Le Globish

A fellow named Jean-Paul Nerrière has created an English “dialect” of 1500 words to enhance international communication. “The point is that Anglophones no longer own English … It is now owned by people in Singapore, Ulan Bator, Montevideo, Beijing and elsewhere,” says Nerrière.

Globish involves a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across … Mr Nerrière, 66, originally sought to help non-English speakers — and notably his compatriots from France — in the era when business meetings are invariably held en anglais. He advised that instead of struggling to master the Queen’s English, they should content themselves with Globish.

His two books, Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish and Découvrez le Globish, became bestsellers in France and were also published in Spain, Italy, South Korea and Canada. They are also being translated into Japanese.

“Globish is a proletarian and popular idiom which does not aim at cultural understanding or at the acquisition of a talent enabling the speaker to shine at Hyde Park Corner,” he wrote.

“It is designed for trivial efficiency, always, everywhere, with everyone.”

I can certainly relate: if you want to make yourself understood in English in Thailand, you have to drop all idioms, mixed metaphors, and phrasal verbs. In that sense, I already speak fluent Globish. I can also tell you that only about 1 out of every 1000 EFL students who don’t spend significant time in an English-speaking country achieve anything like fluency. No, those who speak “well” speak … Globish.

And given that English is the globe’s de facto lingua franca (ahem), something like Globish is probably the future, if that future isn’t here already.

Here is the the Globish site.

Anyhow, don’t take my word for it. Pasted below is Mark Antony’s famous speech from Julius Caesar, and below that is the same speech rendered into “Globish”. Abomination or goodness? You be the judge.

According to William Shakespeare:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar … The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it …
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral …
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man
. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

According to Jean-Paul Nerrière:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is often buried with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar … The stately Brutus
Has told you Caesar wanted to be king:
If he said that, then it was a deadly mistake,
And it was deadly for Caesar today …
I am allowed to speak here by Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
I come to speak at Caesar’s burial …
Caesar was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says Caesar wanted to be a king;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
Caesar has brought many prisoners home to Rome,
Whose fathers buy them back to our great profit:
Did this seem like Caesar was trying to take too much?
When the poor have cried, Caesar cries as well:
If he wanted to be king he should have had a stronger character:
Yet Brutus says Caesar was trying to be all powerful;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all saw that at the ceremony
I presented Caesar a kingly crown 3 times,
Which he did refuse 3 times: Did this man want to be king?
Yet Brutus says he wanted to rule us completely;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to argue with what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Caesar once, not without cause:
What cause now keeps you from being sorry for him?
O wise thought! You have escaped to the animals,
And men have lost their reason…. Stay with me now;
My heart is in the ground there with Caesar,
And I must wait until it comes back to me.

5 thoughts on “Le Globish

  1. Brad Green

    I think that future is fast approaching, if not here right now. The metaphor is roundly disdained by many young writers now. It’s seen as excessive and overblown, which is odd considering we’re (at least in America) such a image-driven culture. If you pick up and read many popular fiction books, the prose tends toward the fast and factual, to be up front. If you’ve seen the movie Idiocracy, you’ll understand the phrasing Kick-ass!

    I vote for abomination.

  2. OneCrazyMama

    Idiocracy, amen to that.

    Still, my heart says abomination and my head says, “what the hell, go for it’. Language is dynamic and always changes. Most people I’ve met in my private suburban hell don’t have a better grasp of the language than most anyway. They are what I think could be adequately termed “marginally literate”.

    For example: If my son’s teacher had used the words “most best” or “more better” in my presence one more time…I would’ve been up on assault charges.

    A *teacher* who doesn’t understand comparatives in her own @#$@$@# language…trying to teach children to read and write????? God help us!

    Although, as I take the CLEP–and likely fail the damned thing–next week, I will think of this Globish notion.

    I hate the foreign language requirement for the degree I’ve been struggling to to get for the last several years. I don’t understand its purpose other than to add to the hazing process that is higher education.

    You have to have 4 years of a language to get your BS. Why? The four years they give you aren’t enough to attain fluency and most people are only taking it to get the BS (in more way than one) out of the way. “More rounded person” my arse.

  3. Court

    Brad, from our perspective, it is absolutely an abomination. I don’t think any student of the English language benefits from such watered-down Shakespeare. However, this is not the same thing as using a “basic” English for purposes of international business, say. There it makes some sense. For those interested in English purely as a communication tool, not a vehicle of aesthetic value. The problem comes, as you indicate, when native speakers and writers begin to exclusively use such a style. If you’re right, we’ve in big trouble.

    Haven’t seen Idiocracy. It’ll be on my list of things to do when we’re back.

    OCM, the shoe is on the other foot in learning a foreign language. Depends on what you want it for – but wouldn’t learning a “basic” Spanish or French or Chinese make more sense than trying to get a grip on the whole langauge in a few short courses? Imagine trying to read Don Quixote in the original Spanish, and you have a notion of what obstacles a student of English as a foreign language faces when confronted with Shakespeare.

    So I guess my sympathy swings both ways.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. OneCrazyMama

    Sorry, didn’t mean to wander off into a rant on a related topic.

    I guess, the way I feel, is that we’re all going a little “globish” with net-speak and such. I would guess students of the current generation will leave school with even less understanding/command of English than generations past.

    My “what the hell, go for it” side is thinking Le Globish is sort of a “when in Rome” moment. English speakers, on the whole, don’t respect the language or possess a full toolbox, so, why bother expecting anyone else to do so?

    Of course, the rest of me screams “Ack! More dumbing down…run for the hills!”

    Idiocracy is better for the concept than for the actual movie. We watched the whole thing, but I think you would probably end up with just as much insight into what they are saying if you watch the first 20 minutes. The rest is just too painful.

    I really don’t want to think about reading Don Quixote in the original Spanish. Maybe someday, but I don’t have a deep abiding interest in Spanish beyond daily communication. Something that 4 college courses doesn’t manage to convey, either, but somehow they are required anyway (and therein lies my beef with the requirement).

    That the interested student should pursue Cervantes or Shakespeare and not expect Cervantes or Shakespeare to be reduced to their level…well…it kind of goes without saying.

    But, in these times, anything goes.

    Maybe we should just be glad they would think to give the Bard a second glance, but it does feel like settling…

  5. Brian Barker

    Apparently President-elect Barack Obama wants everyone to learn a foreign language.

    The British learn French, the Australians also study Japanese and the Americans prefer Spanish. Yet this leaves Mandarin Chinese and Arabic out of the equation.

    I think we need to move forward and teach a common neutral non-national language, in all countries, in all schools, worldwide!

    Can ask you to look at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 and see a glimpse of Esperanto at http://www.lernu.net ?

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