Global Lingo Blog

Globish – a language of international business?

An article by Michael Skapinker in the Financial Times discusses how executives speak in a language of their own.

Jean-Paul Nerrière, a Frenchman, observed years of English conversations as a long-time IBM executive.

A business language

He noticed that when two non-native English speakers spoke to one another, for example an Italian and a Belgian, they would both know their English proficiency wasn’t perfect, but they would communicate and manage.

However, when having to speak to an American or a British person, the Italian or Belgian wouldn’t fare so well. In these cases the native English speaker would speak too quickly and use unknown expressions which hindered the communication.

Nerrière noted that although he had a heavy accent to his English, international clients actually understood him clearer than his Texan boss!

Decaffeinated English

These observations led Nerrière to develop Globish, pronounced Globe-ish.

The language compromises 1,500 English words which he believes form a common ground that non-native English speakers can adopt in the context of international business. For this purpose, he believes that the vocabulary is perfectly sufficient enough to communicate.

Never tell jokes

The central ideology of Globish is as a tool of international communication which is not artificial but a language void of all figurative speech that English possess.

Globish speakers avoid all figurative language and never tell jokes, meaning there is no need to engage with Anglophone literature, culture or humour and it is easy to learn. Though Nerrière actually likes to think of it as more of a tool than a language as it is not a ”vehicle of a culture” but a tool of communication.

Limit the influence of English

Nerrière conceives of it as an international auxiliary language, like Esperanto and that Globish promises to limit the influence of English. He hopes that the language will facilitate the life of everyone and put everyone on a par. Some have even described it as the worldwide dialect of the third millennium.

With 1.5 billion speaking it as a second language; maybe Globish will one day be the language of globalisation that Nerrière hopes it will?

As native English speakers will not understand a fluent Globish speaker; this represents an opportunity for even native English speakers to learn a new language and become bilingual.

We’ve borrowed some Globish from Robert McCrum’s article in the Guardian below:

Say it in English

I went to my niece and nephew’s party the other weekend. I played the piano and we were all singing along when a mouse ran out from behind the sofa with a piece of peach in its mouth.

Say it in Globish

At the party of my children’s brother the other day, I played an instrument with black and white keys and we all sang along. Then an animal chased by cats ran out from behind the seat with a piece of fruit in its mouth.

The concept of having a language for international business is creative as the tool allows people to communicate neutrally. Globish is resourceful as being only 1,500 words it is relatively accessible and easy to learn.

Where I do support the need to protect languages and hinder English’s ever increasing global dominance, I feel the time spent learning Globish would be more beneficial and have a positive impact if spent learning a real language, one that comes embedded within a culture, rather than learning a language which can be classed to some extent as another variant of Pidgin English.

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments.

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