Only 4% of the people communicating with each other today in English are both/ all native speakers. Jean-Paul Nerrier wants to “make it more comfortable for people to talk to each other all over the world.” He’s redefined the core elements of English, breaking it down to 1500 words, with simple structures, no idioms, no jokes. Out of respect to “real” English he calls this language Globish, and has courses to go with it. His pitch:
Now, I’ve been training business people here in Germany for 12 or so years now, and must say: He has a very good point. Most of the people I teach do business in English in teams and business contexts where most members are non-native speakers. As soon as even one person can’t speak German, talk switches to English. I’m amazed at how good-natured everyone is about it. Some companies are offering DAF (German as a foreign language) courses, but it takes foreigners longer to learn the language, especially when their spouse is not German, than for the rest of the company (!) to brush up their English.
Some sort of Globish is clearly the type of English they need to handle most back office work or the occasional from-the-airport-to-the-meeting business trip, which is perhaps 95% of the English-speaking situations my students will be in. All they can afford to reach in English is lower intermediate: Basic functional language is just one of the skills they need.
But there are two little problems with this:
First of all, while my learners want to work on producing language themselves, which is great, they’re lousy at understanding other non-native speakers speaking another brand of English. How many people are speaking the same lower-intermediate interlingua today? Have any of you compared lower intermediate Business English books being used in, say, China or Saudi Arabia with those being used in Germany or Greece? Have you taught using them? Are the interlinguas at all connected to the teaching, and how do they compare?
The second is the lure of the real world. Anglophile kids. Movies. Music. Social networking. Trips. It’s there, that curiosity to actually understand the sexy sides of real English. I always manage to sneak them into my courses. Most of that exploration won’t happen on the company bill. But, hey, what did God make the internet for?
Learning English? How do you feel about the concept of Globish?