June 1, 2010 | bfeldman | Uncategorized

Globalization of Language

Over the weekend I came across a theory about the globalization of the English language.  Specifically, the author, Robert McCrum is making the case that a hybridized form of English he calls “Globish” has become the neutral language used for business purposes by people around the world.  You will find English mixed with other languages (“Manglish” being Malay and English for instance) used as a means of communication in Malasia.  From a recent New York Times review of McCrum’s book “Globish”:

“One of Mr. McCrum’s predictions in “Globish” is that English is about to make a “declaration of independence from the linguistic past.” English is shedding many of its colonial and imperial connotations and is becoming what the anthropologist Benedict Anderson calls a type of “post-clerical Latin.” The road signs on the information highway are written in English. Eighty percent of the world’s home pages are composed in some kind of it. Texting is playfully bending English by the nanosecond. LOL and GR8 and BTW are becoming more international, and more beloved, than Coca-Cola or James Bond ever were. As the increasingly harried editors of the O.E.D. might put it, OMG.”

I found this particularly interesting because of a conversation I had with an engineer in the Philippines.  Christian works for Meinhardt Engineers in Manila.  We were having a beer one night after a long day of meetings, and I asked him about the Philippine language “Tagalog”   – if  he speaks it in the office, at home etc.  Christian told me he uses mainly English at home.  What I found really interesting is that he told me English is the “neutral” language of the Philippines because of the variety of dialects of Tagalog used in the Philippines.  While he speaks Tagalog, he would not be able to carry on a conversation with a person from a region speaking a different dialect –there are many used throughout the islands.  So English has become the neutral language that almost all Filipinos speak.

Project meeting at Meinhardt's office: Christian is 2nd person on the right side of the table

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