Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Little More on Globish

I decided I wnated to learn a bit more aboug Globish, better to understand the concept behind this simplfied English. I've learned a lot, and have a better understanding on where the proponents of Globigh are coming from. I also delved into my own past in learning French to figure out if I'd been speaking a "Globish" version of that language -- which I did at first, and in many ways still do.

First, here we have Jean-Paul Nerriere, a former IBM executive and major proponent of Globish, explaining his ideas. Simly put, Globish is much more than pidgin-English -- it's an attempt, and a good one, to help non-native speakers and native speakers alike better communicate with each other.

English, like any language, is rich with history and idioms -- and, for the most part, native speakers aren't aware of how much of this history and idiom appear in our everyday speech. For example, we take for granted that anyone speaking English knows what it means to be "all thumbs." Clumsy, right? Well, for a non-native speaker trying to interpret that idiom, it's easy to translate the words, but difficult to translate the meaning. "All thumbs," in French, literally translated, is "tout en pouces." (For an extensive example of English (here, mostly American) idioms, go here. We use them more than you'd think.)

The same is true in the reverse sense. If, in French, someone tells me that something “tomber pile,” I might be able to translate that, word-for-word, as “fall battery,” which means nothing to me. That’s because the idiomatic meaning of the French phrase, meaning “to land on a dime” is lost in the translation.

Globish, Nerrieire explains, means to eliminate that confusion, and many other confusions. If we eliminate the idiomatic expressions, the four-dollar words, the chances of miscommunication are reduced dramatically.

I’ve seen this happen time and again when I was learning to speak French. Once, I recall, I started telling a story by using the phrase “Il y etait une fois,” which I’d read in a book and loosely translated, in my pidgin-French, as “One time,” a common way to begin a sentence in English.

I used the phrase and got a big laugh. Turns out “Il y etait une fois” does carry that figurative meaning, but the literal meaning is equivalent to English’s “Once upon a time.” They laughed because they thought I was going to tell a fairy story. Getting fancy with a language often shows a learner is trying, but also shows a learner is misunderstanding the idioms and culture of the language being used. Globish could be used to fix that – because it’s meant not only to be used by non-native English speakers but by native speakers as well – helping us to curb our idiomatic use in order to be better understood by those who aren’t native speakers of our language.

That’s how I survived living two years in France. Not that I wasn’t learning and practicing French idioms, but that the French folk I was speaking to learned to modify their language as they were speaking to me in order to boost my comprehension. I appreciate that more now that I look back on it, and have a better understanding of what Globish’s proponents are trying to do. It is as I said in my earlier post on the subject: Better Globish than traditional Anglo-American gibberish.

Here's a fun example: Pick out all the examples of "Gangsterish" in this clip from Sylvester Stallone's film Oscar. It's a lot of fun, especially the part with Dr. Poole.


Mike Unwalla, TechScribe said...

Many of the guidelines in Nerrière's 'Globish the world over' are good. However, for some criticisms of Globish, see http://www.techscribe.co.uk/ta/globish-the-world-over.htm.

For English speakers who want to learn how to communicate with international audiences, I recommend Kohl's Global English (http://www.globalenglishstyle.com). For my review of Kohl's book, see http://www.techscribe.co.uk/ta/global-english-style-guide.htm.

Brian Barker said...

Globish reminds me of another project called "Basic English" Unfortunately this failed, because native English speakers could not remember which words not to use :)

So it's time to move forward and adopt a neutral non-national language, taught universally in schools worldwide,in all nations.

As a native English speaker, I would prefer Esperanto

Your readers may be interested in the following video at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net and at http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=es&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.delbarrio.eu%2F2006%2F09%2Fesa-bobada-de-globish.htm&sl=es&tl=en