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Globish: How the English Language became the World's Language [Paperback]

Robert McCrum
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 May 2011

Go anywhere in the world today and you'll see or hear English in some form. It may not necessarily be the Queen's English that you're hearing, but it is, nevertheless, a form of universally recognised English - it is Globish.

In his wonderfully witty and informative new book, Robert McCrum explores the curious history, vivacity and endurance of English and ponders why, while British and American empires have waxed and waned, the English language, freer from its moorings like never before, has quietly taken over the world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014102710X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141027104
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Globish presents a terrifically interesting prism through which to view the history of English . . . Most fascinating and amusing . . . Mr. McCrum s rapid journey . . . makes entertaining reading.--Paul Levy

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Recycling and watering down 1 Dec 2010
This book seems a re-hashed attempt to create an unnecessary buzzword / brand to present ideas that have previously been put forward in other, more thorough research/discussion. His term 'Globish' is an arm chair journey, with anecdotal accounts of English spread and no reference to any research or opinion from the many fields that discuss English in global contexts.

I find it amazing that this book has received so much attention, and that McCrum now writes as a popular oracle on English language spread, when, in fact, his omission of previous literature on English as a Lingua Franca, Global Englises, World Englishes, English as an International Language, English in a Global Context, Language Spread and New Literacies ought to qualify him to be one of the last people to be asked about related areas. What is the most striking feature of this book is certainly the lack of empiricism, and the side-step he has given those scholars who expressed similar views (far more effectively and with more relevance, I might add).

In short, it is hard to see this as 'research' on English around the world, it is not well argued (partially as a result) and I believe it is unethical, as he used some phrases in an interview with Andrew Marr which were clearly not his own, and which in turn suggested very clearly that he had read and adapted previous thoughts and research for his book with absolutely no reference to them. Also see Michael Swan's review of this book, which points out its many weaknesses in a more detailed but refined way.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars gibberish 2 July 2010
The emergence of English as the world's pre-eminent language for communication in business, politics and popular culture should be a fascinating subject, one well worth a detailed and thoughtful study. Mr McCrum instead gives us an energetically written journalistic travelogue, lightly researched and drawing on a very small number of interviews and visits.

Most of the book deals with the way English developed, starting with the Anglo-Saxon migration after the fall of Rome: this is a topic which has often been covered elsewhere, and with greater insight. It is in dealing with the last 60-odd years - essentially the period since the second world war - that the author seeks to break new(ish) ground. He charts the political, economic and cultural events that have led to English dominance, but gets little further than the obvious generalisation that people use language to make their way in the world, and adopt their language to be able to communicate with whoever is important to them. he often seems confused about whether he is describing the language or the cultural traits he believes it supports or makes possible.

And so much is missed on the way. For example, there is almost no description of how the variants of English work as languages. Many references are made to the French resistance to anglo-american cultural invasion, but little of other resistance movements closer to home, such as the forces imposition of Welsh on a largely anglophone population. And how did EU-speak English become so adept at incorporating the meaningless babble o American business consultants?

The book comes over as a fast moving screenshow of snapshots, like a display using one of the newish computer technologies. Some of the stories are interesting (like his assertion that the development of English in teh Indian Civil Service is an important stepping stone in the globalisation of English - but the composite lacks strength or real substance.

A disappointment
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars English good! Content wanders 21 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I work for an international NGO where English is the lingua franca and leadership and communication are at the heart of what we do.

McCrum makes some interesting points and tells quite an interesting story about the British Empire.

But I couldn't help feeling that he was simply warming up the Globish concept which - as he admits - is someone else's idea.

Unsatisfying and over-hyped.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ambiguous title 7 Oct 2010
"Globish" is the name given (by a Frenchman) to a form of simplified English spoken by non-native speakers as a pidgin. This book is not about Globish and only makes two passing references to Globish. If the trades descriptions act extended to book titles there would be grounds for litigation. This is yet another general history of English repeating the same generalizations, truisms and idiotic simplifications as scores of previous books. For example, the author waxes lyrical about how the Celtic elements gave a poetic tinge to the no-nonsense Anglo-Saxons. He cites as examples a series of authors of ambiguous Irishness such as Jonathan Swift, who defined himself as English and spent his formative years in England.
The lack of rigour in popular linguistics is on the increase (I blame Melvyn Bragg!). It has now spread to the titles of such books.
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