By Jake Davy, Research Assistant, SpeechSchool.TV. e-centre, Massey University
Two businessman, an Indian and a Norwegian, stumble into a bar; the Indian doesn’t speak Norwegian, the Norwegian doesn’t speak Hindu. Despite their linguistic differences a conversation erupts.
“Where from?” The Indian slurs as he pulls out a stool and carefully sits down.
“Norway. You?” Replies the Norwegian as he slumps down next to him.
“Ahhh! Norway! I plan Norway trip next year but feel struggle with work. I’m from India.” Proclaims the Indian excitedly.
“Real? You must come. Norway much fun, many ladies.” Grins the Norwegian as he beckons the waitress over.
Despite the obviously comic nature of this conversation Global English, or Globish, is no joke. This over simplified and grammatically incorrect version of English is fast becoming a standard method of international communication. Its prominence and use is a growing trend that has followed the emergence of English as the global language of business. In order to truly understand its significance however, one must first understand the factors behind its creation.
The key determinant in all of this has been the materialization of a singular global market. As far back as 1983, academics like Theodore Levitt, the head of marketing at the Harvard Business School, were examining the ways in which key technological developments were driving the world towards a unified global marketplace. These emerging technologies were beginning to proletarianize communication, transport and travel and in doing so were creating a society where people all over the world, from all walks of life had access to the same standardised consumer products. Today this shift towards a global marketplace has earned the title of globalisation; a term that has become common place in the vast majority of boardrooms around the world. And as technological innovations such as the internet continue to eat away at the space between nations and continents the concept of globalisation is beginning to affect more and more aspects of our everyday lives.
One of the by-products of globalisation and another of the key influencers in the creation of Globish has been the increase in immigration levels. Between 1960 and 2000, the total number of international migrants doubled to 175 million, which was around 3% of the world’s population at that time. A study in 2000 also found that children in London schools combined to speak over 300 languages. This staggering rise in immigration levels illustrates just how dramatically the linguistic mix of many countries has changed, and the extent to which other languages are beginning to influence how English is being used.
These changes to the linguistic mix of many countries coupled with the drastic rise of globalisation have lead to the emergence of English as the standard language in the global business arena. Some estimates even suggest that there will be up to 3 billion functional users of English by the year 2040, or about 40% of the world’s projected population. There is however, a world of difference between English and Globish, and the reality is, that a huge portion of these so called “functional users of English” will be speaking varying degrees of Globish. So what does this mean for the future of English and its prevalence on the global stage?
That is something that we will leave for you to determine. But in all honesty, what would you rather speak? Or should I say; what speech you like?