Globish, health care, and a Facebook misunderstanding

This week, the case for and against Globish. A group of writers and artists debate the proposition that a simplified version of English is uniquely equipped to take over the world. That argument is made by Robert McCrum in his new book, Globish. (The term globish was popularized by Jean-Paul Nerrière to mean an emerging and simplified form of English used by non-native English speakers). McCrum believes that English is the ultimate open-source language: it welcomes, absorbs and adapts foreign words like no other language. What’s more, its grammar is relatively simple, which makes it more suited to universality than, say, Russian or Arabic. Wait a moment…Russian and Arabic, as complex as they are, are spoken across dozens of borders. In any case, perhaps it’s all that global travel that has turned English into a grammatically simpler language. This point, and many others, come from John McWhorter‘s New Republic critique of Robert McCrum’s assumptions. Read other reviews of Globish here, here , here and here. (I could link on and on; the man clearly has a magnificent publicist).

Also, now that millions more Americans have health insurance, clinics and hospitals are under pressure to make their services more accessible to non-English speakers. The pod has a report from Kansas City.

Then, a quick update on World Cup TV viewing habits in the United States with Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. If you think that only Spanish speakers watched Univision, and only English speakers watched ABC and ESPN, think again.

Finally, a conversation with Gregory Levey, whose book Shut Up, I’m Talking has more Facebook fans than Bill Clinton. Gregory has concluded that these are fans not of his book, but of the expression shut up, I’m talking. He’s trying to figure out how — or even whether — to address these followers. It’s the curse of having come up with a catchy, slightly obnoxious book title. In our interview, I suggest to Gregory that for a future book, he might consider the title I Hate When One String of my Hoodie Becomes Longer Than the Other. That title would come with more than 1.5 million Facebook fans, even before publication.  Our original, 2008 interview with Gregory Levey, about his adventures writing speeches for the Israeli government is in two parts, here and here.

Listen to the podcast  in iTunes or here.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Globish, health care, and a Facebook misunderstanding

  1. Kyla

    I thought the roundtable on Globish was a really fascinating conversation – thanks for sharing it with us via the podcast.

    I wanted to comment on the speaker who said that only a minority of the world’s population has a need of Globish, because they don’t have access to the places it’s necessary, like the internet and airports. I think that while this is true, he’s forgetting (or ignoring) that for some people the reverse is true.

    I taught English as a Foreign Language in Bulgaria as a Peace Corps Volunteer and the fact that many of my acquaintances don’t speak English was a huge obstacle in their ability to communicate via the internet or to travel. We had ready internet access at my school, but for someone who doesn’t speak English, computers and the internet are really impenetrable. Same for traveling – the absolute ideal vacation for a Bulgarian is to the Black Sea, or possibly to Ohrid, in Macedonia. (Macedonian = Bulgarian.) Part of the issue is, of course, economic (travelling to Paris or Rome is much too expensive for most of the Bulgarians I know) but I do think that part of it has to do with the language issue.

  2. I hate the concept of Globish. It’s a way to say: there are a class of superior people who speak a complete language, full of nuances, and a second-class bunch who may speak among themselves comfortably, but are always remainded that they speak a poorer language compared with the masters. We know that this is what happens when a national language is chosen as the “de facto” international one, but I do not like that someone justifies it.

    It’s so clear than being a native speaker is an advantage, that this new book by McCrum will be more succesful than the original by Nerrière.

    I wrote more completely, and better, in my blog in Spanish (and in Esperanto)

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