Monday, August 07, 2006

The Next English


In the ancient days the educated spoke Greek, in the Medieval era Latin was the international language, and around the Age of Enlightenment French was the Lingua franca. Now it is English's time. But in what form will English be the new international language?

The New York Times has an excellent short article on English being the new international language. While there is no doubt of English's dominance no one knows for sure what the English of tomorrow's world will exactly be. So the question is who's English will be spoken? Unlike Spanish with the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española or French with either the Académie française or Office québécois de la langue française there is no body which controls English and therefore there is no official version of English. With no one version of English one is left to wonder will the world spell the other word for hue as "color" or "colour"? (-Hint freaking hint you grammar monsters!)

There is a third way the new international language could go. There are several versions of the English language which were created specifically to aide in communication with non-native speakers. With English being so complicated with both Germanic and Romance influences, a simplified, artificial English may be the best way to have non-native speakers interacting in the globalized world.

Basic English is one of the oldest artificial dialects. With 850 words Basic English seeks an easy, simplified system. As of today some international companies like Caterpillar use forms of Basic English to write and communicate internationally. "Easy English" is another derivative of Basic English which is being used to make simplified translations of the Bible. Nothing beats Deuteronomy 1:14 "You answered me, '"That is a good idea!'"

Special English is used by Voice of America. Special English has a limited vocabulary, eased grammar rules, and is read slowly.

Globish is the "open source" of international Englishes. Starting off with 1,500 words Globish seeks to be defined not by grammar rules but by use. The creator of Globish is a Frenchman by the name of Jean-Paul Nerriere (a surprising fact when one considers who xenophobic the French have been with English words slowly appearing in everyday use). Nerriere has humorously explained in both American English and Globish why he thinks his version of English is better as a language of international communication.

Globish actively seeks to become an international business language. I do see some problems however. With no strict guidelines the language is doomed to fracture and schism like an evangelical church suffering scandals on Pentecost. (And I just do not see myself or anyone else praying the Globish version of Our Farther and "Hello, Mary.")

If the American dominance of English continues look for the downfall of civilization. It would not be the English one heard from the read letters of Ken Burn's Civil War but the "English" spoken and utilized by teenage girls! Teenage girls "are the most dominate force in the evolution" of my mother tongue. That's like totally like not cool.

Category: Languages


Lexington Green said...

Dominant force?

Did you read Nicholas Ostler's Empires of the Word? Really good book about the rise and fall of dominant languages.

Anonymous said...

Re: Hello, Mary.

The problem is your translation of "Hail" is very poor. "Hail" is more similar to "Salute," or "acclaim." Are either of those in Globbish?