Osaka University of Tourism’s
Globish – The rise of globalized English and its implications
In recent years the idea of global English, or ‘globish’ for short, has become increasingly popular in language circles, giving rise to a number of questions: What is globish? How does it differ from standard English? And if globish is indeed on the rise, what are the implications for students and teachers of the English language?
The idea of globish is that many people who study English as a second language may have differing language skills and differing cultural backgrounds, but still need to communicate effectively. Culture and common background play an important role in the which words native English speakers use and how they use them. Speakers of globish tend to avoid words and phrases that require a shared common cultural background or advanced knowledge of the language. Instead, communicating meaning clearly and simply is the main concern. Wit, humor and idioms are avoided in favor of more utilitarian, functional, and some might say bland language. Native speakers often throw caution to the wind and take the bull by the horns when conversing casually or even in business settings.
This last sentence is a good example of language that might be difficult for a speaker of globish to understand but might be commonly used by a native speaker without thinking about the difficulty a non-native speaker might face in understanding its meaning. In this case, throw caution to the wind means to take a risk, and take the bull by the horns means to face a challenge directly. Other common examples are hang out, chill, or hang, all examples that students studying abroad might encounter outside of school as their classmates invite them to meet up. Students’ understanding or misunderstanding of these words or other common yet non-globish phrases can dramatically shape their experience overseas.
Considering the important differences of globish and native speaker English, there are implications and concerns for both students and teachers alike. From the students’ perspective, it is important to identify what their goals are and understand that the language they will encounter can and will be quite different depending on the situation. If their focus is more on work or conducting international business, they may find themselves using more straightforward, clear, and easily understandable language. However, if they are studying abroad or interacting with native speakers more casually they will find that globish, while effective in business, can leave them unprepared for some social situations.
Teachers and students should understand that based on their goals, the focus and method of study may change. If their goals are primarily to have functional English for work and conducting international business, they may not want to spend hours analyzing Hollywood movies or pop songs. On the other hand, if their goals include study abroad, students should understand that many words native speakers use have multiple meanings, might not be technically correct, or may contain obscure cultural references. Understanding the reasons for using different types of English is an important and motivating part of the study process that should not be ignored.