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Globish: How The English Language Became the World's Language
 
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Globish: How The English Language Became the World's Language [Kindle Edition]

Robert Mccrum
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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"An overall effective work.... This book successfully appeals to language lovers and history buffs alike." ---Library Journal

Product Description

A small island in the North Atlantic, colonized by Rome, then pillaged for hundreds of years by marauding neighbours, becomes the dominant world power in the 19th century. As its power spreads, its language follows. Then, across the Atlantic, a colony of that tiny island grows into the military and cultural colossus of the 20th century. These centuries of empire-building and war, international trade and industrial ingenuity will bring to the world great works of literature and extraordinary movies, cricket pitches and episodes of Dallas, the printing press and the internet. But what happens next is quite unprecedented. While the global dominance of Anglo-American power appears to be on the wane, the English language has acquired an astonishing new life of its own. With a supra-national momentum, it is now able to zoom across time and space at previously unimaginable speeds. In Robert McCrum's analysis, the cultural revolution of our times is the emergence of English, a global phenomenon as never before, to become the world's language. In the 21st century English + Microsoft = Globish.

Globish takes us on a riveting and enlightening journey of the spread of a global English, from the icy swamps of pre-Roman Saxony to the shopping malls of Seoul, from the study of 'Crazy English' TM in China to crowds of juvenile wizards mobbing bookshop tills across the world. Along the way it gives new meaning to a faded old brown parchment (the Magna Carta), a 272 word presidential speech (the Gettysburg address) and a scratchy black and white film of a couple of men in space suits.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1364 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada (May 25 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003MZ0AV4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #299,810 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1.0 out of 5 stars mindnumbingly boring retread July 29 2011
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
If you read The Story of English which this author co-authored or watched the TV series, Globish supposedly picks up where that left off. The Story of English was a brilliant look at the development of the English language and all the varieties worldwide.

Globish really doesn't pick up on that groundbreaking book and run with it.
In fact you can skip about 172 pages as the whole idea of English being a global language only really takes off in the latter part of the book. I really did not need to know all about the development of English in the British Isles yet again and in a less than entertaining read.

The problem is there is too much emphasis on the history and not enough about the actual reasons why English is the lingua franca for the world. Even the author's arguments are very superficial and blatantly obvious. Yes, Britain colonized much of the world therefore English is found in India, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, etc., etc. Thank you, Mr. Obvious!

MacCrum also is almost completely humorless. Did he not read Bill Bryson's two excellent books (Made in America and the Mother Tongue) to see how to write about "English" in a fun and entertaining way so it doesn't read like an English 101 university lecture?

As an editor, I found this book so beyond disappointing, the words in any language escape me.
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3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... June 20 2011
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Indian linguist Madhukar Gogate first used the term "Globish" to name his invented English dialect, which he presented to the Simplified Spelling Society of The U.K. in 1998. As with most spelling-reform attempts, "Globish" never moved beyond the theoretical but British editor Robert McCrum has taken up the word and defined it as the version of (somewhat broken) English that has become the world's lingua franca.

"Globish" has a fascinating premise and McCrum does provide moments of captivation, especially when he describes the contemporary use of English overseas. Largely, however, the book deals less with language and more with socio-economic developments within the increasing English-speaking world. The book begins with a painfully slow history of Britain and never really picks up steam, rendering most of the book eminently "skim-able."
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
"As a matter of fact, a national language which spreads beyond its own confines very quickly loses much of its original richness of content and is in no better case than a constructed language." (Sapir)

Yet Globish still manages to embrace the former quirky usages at the same time- lose, lose.

Here are a few quick observations gained by skimming over the controlled vocabulary list. ·
Beauty, not beautifulness. Become, beside betray- BE is not consistently a prefix. Side, beside. In.. WITHin, not be-in. Consumption - not consume-ation. Quirkish idiomatic use of redundant suffixes. 5 syllable words - miscellaneous. Professor not professER (not to be confused with other -ER functions in other words). As easy as 123? First, second, third. Half and quarter.

The list goes on. Like Ogden's Basic English, Globish just illustrates the weakness of a controlled version of English.
A camel is not a horse designed by committee. A camel exists where deliberate planning is absent. That camel is English. And we won't derive a decent horse by lopping parts off a camel!
A horse is a camel designed by committee.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A shallow review of history and modern trends: good for splashing fluff but not for depth. June 12 2010
By Alexander G. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I heard a glowing review of this book on NPR, and bought it for my Kindle within a few minutes. I have always had an intense interest both in the evolution of English and in its current spread into a global phenomenon, and so a book that looked at those two things seemed just about perfect. And what was better, the author was the guy who did that "A History of English" thing on the BBC. How could I go wrong?

Well, it wasn't a great book. It wasn't bad, but it had very little depth. A substantial portion of it was just a review of basic history, such as a description of Shakespeare's contributions or a restatement of one of Thomas Friedman's notions - and then with a tacked-on explanation of how it related to the development of Globish. The real mechanics of the process of English's evolution was seldom touched except in the most common way (i.e. a reminder that our most-used words all come from the Old). This was disappointing - I was hoping for something a little more scholarly and new. I was also disappointed in a similar way in the sections on the modern use of Globish - we are given only some light anecdotes reviewing the familiar trends of campus-educated Indians making the language their own and growing into a niche. It was about as innovative as last night's PB&J sandwich.

In short, this would probably be a great book for beginners and people unfamiliar with the things being discussed. If you weren't aware that Shakespeare coined a lot of words and that shucks we still use them today, then this is for you. But if you want something innovative and deeper, then save your money. Or I guess bring it to the beach.
47 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The "Globish" menace to Standard ESL Teaching May 20 2010
By C. J. Singh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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Reviewed by C J Singh

Historically, in 1600 A.D., at the time of the founding of the East India Company, in London, languages of the Indo-European family were already native to most of the lands extending from Ireland to the border of Burma six thousand miles east, and had been so for thousands of years. At present, the Indo-European language family has more than twice the number of native speakers (46 percent) than the next largest family, the Sino-Tibetan (21 percent), which has always been confined to East Asia. These numbers suggest that one of the Indo-European languages was likely to become the common language of the globe. English won. (Historical ifs: Spanish, if Philip's Armada had succeeded; French, if Napolean; German, if Hitler; Russian, if Stalin.)

So, what is this "Globish"? The term was initially coined by Madhukar Gogate, an Indian linguist, to describe an artificial dialect he created and presented to the Simplified Spelling Society of U.K. in 1998. (Example: "She is fine" in "Globish" becomes "She iz faain.") Like many earlier spelling-reform attempts, his " Globish" didn't take root. In 2004, Jean-Paul Nerriere, a retired French marketer, trademarked the term "Globish" and later published a book, provocatively titling it as "DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH!: PARLEZ GLOBISH." Nerriere's "Globish" is a subset of 1500 words and limited syntactical patterns derived from Standard English. "Globish" has precedents in "Basic English," a subset of 850 words proposed by linguist and philosopher Charles Ogden in his book, "Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar" published in 1930. And, since 1959, "Special English," a subset of about 1500 words and simplified grammar, has been used in broadcasting "Voice of America" news to lands where English is a second language.

The projected marketing of Nerriere's "Globish" textbooks, which if adopted by instructors of English, will dumb down the teaching of English globally. Building on the initialism ESL for English as a Second Language, I propose the acronyms BESL for "Beginners' English as a Second Language" and SESL for "Standard English as a Second Language" instead of "Globish." The current Beginners' ESL books (levels one, two,...) get the learner started and present an incentive to upgrade from the beginners' levels to the Standard ESL books. Effective ESL books need to be specific to the learner 's first language as established by expert ESL scholars in books like Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and other Problems , edited by Michael Swan & Bernard Smith, and published by Cambridge University Press in 2001. This guide, a favorite of many ESL instructors, succinctly documents the interference patterns specific to twenty languages, ranging from Japanese to Spanish. (I routinely recommend the relevant chapter of this book to ESL authors for self-editing before I accept their manuscripts for editing.) Another excellent resource for ESL teachers is Understanding ESL Writers: A Guide for Teachers by Ilona Leki. When SESL writers start outnumbering native English writers, they will contribute more to the ever-evolving "Standard" English, making it the truly global language. No doubt, entrenched Anglophobes will resist the acronyms BESL and SESL because both include E for English. Quel dommage! Let them pretend that they have silenced the odious E simply by proclaiming the term "Globish."

Robert McCrum, in the prologue to his book, states his thesis: "Anglo-American culture and its language have become as much a part of global consciousness as MS-DOS or the combustion engine" (page 14). The book is aptly subtitled "How the English Language Became the World's Language."

"In 2006-7, about 80 percent of the world's home pages on World Wide Web were in some kind of English compared with German (4.5 percent) and Japanese (3.1 percent), while Microsoft publishes no fewer than eighteen versions of its `English language' spellcheckers.... A film such as Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding is typical of the world's new English culture. The Indian bridegroom has a job in Houston. The wedding guests jet in from Melbourne and Dubai and speak in a mishmash of English and Hindi.... Take for instance, the 2006 Man Booker Prize. The winner was The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, an Indian-born writer. ...The British critic John Sutherland was moved to describe Desai's work as `a globalized novel for a globalized world'" (pp 9-10).

McCrum's "Chapters 1 through 12, a biography of the English language, will sound very familiar to readers who've watched the popular documentary series on PBS, based on the book The Story of English , coauthored by McCrum. (Since its inception in 1986, the documentary has been shown many times on the San Francisco affiliate of PBS and many other affiliates.) "Globish" can be read as if it were the fourth edition of "The Story of English, third revised edition," published in 2002.

The twelve chapters are grouped under four parts: Founders; Pioneers; Populisers; and Modernisers. McCrum's retelling of the biography of English is engrossing. A few of his examples follow.

On Shakespeare: "Recent scholarship has shown that Shakespeare was actually an inveterate reviser," discrediting the assertion of the two actors who published the First Folio, "His mind and hand went together . . .Wee have scarse received from him a blot in his paper" (page 84). Shakespeare "to his bitterly envious contemporary Robert Greene, on his deathbed, was an `upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers . . . in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in the country'" (page 85). "It's nice to note that the motto of Shakespeare's theatre, the Globe, was `Totus mundus agit histrionem,' the whole world is a playhouse" (p 87).

On American-English: "From as early as 1735 there had been attacks on the `barbarous English' of the colonists and jokes about `Americanisms' such as antagonize, belittle, and placate. Dr Johnson had written trenchantly about `the American dialect, a tract of corruption to which every language, widely diffused, must always be exposed'" (p 112).

On American literature: "Hemingway put it succinctly. `All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called `Huckleberry Finn.'It's the best book we've had. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since'" (p 124). Good choice of quote; no English person could have written "Huckleberry Finn."

McCrum cites Oscar Wilde's comment on American English : "The Irishman drank the silver miners of Leadville under the table before formulating a Wildean paradox: `We really have everything in common with America nowadays,' he declared, `except, of course language' " (p 110).

[Yeah, right. Here's my fictive dialogue between two cousins, Stanford Singh visiting Oxford Singh:
Stanford Singh: Merriam-Webster says...
Oxford Singh: Nonsense. There's just one dictionary of the English language: `The Oxford English Dictionary.' Forget Mary-Ann Webster -- the American woman you keep quoting. Get over your infatuation with her!
Stanford Singh: Come on, Merriam-Webster Dictionary is used by many more people globally.
Oxford Singh: Don't think, we haven't noticed you Americans pinched our language. You owe us back royalties -- trillions and trillions of dollars!
Stanford Singh: The last British-English speaker on the planet will be an Oxford graduate from India.]

On World English: "How can one be original in a foreign tongue? As V.S. Naipaul puts it in his essay `Reading and Writing,' `I had begun to put together an English literary anthology of my own. . . . I wished to be a writer. But together with the wish had come the knowledge that the literature that had given me the wish came from another world, far away from our own.' Out of this limbo, the world's English begins to emerge" (p 209). Chapters 13 through 15 resume McCrum's argument stated in the prologue.

"In the twenty-first century the fusion of the English and the Hindi traditions...is creating a society uniquely equipped to contribute to, and benefit from, the development of English" (p 265). "The Times of India" has been certified as the world's largest selling English-language daily, and, according to ComScore, TOI online is the world's most visited newspaper website, ahead of "The New York Times," "The Sun," and "USA Today." Three of the examples McCrum cites are as follows.

A publishing firm in India, Pre-Media Global, founded by the brother-and-sister team of Kapil Viswanathan and Kami Narayan, both Indian graduates of the Harvard MBA program, offers outsource services for editing, designing, and producing for clients such as Wiley, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, and McGraw-Hill. Second, the 2008 Man-Booker Prize was awarded in London's Guildhall to Aravind Adiga, for his novel The White Tiger , the fourth Indian novel to win. And third, the film Slumdog Millionaire , which won eight Oscars and four Golden Globes. Based on a debut novel, "Q & A," by an Indian diplomat, Vikas Swarup, its screenplay was successfully adapted by Simon Beaufoy, who simplified the dialogues, while maintaining the storyline.

I highly recommend McCrum's new book written for the general reader in excellent Standard English, not "Globish," despite his acquiescence -- temporary acquiescence, I hope -- for the latter term.
-- C.J. Singh
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curious book June 22 2010
By Jon Hunt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is nothing particularly wrong with Robert McCrum's new book, "Globish". In fact there are many good points he makes about the spread of English around the globe over the centuries. But I came away from the end wondering about what this book was intended to be. It certainly wasn't about the English language, as a language.

Anglophilia is big for McCrum (don't even bother to read "Globish" if you're French...you might want to start another revolution) but if this book is supposed to be one concerning English, the connections are rarely made. "Globish" is more about the socio-economic developments within the increasing English-speaking world and the narrative leaves you scratching your head. Why aren't there more examples of the English language? "Globish" gets off to a painfully slow start and never quite recovers. If you're not English, the long, drawn out early history of Britain is excruciating. I would have expected many more examples of the language itself, but history trumps words here and it's not very rewarding.

McCrum does occasionally have flashes of brilliance....his last pages are the best...contemporary usage of English in different countries...but by this time, one is glad simply to get to the end. For an historian, as McCrum is, I wonder where his proofreaders are....he gets the years of the battle of Gettysburg and FDR's inauguration wrong. As someone who collaborated on the terrific series, "The Story of English", I can't imagine that this book has as much disconnect as it does with the language, itself.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Run Away! June 28 2010
By Hank Mishkoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Terrible book, I can't believe I plowed all the way through it. It perpetrates a fraud on the reader, claiming to have something to do with the spread of English as an international language, while it's really a rambling, disjointed, incoherent jumble of passages loosely related to the development and spread of Anglo-American culture. It reads like a first draft, or perhaps a mind dump to which some editor added a title instead of forcing the author to rewrite the text around some kind of unifying theme.

If you're really interested in the story of English, I heartily recommend the aptly titled "The Story of English" -- which, oddly enough, is partly written by the same author.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stories, but also much nonsense Dec 23 2010
By MikeUnwalla - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
McCrum's Globish is different from both Nerrière's Globish and Gogate's Globish. McCrum does not explain the difference between Globish and English. Usually, when McCrum writes the word 'Globish', the word 'English' is apparently an equivalent alternative.

McCrum's history of English is interesting. However, McCrum sometimes writes nonsense. For example, McCrum writes, "Language, it cannot be stressed too strongly, is intrinsically neutral, but it is no contradiction to claim that English - by virtue of its origins and history - is unique."

Change 'English' to 'French' or to 'Arabic' or to 'Cantonese'. Without knowledge of the criteria that are used to evaluate uniqueness, the languages are interchangeable. For example, "Language, it cannot be stressed too strongly, is intrinsically neutral, but it is no contradiction to claim that Arabic - by virtue of its origins and history - is unique."

McCrum does not explain what he means by the term 'neutral' in the context of language. Near the end of the book, McCrum apparently contradicts the statement that language is neutral. McCrum writes, "Those who want to characterize Globish as a kind of benign virus that has worked its way into every corner of daily life must also acknowledge its imperial and colonial past." If language is neutral, why must I "acknowledge its imperial and colonial past"?

Sometimes, I do not understand what McCrum wants to say. In the examples that follow, I understand each word, but I do not understand the sentences:
* "At the interface of technology and global capitalism, the world's English responds to specific, local imperatives, as Jean-Paul Nerrière understood when he coined 'Globish' in 1995."
* "So viral is its [Globish's] ceaseless expression round the world that to separate cause and effect is virtually impossible. With a supranational momentum, above and beyond American and British influences, Globish sustains itself as both chicken and egg."

Unfortunately, too much of the text in Globish is similar to the example sentences. The words flow, but the meaning is not clear.
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