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Globish: How the English Language became the World's Language Paperback – 26 May 2011

2.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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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 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 678,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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

From the Back Cover

Robert McCrum argues, brilliantly and provocatively, that England s greatest contribution to the world is English. The empire may be gone. But Globish explains why the language still rules. Malcolm Gladwel Praise forP. G. Wodehouse: A Life: For as long as P.G. Wodehouse is read, this will be the seminal work of reference, the indispensable vade mecum. In other words as the Master might say ripping. John le Carr McCrum . . . has written a biography that, if the subject were a general or a politician, would be dubbed magisterial. This is a magisterial biography: disinterested, but never detached, and always intriguing. Under the kindly and scholarly tutelage of McCrum, you might want to explore here the Wodehouse genius, the inconsistencies and downright silliness in the man s life. Frank McCourt, Globe and Mail [An] absorbing and generous biography, which now takes its rightful place as the life. Christopher Buckley, Los Angeles Times Book Review This book is a triumph. Not only should all P. G. Wodehouse fans read it, but it is a masterly picture of twentieth-century history. A. N. Wilson " --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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2.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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By therealus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anybody who has travelled a little is likely to be able to tell a tale about Globish, the near-ubiquitous English found in the four corners of the globe. In Ghent for a meeting several years ago, business was conducted exclusively in English. Buying tickets for the tram in an Amsterdam newsagent, the assistant had no difficulty conducting the sale in English. A conference call with the back office in India, in English. Then again there was the gas station in Atlanta where everybody was speaking Spanish, and sometimes the conjugations from the folks in Mumbai may be logical, but actually aren't those used by the folks in Manchester. No story is perfect. Depending on whom you ask, there are between 200m and 400m people in China trying to learn English. At the top end of the range, this outnumbers the native speakers of Spanish. In numerous business transactions across the world, English is the common ground between people for whom it is a secondary language. In this entertaining and informative book Robert McCrum explains how this state of affairs came about.

The story of English to the 19th Century is, essentially, that of England from the arrival of the Anglo-Saxon invaders in the fifth century CE, although McCrum's story begins with the arrival of the Romans in 55 BCE. He condenses this tale, via St Augustine, Magna Carta, William Caxton and Shakespeare, and interweaves it with the arrival of English in North America, where the language had room to spread its wings and eventually acquire sufficient cultural, political and economic weight, acquiring a further corpus of works from the Declaration of Independence, through the Gettysburg Address and on to Mark Twain and beyond, with Obama bringing the whole thing up to date. Some of the story is quite familiar.
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