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      10.05.2011 10:58
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      a useful means of communication

      Not surprisingly, the term 'Globish' is a contraction of the words 'global' and 'English' but it isn't a synonym. Everybody knows that English is *the* global language, not only do 400 million people speak it as their first language but also approximately 3.6 Million as their second, third or whatever language. This means that about two thirds of the world population speak some kind of English.

      First British English gained supremacy during the 19th century age of the British Empire. Imperialism and language were closely linked, British English was the language the British subjects all over the world spoke or aspired to speak.

      The rising power of the United States pushed American English forward in the 20th century, strengthened by the mass media movies, mags and newspapers. Pop culture emancipated American English so-to-speak in the second half of the 20th century, if someone used it, it didn't necessarily mean that they also venerated the US of A. The electronic media furthered the cause, an estimated 70 to 80% of the world's internet home pages are in English, an English which has become independent of its Anglo-American origins. It has gained supranational momentum and can't be stopped any more, on the contrary, it's growing every day. In 2003 the countries Chile and Mongolia declared their intention to become bilingual with English as their second language and in 2009 the African state of Rwanda where French used to be the second official language switched over to English.

      Why do people all over the world feel the need for a lingua franca? They want to communicate, they want to be able to do business with each other, they certainly don't want to master English so that they can read Shakespeare plays in the original, at least the overwhelming majority doesn't.

      This has led to a simplification of grammar rules and vocabulary and to a language free of allusions, quotations, sayings, puns and jokes. The Frenchman Jean-Paul Nerriére, a retired IBM executive noticed in the 1990s that non-native English speakers understood each other much better than non-native speakers understood native speakers and vice versa. Instead of, say, 'niece' they use 'the son of my brother/sister', instead of 'oath' they say 'word of honour' etc. Two fewer words to learn! Nerriére compiled a vocabulary of 1.500 words, enough to communicate with anybody regardless of their mother tongue. It's basic or essential English but contains all the necessary terms of our digital age. This non-native English is also called 'decaffeinated English', it quenches the thirst but hasn't got spark.

      The site www.globish.com introduces Monsieur Nerriére and his concept - you can click on a video and hear him talking - and offers books on Globish for learners with different first languages. A special service is also advertised, namely to help rewrite any text in Globish. "Not sure if your text is Globish compatible? Our Globish Word Scanner highlights any non-Globish words in red so that you can rewrite your text." This is the point where Globish may be useful for native speakers of English, too. If you write an article and want it understood worldwide, you should scan it to find out which words are not included in the 1.500 word list of Globish and then substitute them with simpler expressions.

      Globish may not be rooted in the British of American cultural heritage any more, but it can't be denied that it stems from there. This is the reason why some people are against it and propagate a completely artificial language like, say, Esperanto which is composed of elements of different languages and doesn't prefer just one. Some artificial languages are already quite old, Esperanto, for example, was invented at the end of the 19th century. But obviously they aren't serious contenders for Globish. The opponents of unifying languages claim that cultural diversity will suffer and maintain that preserving cultural diversity is as important as preserving biodiversity. One must concede that languages spoken only by few people do become extinct at an alarming rate, on the other hand one can notice that people speaking a major language become more and more interested in its varieties and care for dialects. In some countries there are even adult evening classes where one can study extinct or dying dialects.

      The funny thing is that native speakers are excluded from Globish. If you haven't learnt to *listen* to your mother tongue, you don't know how many figures of speech, images, metaphors, puns, proverbs etc. you use. You may think that you can speak in a simple way and be convinced that even foreigners with a limited knowledge of English can understand you, but that isn't the case. You just don't know which words are 'simple' for a foreigner and which are to be avoided or rather substituted by simple synonyms. My English is far above Globish (I scanned this text and found that I would have to substitute about 80 words) but after teaching it as a second language to foreigners for 40 years I can adapt to any standard because I know where the difficulties are. I'm glad, however, to be able to understand and use all the ingredients that must be omitted to simplify it and make it a means of universal communication. I wouldn't want to miss the joy of getting a pun or even using one myself.

      I won't conclude with 'Lucky you' and congratulate you on being born into the world language No 1 because I'm of the opinion that knowing a foreign language or two (or more) is a always good thing.

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