I’ve just finished reading a French book that I found very interesting, Don’t Speak English, Speak Globish by Jean-Paul Nerrière:
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.
I would like to talk a little about this book, because our method is inspired by a few of the principles stated in the book. So below you’ll find a summary of the book (in three parts), that I hope will inspire you to learn more about the book and maybe even purchase it for yourself or as a gift.

English, the International Community’s Language of Reference


Historically, we’ve always looked for ways to communicate with our neighbors, but today it’s even more crucial in our globalized society. There have been numerous attempts to create common languages, built solely on being easy to learn. The most well-known example is Esperanto, a man-made language constructed with parts from all over the world, making it very logical and very easy to learn (easily accomplished in a month or two). It also has a super active community, including some native speakers.
But English has become the language of international communications, and at a level no other language has seen before. Years ago, those who mastered English had an advantage over those who didn’t. But now, it’s gone up a notch — those who haven’t mastered English have a noticeable handicap. It’s a little unfair since it gives native English speakers a huge leg up over the competition. And on top of all this, English is known for being notoriously difficult to learn, most notably for Chinese and Japanese speakers and even for French and Russian speakers.

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

Globish is a form of English that is totally correct, but remains purified and condensed. One of its most important principles is that it’s comprised of just 1,500 carefully chosen words that allow somebody to express themselves without problem. If you use more words, you risk losing the understanding of a great majority of the world’s population.
           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.
With just 1,500 words, it’s perfectly possible to communicate with people from all over the world — even 850 words can suffice. Some phrases can be needlessly long, but you still have everything you need to be understood.
These 1,500 words can be combined together to obtain a number of other words (like backdoor, backhand, dream team and many others). And of course, you can decline them into various forms, like teach-teacher-taught and nice-nicer-nicest, which bring the final count close to 3,500 words. When you consider all the hybrids like Spanglish, Franglish and Chinglish, the potential of these 1,500 words is limitless.
Note: Learning and concretely memorizing Globish’s 1,500 words is unbelievably easy. Thanks to modern memorization methods and a few months of targeted learning with MosaLingua’s spaced repetition system, memorizing 1,500 words is a couple month ordeal. MosaLingua English for the iPhone contains well above these 1,500 words, with over 2,00 cards featuring specialized vocabulary and common phrases carefully chosen for their grammatical usefulness. Even advanced learners can benefit from our Business English app.
Note 2: Of course, I in no way expect people to be content learning just these 1,500 words. The book we’re talking about today refers solely to one form of English, Globish, which is dedicated to international communication. If you want to live in an English-speaking country or read English novels, Globish just isn’t enough.

Read more on techniques of speaking English for being understood in an international context — helpful for native and non-native speakers alike. If not, I invite you to visit the Globish site which contains the list of these infamous 1,500 words or to buy the book on Amazon to take it a step further.
Note:The link above is an affiliate link. Buying the book through this intermediary won’t cost you anything more, but a small part of the proceeds will go to the Verdamilio Association (verdamilio.org), which I am a part of The Verdamilio association promotes solidarity, education, the environment and sustainable development, among other causes.