Posted by: janecronin | March 19, 2017


Globish is actually the trademarked name for kind of simplified version of the English language which has been developed for the use of non-native English speakers when communicating with each other in English.  It is a combination of the two words Global and English.

The issue of what kind of English many people actually need to communicate with each other is very relevant for those of us who are teachers of English.  Many English textbooks require students to learn all manner of expressions and idioms which are appropriate if they wish to integrate into British or American society, but are way beyond the needs of someone who is engaging in international trade, politics or even diplomacy.

The person who developed and patented Globish, an IBM executive called Jean-Paul Nerriere, noticed in the course of his work that non-native English speakers used a simplified kind of grammar and vocabulary when communicating with each other which was not only highly effective, but also far easier to learn and use in many international contexts.  Globish, he claimed, is not an artificial language, and neither is it in any way incorrect English, it is simply the description of a simplified version of English, which he aimed to describe.

Several people have taken up the Globish gauntlet (which is probably not an acceptable Globish expression!) including a very informative book written by Robert McCrum in 2010 entitled Globish.  If you are a bit of a language freak like me, you will probably find it quite entertaining reading.

Despite Nerriere’s assiduous work in codifying Globish, the word is often used generically to describe a diluted form of English recognised the world over in popular culture.  There are a number of criticisms of the system as well as several alternative initiatives in creating a lingua franca.

There are two aspects of the Globish concept which particularly interest me.  One is, as I have already mentioned, what kind of English we teach to students in the classroom.  This is also related to what the students themselves are aiming for, but all too often examination systems expect an idiomatic knowledge of the language which may not be strictly necessary.

The other aspect is that fact that the people who have most difficulty in learning Globish are in fact we native English speakers.  Most people are completely unaware of the difficulties their native language presents to foreigners in international contexts, and therefore need to learn exactly how our language needs to be adapted to make it understandable to the majority.   I think some people are likely to resist this concept, perhaps fearing that it would dilute or contaminate our wonderful language in some way.  However, this really is not the case.  We can still enjoy novels, poetry and plays; irony, comedy and films using all the sophistication our language has to offer, but without needing to inflict it on those for whom none of this complexity is strictly relevant.

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