Learning a new language? Try Globish, author says

Sun May 23, 2010 8:07am EDT
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By Mark Egan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From Barack Obama's simple "Yes We Can" presidential campaign slogan to countless Chinese people sending text messages using English letters, "Globish" is fast becoming the dominant language of this century.

So says British author Robert McCrum in his new book "Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language," which expounds on the mishmash of English and other tongues that connects people from Beijing to New York.

McCrum takes the term Globish from Jean-Paul Nerriere, who coined the word in 1995 and has written books on the blunt new form of English that uses about 1,500 words, employs short sentences with simple syntax devoid of idioms and uses lots of gesticulations to make up for the lack of nuanced language.

"In the 19th century you had British English, which was international, in the 20th century, American English became the lingua franca," McCrum told Reuters in an interview. "Now there is a third phase in the 21st century -- the Globish century."

In Globish you say "strange," not eerie, and avoid all jokes, humor and colorful expressions likely to be misunderstood. It is a constantly evolving patois that develops from practical use and includes words and sounds from other languages.

McCrum says business people looking for opportunities in places like China and India should learn Globish because even native English speakers will be at a disadvantage without it.

People who seek an understanding of Globish need look no further than President Barack Obama, how he was raised and how the language he uses transcends borders, McCrum said.

"He is a classic case; raised (by a mother from) Kansas, lives in Hawaii and Indonesia and of Kenyan stock. And when he speaks ... it requires very little adaptation to make it universally intelligible," he said. "His slogan 'Yes We Can' works anywhere in the world."   Continued...