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Globish The World Over: Volume 1 Paperback – 25 Jul 2009
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`Globish', as a concept, is pseudo-academic, `buzz-word' marketing at its worst. There is a great deal of RESEARCH into and theoretical DIALOGUE about the way English is used today and why it is used as it is, including English as an International Language, Global Englishes, Language as a Local Practice, World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca (also relevant are general areas of discourse, style, language contact, language ecology, critical linguistics/theory, sociolinguistics and accounts of the `socio-cognitive turn' in Second Language Acquisition). Globish is a term that was conceived purely from the intuition of its theorists, and is therefore based on minimal/no empiricism. It fails to acknowledge the many areas of linguistics that are far more empirically grounded in their thinking, and which clearly were the origin of the (oversimplified) idea for Globish, although that is rarely/never acknowledged. Globish isn't an account of English in the world, it's a niche term which is actually nothing more than a hypothesis: a hypothesis that would be discredited with a quick glance at how language and communication actually work. It is more suited to being a passing thought on a blog entry than a model or theory of English in the world (although some advice on English usage is ok).
This `new English' should apparently consist of X number of words, which expands to Y number of words if including blah, blah, blah, and it should be idiom free. Their intentions are going in the right direction, as lots of research would support scrutiny of culture-specific idioms and the immense difficulty and redundancy of many phrasal verbs and collocations, but their account of and recommendations for international English is simply ludicrous if we consider the nature of language! It is very easy to perceive a certain amount of logic in the claims of Globish if you have experience of intercultural communication in an additional language. Many lexical items are not communicatively necessary and idioms are often confusing and culturally loaded - we can reach communicative success with `simpler' terms and more direct expressions happily (and I repeat that this is not the ground-breaking discovery of anybody remotely associated with Globish, not that you'd guess it from their books). The factors that this intuitive account overlooks are discourses, contexts, cultures and the basic nature of human communication.
Most people use English in specific environments (with associated cultures, purposes, roles, knowledge, expectations, identity positions, etc.) and lexical items are there to represent common ideas and notions. For example, we can't omit `teleprompter' from the imaginary `Globish' dictionary because a Globish `expert' in an office somewhere imagines it would be uncommon in global English communication. It would not be uncommon for people working in an international news studio (or, if it were, an equivalent word would be used, either from English [e.g. script machine] or another dominant language in the setting). This applies to scientific terms, business / admin terms, legal terms etc. The linguacultural environment has a massive influence on the vocabulary that's used, because different ideas, phenomena and objects are present and given different emphases - 'English' developed from uses and influences, hence why we have so many tongues in it (potato, tornado, alter, etc.). Further to this, research shows that idioms are (and are able to be) present in most English that's used around the world; it is how these are communicated that makes them problematic or useful, e.g. some are more explicit than others, some offer access to the speaker's culture and identity that can be used strategically in the communicative setting (it is common for speakers to strategically use and explain/adapt idiomatic expressions from their first language and other languages, or to cooperatively create new metaphors/idioms - would such instances be outlawed by Globish? I hope not, because this happens a lot and would remove some functions of language from its use!).
The point is that people draw on shared pools of linguistic resources, cultural artefacts and communicative behaviours, which operate in various ways across different contexts, which in turn means that resources are used in wildly different and unpredictable ways. We can, even in an intuitive way, say that English used in different cultural (and intercultural) settings among people of different linguacultural backgrounds will differ in terms of vocabulary, style and form. It is just silly to reduce the research that is going in this complex area, and the knowledge of language that underpins our understanding of this area, to an abstract set of rules that have been fabricated without empiricism or theoretical insights.
In short (?!!!), ignoring other research/theory in this area is unacceptable, and the attempt to manage/construct a language for the world to use is arrogant, showing misunderstanding of how language actually works. Globish is selling an empirically and theoretically flawed idea on the basis that English is being used globally (duh), that it is 'no longer' the property of native speakers (does Spanish 'belong' to Spain? Chinese to China? It's a silly metaphor to use with language) and it is therefore changing (always inherently true if you understand anything about language - but not true in the way they suggest). Most people are aware of the status of English now - can we please go beyond Globish and move in a more informed direction?
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Learning English as a 2nd language is extremely difficult. Idioms, slang, verbal-hell, variations in pronunciation between english speaking countries. Add to that converting an alphabet to symbols and it's a daunting task easily avoided or abandoned after beginning. Nevertheless, the world seems to have embraced English for some situations like international airline communications, tourist spots and then there's business. This book is about using English in International business situations. I discovered that as a native English speaker, I'm in a minority of english speakers worldwide. 4% so the book says.
The globish concept has promise and makes sense if the statistics are correct. I'm not sure that 1500 English words plus some verbs, with added in technical vocabulary is enough, but the authors seem to think so. I did write an extensive review in my amazon book review on my page at [...], so I'll abbreviate here and simply say that after all is said and done, I look at the book sitting in my studio bookshelf and feel let down by the experience. I think you can get a very good feel for globish by searching about on-line for free. Then if you demand more info, I'd look for a more in depth book then this one. "Do you speak globish?" "What's that?"
update 6-13-12: Since I first read this book, about 18 months ago, I've been following the growth of English throughout Asia, particularly in China, Korea, Vietnam and others too. The word "Globish" has been co-opted by Reporters & Broadcasters, and have battered it around. Globish, the book, presents a specific language and method to be used to communicate in a clear but basic English. The co-opted term generally refers to any corruption of English currently in use to communicate in business usually, but possibly in other situations. In any event, although I stick to my original assessment, I've increased my rating.
This book was the forerunner of a new codified approach to International communication. I think it's worth reading. Is it the answer, maybe, if it's used as a base to build upon.
Usually, the content is good, but I have some criticisms.
1) Idioms and other figurative language are not permitted. For example, do not say, "miss the boat" if you mean, "do something too late." The guideline is good. However, although the authors claim that the book is written in Globish, the text does not conform to this Globish guideline.
2) The authors agree that phrasal verbs can be a problem, but phrasal verbs are permitted in Globish.
3) The authors do not compare Globish to other types of simplified English such as Basic Global English, EasyEnglish, or Special English.