Globish the World Over: a review

Review by Mike Unwalla.

Jean-Paul Nerrière and David Hon, 2009. Globish the World Over. International Globish Institute. 168 pages. ISBN 978-2-212-54323-0.

English is important for international business, but English is a complex language. Globish is a method of simplifying English to make English easy for non-native speakers. Globish is a subset of the English language that has 1500 basic words and a simple grammar.

Globish the World Over is a useful basic book that explains how to solve many of the problems of communicating internationally using English. The book has the following two parts, which I discuss later:

An appendix contains US President Obama's Inaugural Address, and a Globish version of Obama's speech.

Usually, the content is good, but I have three primary criticisms:

The problem with learning English

The first part of Globish the World Over explains why Globish is necessary.

The name 'Globish' helps to show that everyone owns the language. The authors write, "Globish has a different name because it is a very different way to solve the problem of learning English."

The idea for Globish started in international meetings of people from America, Britain, continental Europe, Japan, and Korea. Communication between groups was different:

The authors think that the good communication between the non-native English speakers was because they were not afraid to use simple English.

The authors write, "The most important thing about Globish is that it started with non-native English speakers." To show why Globish is better than other types of simplified English, the authors need to compare different types of simplified English with Globish. Some examples of simplified English for international communication are as follows:

The authors write, "Some English professor could have said 'I will now create Globish to make English easy for these adults who are really children.' Then Globish would not be global, but just some English professor's plaything." However, the statement is only an opinion.

Some native English speakers do not know about the needs of people who do not speak English well. Native English speakers who want to speak Globish must do the following things:

The authors discuss plain English. To communicate effectively, people do not need to know all of English. People need to know sufficient English to give their message clearly. Native English speakers use approximately 3500 words regularly. Globish is a specified subset of English that is sufficient for most communication.

When people know Globish, they have sufficient English to communicate effectively. People who know Globish have English that is level B1 on the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/elp/elp-reg/cefr_EN.asp).

Many non-native English speakers think that English is a threat to their culture. The authors emphasize that Globish is a tool for business. Globish is not a cultural language in the way that French or Chinese or English are cultural languages. For example, Globish is not good for speaking about strong feelings. "Globish can achieve what it does because it is useful English without a huge number of words and cultural idioms."

Elements of Globish

The second part of Globish the World Over explains the grammar and the words that are in Globish. This review discusses only some of the topics.

Most of the limits are on the vocabulary, not on the grammar. For example, Globish uses 10 of the 12 English tenses. Only two tenses are not permitted:

Ideally, sentences have no more than 15 words. As a maximum, sentences have 26 words. This good guideline helps to prevent a sentence from having many clauses. However, the authors do not explain why 15 words are better than 13 words or 17 words. To restrict the number of clauses in a sentence, a simple alternative is to specify the maximum number of clauses. For example, EasyEnglish has a maximum of two clauses in a sentence (www.easyenglish.info/about-us/articles/communicator.htm).

Idiom and other figurative language are not permitted. For example, do not say, "miss the boat" if you mean, "do something too late." This is a good guideline. However, the text that is in Globish the World Over does not conform to this Globish guideline.

Globish has 1500 basic words. (Also, you can use technical words, and the names of people and places.) The authors explain that 1500 words is not necessarily the best number of words. However, learning 1500 words is easier than learning 2000 words. The words come from lists of frequently-used English words. The Globish list is similar to the Voice of America list, but the Globish list has fewer words that are about politics.

The 1500 basic words in Globish can be increased to approximately 5000 related words by using four methods:

Although the authors agree that phrasal verbs can be a problem, phrasal verbs are permitted in Globish.

Studies show that until the age of 10, "English-speaking children use Phrasal Verbs, and very little else." However, adults and children learn differently. Therefore, this reason for using phrasal verbs is not a good one.

A Globish guideline is to avoid figurative language. However, many phrasal verbs are figurative. Frequently, the meaning of a phrasal verb is different from the meanings of its parts. For example, the phrasal verb 'carry out' means 'do'. Nothing is 'carried', and nothing is 'out'.

Phrasal verbs can be a large problem for non-native English readers. "The clearest indication emerging from this study was the difficulty that phrasal verbs are likely to pose for non-native speakers of English. Even very advanced learners of English have not mastered these idiomatic expressions." (Plain English? A Study of Plain English Vocabulary and International Audiences, Emily A Thrush, www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-77497899.html.)

A good Globish guideline is to include what Kohl calls 'optional syntactic cues'. For example, frequently, the word 'that' is optional. The authors give the example, "There are many reasons the government cannot reduce your taxes." However, Globish the World Over does not conform to the guideline. Frequently, optional syntactic cues are not used.

Text in Globish the World Over does not conform to Globish guidelines
Text Page Globish guideline Better as
The English Learners' Problem… Can Be Their Edge 30 No figurative language. The English Learners' Problem… Can Be Their Gain
Speaking with words that go past the words they understand is the best way to lose them. 39 to 40 No figurative language.
Missing 'that' in "words they" (words that they).
Using words that they do not know is the best way to make them misunderstand you.
On top of that, someone will be recording you. 62 No figurative language. Also, someone will be recording you.
and go over that text with Globish software. 63 No figurative language. and check that text with Globish software.
This will lay the groundwork for describing major language elements that are important to Globish. 72 No figurative language.
Use simple words.
This will be the base for describing the important language parts of Globish.

Globish is for both written communication and for spoken communication.

Students who spoke Hungarian, Finish, Hindi, Polish, German, and Mandarin helped in a study. The study shows that seven sounds are a problem for all the speakers. The vowel sounds in the following words are a problem for all the speakers: mud, near, no, now, face, bad. Also, all speakers had a problem with the 'th' sound in the word 'thing'.

Globish the World Over discusses pronunciation. "Globish pronunciation has fewer necessary sounds than traditional English" because Globish speakers do not necessarily need to speak with native English fluency.

See also

Globish Solutions Inc

Globish and Basic Global English (BGE): Two Alternatives for a Rapid Acquisition of Communicative Competence in a Globalized World?

Articles about language

Reviews of books that are about English for international readers

TechScribe's international English website

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