Don’t speak english, Parlez globish » by Jean-Paul Nerrière through EYROLLES publishing*
The author, a Central Paris University graduate who went on to become a navy captain, has had a brilliant career in the industry. He has successively been the vice-president of IBM Europe and IBM USA. So you can say he’s had enough time throughout his career to improve his international communication. The term Globish® is a trademark, so I hope that I can still talk about it. I love this book that much! (The author advocates for the spread of Globish throughout the world, so I’m not sure why he wanted to trademark the term, since it clearly hinders its propagation.) The book is 287 pages, and it’s a very easy read. It’s written in very understandable French with a carefully-chosen vocabulary. It’s also full of personal anecdotes and very interesting stories.
English, the International Community’s Language of Reference
Do non-native speakers have a certain advantage?
At first glance, you may think that English speakers have a huge advantage over non-natives. Their language is the internationalist’s language, and they don’t need to pay for costly translations since most of the world can read their material.
But in fact, this advantage isn’t as important as that.
The author of the French book Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish presents an anecdote I’m sure most people who work in an international company have experienced:
During a business meeting in English with non-native speakers, everybody can understand each other with a basic, yet effective, level of English. But when a native English speaker is thrown into the mix, the conversation diminishes, understanding lessens and nobody dares to express themselves at the risk of “exposing” their level of English. Even worse, some wouldn’t dare challenge what a native speaker says or ask them to repeat themselves. It’s a pretty bad linguistic complex, and it’s a big problem for native speakers themselves.
Since our natural level of English can be too rich for non-natives, Anglophones, myself included, have a difficult time fully expressing our thoughts to non-natives, and some of use have little experience even doing such. In all, the entire communication can go to waste.
Luckily, native English speakers are largely a minority, comprising just 12% of the world’s population. And current English, as on the Internet or in international commerce, is nothing compared to Shakespeare (or even the English taught in classrooms). Today, it’s a technical, utilitarian language, lacking style and focusing on summation. This form of the language isn’t geared as much towards culture and literature, but more so towards efficiency in global parlance.
The author of Parlez Globish, Jean-Paul Nerrière, has put forth just that name for this new language, Globish:
In my opinion, I’d say that there are very few Anglophones who speak a second language, most just say the entire world speaks their language, so they see no point in learning another one. However, they’re wrong. There are enormous advantages to speaking a foreign language. In addition to its practical aspect, there are tons of cognitive advantages (better brain development, slowing down cognitive aging, see the other benefits on this site).
English, an exceptional difficult language?
The author tells us that English is a rather difficult language compared to languages made from several parts in order to be easier, much like Esperanto. For example, it has a very rich vocabulary, with more than 600,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary (and possibly up to 750,000 depending on the source). But most of these words have very subtle distinctions, whether they’re on our plate (pork, beef, fowl) or in the fields (pig, cow, bird).
Furthermore, the author states that there is no proper English, but there exist around 18 different “Englishes”, each with different words, accents and grammar rules. Even worse, English has no central authority (like the Académie française for French) governing its evolution, so it changes quickly but only by a little bit in each aspect.
Note: I need to confess that each language can be difficult in its own right. For instance, in all my years studying Romance languages, the entire purpose of grammatical gender still eludes me. And my Russian study partner can never figure out a proper reply to “what’s up?”, likewise, I can’t even explain the reason we say that!
However, like in the commentaries this article highlights, English is in fact quite easy to learn. It has a super simple conjugation system, and it doesn’t have genders (so no need to remember things like el/la/la/los). There are also countless resources out there to practice with (TV shows, books, web sits, etc.). And when your practice material is some of the most well-known media on Earth (TV shows, educational material, music), learning English couldn’t be any more entertaining! That’s the key: small vocab and grammar lessons followed up with entertaining resources.
Finally, today’s English has a tendency to simplify itself, especially when it comes to globalization and the Internet. Thus, international English turns into a simplified version of the language (i.e. the most effective way to communicate with people from all over the planet). In the end, this is what the author coins (quite literally) Globish®.
But what exactly does this new form of English consist of?
Globish, Just 1,500 Words to Communicate Effectively
Note: Globish isn’t the only simplified English. International English, Basic English, Simple English and numerous other varieties have popped up for their own reasons.