Globish (English Language)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Woman writing at desk with globe on it
Speaking to Robert McCrum of The Observer [UK] in 2006, Jean-Paul Nerrière characterized Globish as "decaffeinated English.". (nico_blue/Getty Images)

Globish is a simplified version of Anglo-American English used as a worldwide lingua franca. (See Panglish.) The trademarked term Globish, a blend of the words global and English, was coined by French businessman Jean-Paul Nerrière in the mid-1990s. In his 2004 book Parlez Globish, Nerrière included a Globish vocabulary of 1,500 words.

Globish is "not quite a pidgin," says linguist Harriet Joseph Ottenheimer.

"Globish appears to be English without idioms, making it easier for non-Anglophones to understand and to communicate with one another (The Anthropology of Language, 2008).

See Examples and Observations below. Also, see:

Examples and Observations

  • "[Globish] is not a language, it is a tool. . . . A language is the vehicle of a culture. Globish doesn't want to be that at all. It is a means of communication."
    (Jean-Paul Nerrière, quoted by Mary Blume in "If You Can't Master English, Try Globish." The New York Times, April 22, 2005)
  • How to Learn Globish in a Week
    "Globish [is] the newest and most widely spoken language in the world. Globish is not like Esperanto or Volapuk; this is not a formally constructed language, but rather an organic patois, constantly adapting, emerging solely from practical usage, and spoken in some form or other by about 88 per cent of mankind. . . .

    "Starting from scratch, anyone in the world should be able to learn Globish in about one week. [Jean-Paul] Nerrière's website [http://www.globish.com] . . . recommends that students use plenty of gesticulation when words fail, and listen to popular songs to aid pronunciation . . .. 

    "'Incorrect' English can be extraordinarily rich, and non-standard forms of the language are developing outside the West in ways that are as lively and diverse as Chaucerian or Dickensian English."
    (Ben MacIntyre, The Last Word: Tales From the Tip of the Mother Tongue. Bloomsbury, 2011) 
  • Examples of Globish
    "[Globish] dispenses with idioms, literary language and complex grammar. . . . [Nerrière's] books are about turning complicated English into useful English. For example, chat becomes speak casually to each other in Globish; and kitchen is the room in which you cook your food. Siblings, rather clumsily, are the other children of my parents. But pizza is still pizza, as it has an international currency, like taxi and police."
    (J. P. Davidson, Planet Word. Penguin, 2011)
  • Is Globish the Future of English?
    "Globish is a cultural and media phenomenon, one whose infrastructure is economic. Boom or bust, it is a story of 'Follow the money.' Globish remains based on trade, advertising and the global market. Traders in Singapore inevitably communicate in local languages at home; internationally they default to Globish. . . .

    "Much gloomy American thinking about the future of its language and culture revolves around the assumption that it will inevitably become challenged by Mandarin Chinese or Spanish or even Arabic. What if the real threat--actually, no more than a challenge--is closer to home, and lies with this Globish supranational lingua franca, one that all Americans can identify with?"
    (Robert McCrum, Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language. W.W. Norton, 2010)
     
  • The Language of Europe
    "What language does Europe speak? France has lost its battle for French. Europeans now overwhelmingly opt for English. The Eurovision song contest, won this month by an Austrian cross-dresser, is mostly English-speaking, even if the votes are translated into French. The European Union conducts ever more business in English. Interpreters sometimes feel they are speaking to themselves. Last year Germany’s president, Joachim Gauck, argued for an English-speaking Europe: national languages would be cherished for spirituality and poetry alongside 'a workable English for all of life’s situations and all age groups.'

    "Some detect a European form of global English (globish): a patois with English physiognomy, cross-dressed with continental cadences and syntax, a train of EU institutional jargon and sequins of linguistic false friends (mostly French). . . . 

    "Philippe Van Parijs, a professor at Louvain University, argues that European-level democracy does not require a homogenous culture, or ethnos; a common political community, or demos, needs only a lingua franca. . . . The answer to Europe’s democratic deficit, says Mr Van Parijs, is to accelerate the process so that English is not just the language of an elite but also the means for poorer Europeans to be heard. An approximate version of English, with a limited vocabulary of just a few hundred words, would suffice."
    (Charlemagne, "The Globish-Speaking Union." The Economist, May 24, 2014)