Globish the World Over

August 2013 – Volume 17, Number 2

Globish the World Over

Author: Jean-Paul Nerrière & David Hon (2009)  
Publisher: Lexington: International Globish Institute
Pages ISBN Price
182 pages 978-0578028798 $7.95 USD

Globish the World Over aims to provide a useful and practical solution for non-native speakers of English (NNS) with needs for international communication. The authors, Jean-Paul Nerrière and David Hon, have had experiences working in different countries, sensing the need to bridge gaps in English proficiency to meet the demands of international communication. Thus, they coined the term “Globish” to describe their approaches to using fundamental English vocabulary and simple grammar rules for international interaction. To validate their approach, they wrote the book itself in Globish with essential words and easy grammar structures.

The book comprises 23 chapters. The first 10 chapters in Part One, “Problem with Learning English” establish a rationale for the value of Globish. It starts with statistical data in Chapter 1, showing that globally, communication by native speakers (NS) is is a lower percentage than that of NNS. Chapter 2 describes a 100-year old unsuccessful attempt to create a global language. To draw readers’ attention to the present, the authors display the dominant role of English in international communities in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 points out that NNS have advantages in learning new languages, such as easily getting used to a variety of accents, learning languages much faster, and having more linguistic resources than NS. When Globish widely spreads, the importance of native English will decrease. In Chapter 5, the authors emphasize that the foremost purpose of global communication in English is to facilitate interlocutors’ comprehension of each another. Globish meets this standard by including a limited amount of vocabulary, and allows people to make concise and comprehensible expressions.

To enhance readers’ understanding of Globish, the authors provide more explanations in the following chapters. In Chapter 6, the authors give credit to Globish by narrating a story about how a NNS successfully communicated with NSs, and emphasize the concept that Globish is sufficient and practical for daily communication. A theory of limitation is proposed in Chapter 7, that is, when NNS from different first languages communicate in English, the vocabulary they use is often limited and common. However, this commonality in all expressions of NNS could be viewed as an agreement for communication, providing the basis for Globish vocabulary. From Chapter 8 to Chapter 10, the authors note that learners can quickly learn Globish and put it into use for communication. As long as learners have comprehensible pronunciation skills and articulate correct stressed syllables in the Globish words, they can communicate with others in Globish.

Elements of Globish” is the major theme in Part Two of the book. Chapter 11 briefly defines “enough” Globish as the proficiency corresponding to the B1 category in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Globish learners can become independent language users. To better illustrate Globish, the authors list similarities and differences between Globish and standard English in Chapter 12 and 13. Four principles are presented: Globish is short-sentence based, simplicity is the priority, common vocabulary is used, and body language and visual aids are encouraged. The similarities between Globish and English are common spelling, pronunciation, letters, and basic grammar, whereas Globish highlights frequent use of active voice, 15 word-limitation at most in a sentence, cautious use of idioms and humor, and the importance of stressed syllable. In Chapter 14 and 15, the authors explain that Globish is a closed system of natural language because of its limited use of 1500 words and its lengths of sentences. Moreover, its goal is just for comprehension. Fifteen hundred Globish words are listed in Chapter 16. Despite the 1500-word limitation, learners can expand their vocabulary by using compounds, prefixes and suffixes, same words with different parts of speech, and phrasal verbs, as pointed out in Chapter 17. Chapter 18 shows how learners can construct basic sentence structures. Chapter 19 exemplifies a Globish restriction, which is avoidance of using idioms, analogies, negative questions, and humor, because they are not easy to understand. In Chapter 20, the authors provide some tips about using Globish, such as using keywords to reduce sentences length and punctuations to make meaning clear. Incomplete sentences are allowed as long as they are understood. Pronunciation issues are discussed in Chapter 21. The authors refer to research about pronunciation difficulties that NNS with various L1 backgrounds have, and underscore the crucial role vowels play in stressed syllables. In the final chapter, the authors assert that text messages are a good place for learning Globish since the messages are short and involve easy structures. The authors further claim that learners can easily learn and use Globish, saving time and money.

The Appendix presents President Obama’s inauguration speech along with the adapted speech written in Globish. Readers can compare the two versions and grasp the way Globish works. Although the authors successfully propose a realistic goal to learn Globish for learners with limited time and learning resources, there are some issues need to be addressed. First, given the limited references on which the authors draw, Globish seems more grounded in personal experiences than in research findings. The practicality and value of Globish is inconclusive. Moreover, the authors do not follow the Globish principles even though they claim to do so. For example, while figurative language is considered inappropriate usage in Globish, the authors still use figurative language even in chapter titles, such as “The English Learners’ Problem can be Their Edge” and “Cooking with Words.” Other examples could be found in the passage. Furthermore, the book still needs further explanations about the language used in text messaging by Globish. A large number of abbreviations and contractions are used in text messages which might raise comprehension difficulties for Globish learners. Finally, no rationale is provided for the chosen 1500 words and the principle of 15 or less-than words limit in a sentence.

Generally speaking, Globish the World Over provides benefits to EFL teachers and students when it comes to setting up teaching and learning goals. The teachers can design learning materials to help students acquire this type of simplified English in a short time. As for the students, the book could be a useful guide especially for beginning learners who cannot afford time and money to learn English but have immediate need to use it. They can set up a reasonable, practical learning goal to start their English learning. It is a good reference especially for beginning adult NNS learners at the onset of English learning.

Reviewed by
Li-Tang Yu
University of Texas, Austin, USA

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