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David Hon


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As an American, David tries to use English as little as possible. For that reason, the following piece is written in Globish:

Globish uses 1500 English words plus their usual combinations and extensions, in simple but correct English forms. The spelling and pronunciation are learned with each word, with no attempt at general spelling and pronunciation rules. It is a closed system of natural language. It is not “broken” unless, as with any natural language, someone “breaks it.” It is not a mix, like Chinglish or Spanglish. Globish can be used as an early stage of English if a person wants to progress to more involved – not to say “better” – English. However, it has the name Globish because it is a world language, and not any kind of extension of the English culture. This single factor will contribute greatly to its worldwide acceptance.

Several incidents interested me in Globish lately. The first was when a British English teacher on the Internet said “Globish is so easy that even Americans can learn it.” Another was when I realized that an increasing number of people claim they are “texting” in Globish. They freely say so, without worrying that this English is a bit limited. Globish lets them use the most useful English without worrying about the status they show with their varying use of English. Another interesting element was that Globish was pulled together by a non-native English speaker, Jean-Paul Nerrière. Nerrière, a Frenchman, was the IBM USA international marketing VP, and the executive who first saw that IBM should progress by means of selling their services, rather than selling iron. This insight was of no little importance to the growth of worldwide computer systems. He also saw that a fairly regular subset of English was largely used by non-native English speakers who are speaking to each other. By largely, I mean that hundreds of millions of non-native speakers can use forms that would be called Globish to talk with each other daily. Possible Globish speakers may now represent a larger group than native English speakers. The very word Globish means they do not have to ask our permission now to speak English to each other. They will own Globish. It may be a child of English, but we do not own this child. What’s more, the people using it are definitely not children.

So Globish took its form from many people across the world who used “a little English” between each other. Many were in business, but some were in sports, some were scientists, and some were just traveling with backpacks. The wonder was that being non-native speakers, they talked with each other in their English – Globish – much better than they did with the native English speakers. The native English speakers always talked too much, and listened too little. Some could not help themselves; it was center stage for people who had never developed any other, more valuable, skill. But now we are starting to see the results of that dismissive English. Often, a company with native English speakers loses international business because the companies in Korea and South America want to talk to each other in Globish. They definitely do not want to appear as servants to some native English speaker who is actually in their hire.

Globish seems to offer two important possibilities to English language teachers:

(1) Non-native English teachers who can never quite reach the English culture’s “gold standard” of being a native speaker, can be very successful at teaching Globish. And the employed adult student – the new global citizen -- may never have the time or money to study English to its ever-higher levels. But they can still do a lot of global business if they can use all that Globish offers in their work lives.

(2) The native English-speaking person can – with some work – recognize the 1500 Globish words he or she can use, and employ simpler forms of usage. And we should all work on keeping our sentences shorter than 26 words and our ideas clear. In all, Globish will be a lot easier than learning Chinese. If you have not seen Globish happening in the world, then you are probably not listening to your students. It is a party, a global parade, and it is happening in Globish. At best we will join it… They will be pleased to let you in if you show you speak Globish. At worst we will remain, noses in the air and praising the Queen’s English, drinking beer on our front decks, while the world marches by…and away from us.