2006-08-17 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

Ai dunt want tu spik globish
By Sam Bari

Our little planet has the distinction of its inhabitants attempting to communicate with one another using approximately 6,800 different languages. In New England and the boroughs of New York, the English language differs from neighborhood to neighborhood, much like the many dialects of Chinese that vary from village to village in China. In some areas of Asia, a walk across the street could halt communication between neighbors because the languages are so dramatically dissimilar. If that is indeed the case, does the world really need yet another tongue? I think not.

Nonetheless, according to the International Herald Tribune, a Frenchman (Surprise! Surprise!) by the name of Jean-Paul Nerrire, a retired vice president of IBM, apparently thinks differently, and he has a problem with English (Surprise #2). However, we shouldn't really judge him too harshly for his negativity toward the language. After all, he lives in a country that in the 1990s briefly required that the 3,000 English words used in Diplomatic English, the globally recognized language of diplomacy and commerce, be replaced by French ones.

Nerrire has invented a completely new form of English that he calls Globish. He says that Globish is a communication system that can be better understood by non-native English speakers. It uses a limited vocabulary of 1,500 English words taken from the Voice of America and other sources. These words can allegedly be put together to clumsily express more complicated thoughts than Diplomatic or International English. Little concern is given to the complexities of grammar.

Additionally, he has developed a method of phonetic spelling that he believes is more universally understood to give non-English speakers a better grasp on the pronunciation. The following few phrases are examples of English followed by their translations into Globish.

English: A friend in need is a friend indeed. Water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen. I like ice cream. Where does your brother stay? You are requested to take a seat. People want peace.

Globish: e frend in nid iz a frend indid...wautar iz e kampaaund auf haaydrojan aend auksijan... aay laaik aaiskrim ... whear daz yuar bradhar ste? Yu aar rikwested to tek e sit...pipal waunt pis...

All native English-speaking readers who are totally confused, please raise your hands. Hmmm . . . I thought so. Don't go away. Bear with me for another minute or so - It gets worse.

The Iranians have recently encouraged Nerrire's efforts. They want to eliminate all English (particularly American English) words from Farsi, the national language of Iran due to lack of political, cultural, and religious agreement.

Nerrire readily admits that the typical conversation in Globish could be grating to a native English-speaker. But he claims it will get the job done between, say, a Kenyan and a Korean navigating a business deal or asking for help at the airport check-in. However, a few more glitches still must be resolved for those who depend on the King's English for conversation. The limited vocabulary is a major obstacle in the communicative process as we know it.

For instance, the word "nephew" does not exist in Globish. Speakers of Globish have to say: there is the "son of my brother/sister"; kitchen is the "room in which you cook your food"; chat is "speak casually to each other." Pizza is pizza, however, because Globish considers it an international term, like taxi or police. And those words and phrases are without the weird phonetic spelling. Nonetheless, the Iranians are even eliminating "pizza" from Farsi because it was coined in America.

"Globish is not a language, it will never have a literature, it does not aim at conveying a culture, values," Nerrire wrote in an e-mail message. "Globish is just a tool, practical, efficient, and limited on purpose."

I couldn't agree more. That means it is without passion and emotion, and lacks expression. Legalese is more romantic.

If Globish is the path to global communication, all pre-pubescent and teenage girls smitten with the Valley Girl syndrome could be rendered speechless. "Like, she is so totally uncool" cannot be translated into Globish. When I stop to think about it, maybe the aforementioned is not a great example. Globish might be useful in some instances.

Anyway, from this writer's perception, Globish is indeed an entirely new language that happens to use the English alphabet as a writing system. I just can't imagine old John Wayne movies being dubbed into Globish.

"Whadda ya say, pardner? Let's go to the saloon and wash down some o' this trail dust with a little whiskey." Would that become, "Tell me close friend. Together we will go to the store where drinks are sold and cleanse our throats from road dust with small glasses of beverages made with alcohol." Perish the thought.

The biggest drawback with the Globish system of English is that native speakers of English can't understand it. So what good is it?

Globish, Globbish, Rubbish - it's all the same. Inventing a new language is not going to make everyone think alike. Language is more than a system of assembling words to express thought and dry communicative ideas. It is a reflection of culture, ideology, and social agreement. Globish can just be added to that system we can't understand.

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