways - it is more of a contra-flow than one-way-traffic. People displaced from their jobs in the US by increased international competition will be able to find better jobs elsewhere in the world where their skills are rarer. Mobility applies to everyone, not just the second and third world.

I fully expect the US, UK, Australia, Canada etc to be exporting vast numbers of moderately skilled English teachers all over the place over the coming decades.

These may not be the best teachers, but they will be a lot better than nothing - and there will be plenty of people and countries willing to pay them for essential skills which are rare in the places they are going-to.