WAAT #09: What Do You Think of “Globish”?


Despite the near-monolingual dominance of English in most public spheres, we need multilingualism to survive and thrive because different languages give us different ways of thinking and being in our world.

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I went down a rabbit hole this week in search of something known as “Globish”. I’d come across references in the last decade or so, of course, but hadn’t gone beyond that. There are two definitions.

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1/ Globish as defined by Jean-Paul Nerrière, which is about a universalized subset of the English language as we know it. An “English-lite” if you will. We all speak a version of it even if we may not know it.

2/ Globish as defined by Madhukar Gogate, which is a different language construct with a universal orthography. It’s not without its flaws, of course. And, if you’ve spent any time studying Indian billboards and signs, you’ll recognize Gogate’s Globish as something already much in practice. 🙂

What sent me searching for more information about Globish was a book that came out late last year: The Rise of English: Global Politics and the Power of Language by Rosemary Salomone. I’m still mulling over some of the points made in this book about monolingualism and multilingualism. But I was, to be honest, frustrated with some of the usual theses of the book and wish the writer had explored deeper and given us new insights. Still, for anyone interested in the politics of language, this should go on your reading list.

Oh, here are a few interesting links from this week:

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Translated Indian works must be more visible to Anglophone publishers: Study (Indian Express)

Author and Translator Emerging Together by Michelle Mirabella (Hopscotch Translation)

Scenes from the Life of a Translator by Juana Adcock (Poetry Foundation)

I Gave Up English for Lent by Jimin Kang (New York Times; may be paywalled)

VIDEO: Spanglish, Frenglish, Portunhol, and More: Translation and the Spaces

Between Languages by Ellen Jones (British Centre for Translation)

So, over to you. What do you think about Globish? About whether multilingualism helps us in today’s world or not? I’d love to know discuss. You can either reply to this note or share via social media and I’ll respond and share it on.

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Jenny Bhatt is an author, a literary translator, and a book critic. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student of literature at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has taught creative writing at Writing Workshops Dallas and the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship Program. Sign up for her free newsletters, We Are All Translators and/or Historical Fiction Craft Notes. Jenny lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas.

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