Thursday, May 26, 2011

You might be bilingual and not even know it!

Do you find yourself at a loss for words lately?  Maybe not showing off your extremely diverse vernacular?  Well, it could be because you are attempting to speak one of the newest languages - Globish.  Created by Jean-Paul Nerriere in 1998, this 'language' is not really a official language, but instead a subset of the English language.  With only the 1,500 most common words, Globish is intened for better and more effective English communication between speakers of all languages.

According to the book Globish The World Over, only 12% of the world's citizens claim English as thier native tongue.  Seeing as English is the international language of the world (with 45 countries citing it as thier official language) and the most common for use in business, medicine, science, etc., Globish is meant to facilitate communication between people of different mother tongues.  Related to that, only 4% of English communication throughout the world takes place between two native English speakers, which leaves 96% of conversations to be had with a foreign language speaker.  With such a massive majority, it stands to reason to set some limits and standards for easy communication.  I mean, if they have to learn to communicate for work or school in a different language, the least that can be done is to make it accesible and speakable for all of them.

But, just because you have the English language mastered, doesn't immediatley qualify you as an expert Globish speaker.  With only 1,500 words, you need to learn to communicate as effectivley as possible with minimal words.  Think of texting or the old telegraph messages.  In these, you pay either by the message or back in the olden days, by the word.  You are much more selective with how you say what needs to be said.  Globish is basically that - saying what you need to say in the most basic form.  And if you are speaking to a foreign speaker, it's not a form of 'speaking down' to them, but instead, making yourself a better communicator by making your message understandable. 

I see myself doing this with my students especially when I limit my vocabulary.  For example, maybe at home if I wanted to describe something, I would choose words like massive, huge, gigantic, colossal or humongous, but here I would probably just say VERY big.  As they get older, I try to incorporate more vocabulary little by little of course.  I also see a slow disappearance of 'phrasal verbs' in my every-day speaking.  For non-English teachers, that just means a verb that contains more than one word (call back, get into, break out of, let off, etc)  For example, here, I would never say abide by the rules.  I would say follow the rules because its easier.  Other examples of 'phrasal verbs' that can normally be said easier for learners with a one-word verb are:  call off = cancel, get in = enter, let down = disappoint, or make up = invent.  Imagine trying to learn a language and having to understand the difference between John stood Mary up and John stood up for Mary.  Catch the drift?  English is quite difficult, but Globish simplifies it.

Not only does Globish cut down (reduce is probably how I would say it here) on words, but also, it is a very active language.  Whereas we might say The streets were cleaned this morning, Globish would change this sentence to The workmen cleaned the streets this morning thereby eliminating all passive grammar and perhaps some confusion.  With some other tweeks, regular English becomes, I guess you could say decaffinated. 

While I see the advantages of Globish, I still of course want to hold onto my American English and all my silly sayings, that will NEVER enter the Globish dictionary.  Bull in a china hutch, green with envy, slower than molasses in January (that one is straight from Grammy), and things like this are what make my English MINE.  For an English student to master these, means they have basically have to have a native speaker level.  Until they master English they will probably not be able to see the difference between 'white as a sheet' and 'white as snow'.  Since I work with children, I am very lucky that I have Joseba to speak with.  His English is very good and between episodes of American TV shows (Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men), movies and speaking with me, he is quite good with these things that make up our English American.  But guaranteed if you have talked to me on the phone in the past 3 years, you have noticed a change in my English.  Don't worry, I might be fluent in Globish, but  I am working hard to keep my English amazing as well haha!

Kisses (pecks, smooches, smack - see, I still got it!)

1 comment:

Bill Chapman said...

Have you comnsidered Esperanto as an alternative to Globish? Esperanto has been used in speech and writing for nearly 125 years with great success.

It's worth saying that no one sees Esperanto as a replacement for the myriad of tongues in the world. It is available as a common language for us all.