Globish cuts English down to size


The Times
December 11, 2006

Globish cuts English down to size

Adam Sage in Paris

  • Only 1,500 words in entire vocabulary
  • Gestures but no jokes or idioms

If you plan to travel the world expecting to get by on English, think again.

The language you need is Globish, according to a French author who says that the British are failing to seize the mother tongue of international communication.

Globish is a simple, pragmatic form of English codified by Jean-Paul Nerrire, a retired vice-president of IBM in the United States.

It involves a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across.

Mr Nerrire, 66, originally sought to help non-English speakers and notably his compatriots in the era when business meetings are invariably held en anglais. He advised that instead of struggling to master the Queens English, they should content themselves with Globish.

His two books, Dont Speak English, Parlez Globish and Dcouvrez le Globish, became bestsellers in France and were also published in Spain, Italy, South Korea and Canada. They are also being translated into Japanese.

Globish is a proletarian and popular idiom which does not aim at cultural understanding or at the acquisition of a talent enabling the speaker to shine at Hyde Park Corner, he wrote.

It is designed for trivial efficiency, always, everywhere, with everyone.

Mr Nerrire says that his globalised version of English is now so common that Britons, Americans and other English-speakers should learn it too. The point is that Anglophones no longer own English, he told The Times in Paris.

It is now owned by people in Singapore, Ulan Bator, Montevideo, Beijing and elsewhere.

He says that in multi- national meetings, Anglo-Saxons stand out as strange because they cling to their original language instead of using the elementary English adopted by colleagues from other countries.

Their florid phraseology and grammatical complexities are often incomprehensible, said Mr Nerrire, who added: One thing you never do in Globish is tell a joke.

The only jokes which cross frontiers involve sex, race and religion and you should never mention those in an international meeting.

The fast-talking Mr Nerrire has developed software to help English-speakers to acquire written Globish.

The program checks English words and eliminates those not included in the 1,500-strong Globish list.

Mr Nerrire said: English- speakers need to make the effort to speak like everyone else. If they do, they will not be seen as arrogant and they might even become popular.

He said that commercial ventures could depend upon the mastery of Globish. If you lose a contract to a Moroccan rival because youre speaking an English that no one apart from another Anglophone understands, then youve got a problem.

Aware that purists may baulk at his ideas, Mr Nerrire insists that Globish should be confined to international exchanges. Other languages French, German, Italian as well as orthodox English should be preserved as vehicles of culture.

In other words, he believes that we should learn French for Molire, Italian for Dante, German for Goethe, Spanish for Cervantes, English for Shakespeare and Globish to discuss the price of steel in China.

Talk the talk

Use only words in the Globish glossary

Keep sentences short

Repeat yourself

Avoid metaphors and colourful expressions

Avoid negative questions

Avoid all humour

Avoid acronyms

Use gestures and visual aids

Dont say Siblings

Say The other children of my mother and father

Dont say Eerie

Say Strange

Dont say A bun in the oven

Say Pregnant.

Dont say Globish is the gateway to international conversation

Do say Globish helps you to talk to people from other countries

In other words, don’t go for quality. Be content with mediocrity. Why go for the best when ‘enough’ would be ok???