'Globish': Tomorrow's Universal Language?

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Anyone who has traveled abroad can attest to the challenges posed by language barriers. The deep divides between speakers of different languages are an impediment to the flow of information and ideas as well as a hurdle for global business. But The Guardian's Robert McCrum has found the wrecking ball to knock down those barriers: Globish, the global language. Could this highly simplified pidgin dialect of English take over the world?

So here's the sales pitch. Globish is not about the making of a 1500-word vocabulary, but about the way in which Indians, Chinese and many Africans are now turning to English as a liberating and modernising phenomenon (last year, the government of francophone Rwanda not only applied to join the British Commonwealth but also declared English to be the official language of the country).

At the same time, as well as exploring a decisive new chapter in international communications, Globish begins to identify the viral nature of this lingua franca, the qualities of the English language and its culture that make it so contagious, adaptable, populist and even subversive. It describes a process that echoes contemporary experience: a socio-cultural dynamic that is bottom-up, not top-down. That's the guiding intuition of Globish, and I'm hoping that my account of it in 2010 will strike a chord with you.

McCrum suggests that non-English speakers shouldn't fear that Globish will displace their language. Quite the opposite, he says, as Globish will be a universal second language, thus making it easier for non-English speakers to hold on to their native tongues.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.