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Text Reflection: Globish by Robert McCrum

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Robert McCrum’s Globish observes the growth of the English language through time and its recent establishment as the language of the globe. Globish is a term used to refer to the simplified form of English used by many international speakers whose use of the language stems largely from a utilitarian basis. Globish is a language of commerce designed to simplify business communication and facilitate a more efficient, globalized Planet Earth.

The majority of McCrum’s text traces the evolution of the English language. It reads as more a cursory overview of the linguistic evolution of English and less about the use of Globish. McCrum reserves the first and last cluster of thirty pages to dealing with this new form of English that he asserts to be a signpost for future global interactions. In this middle section he provides an overview of the many evolutions of the English language and traces the additions to the language brought on by the numerous invasions, conquests and myriad of historical events that established the English we all know and use. McCrum’s point here is to demonstrate that English is a living language which has changed and continues to change with every user who chooses to use English as the language of communication.

The portrayal of the French in the text is a curious point of interest. It seems that this British author was unable to move beyond the deep-seated awkwardness of British-French relations. Furthermore the love for President Obama is extremely rich in the text and functions as a screaming siren that the text was composed in 2008 when “Obama-mania” was in full swing. Unfortunately for McCrum, his enthusiasm for President Obama’s as-yet-unproven potential smacks of naiveté and leaves this reader of 2010 a little suspicious of such enthusiasm. Why the need to assert this sense of grandiosity in President Obama? Was our author unable to move beyond the media buzz and recognize the humanity of the man?

Though these details are trivial and unimportant. Globish is a decent book. It presents a rapid overview of the evolution of the language and presents an optimistic perspective on the factor that our language will have as the world’s power shifts to the East.  Despite the global recession and a Western world largely slipping from its goals and philosophical formulations, our lovely English language will function as a foot to hold the door to power open as we get our act together. We can pat all our pop stars, movie icons and athletes for this gift- it is from their global popularity and distribution that the influence of English continues to hold sway.

  1. September 26, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    Globish reminds me of another failed project called “Basic English” which 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


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