Monday, June 07, 2010

In Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language, Robert McCrum looks at how England became the dominant world power of the nineteenth century and how the United States grew into the military and cultural colossus of the twentieth century.


Robert McCrum

Comments [12]

Leland Bryant Ross aka Ros' Haruo from Seatlo, Norekio

This broadcast led directly to the absurd statement of a woman who spoke to me at a recent showing of Sam Green's "Utopia in Four Movements". She said that she had just heard on NPR that half the people in the world now speak English. Not having (then) heard this piece, I didn't know exactly what she was talking about, so I just assured her that unless "speak English" means knowing how to say "Hello" and "Sank you", then NPR had just sadly misinformed her. Esperanto is so much more democratic a solution to the barriers created by native-tongue diversity that it remains a language that English-speakers and Tajik-speakers alike can benefit from learning BEFORE they undertake to learn Tajik or English.

Jun. 08 2010 12:56 PM
Brian Barker from London

I agree with Neil Blonstein. It is indeed amazing how ignorance is holding Esperanto back.

Especially when Esperanto is now recognised as a living language.

Your readers may like to see

Jun. 07 2010 01:46 PM
Neil Blonstein from New York City

While I accept much of what Robert McCrum offers, he is wrong on a few points: He discusses the democratic influences of the English language towards the end of the interview why discussing the true essence of English in the interview's beginning: The English Empire followed by the United States Empire allows continued spread of the English language (and American culture but that anther subject). There is a contradiction in terms: Empire with Democracy. For those seeking a language that spreads truly by democratic means seek Esperanto. I made that choice 39 years ago. You may want to listen to recent interviews on the subject of Esperanto on NPR and WNYC.

Jun. 07 2010 01:16 PM
Lucia from Brooklyn

PS is McCrum concluding that because of the popularity of text-speak like "LOL" that everyone needs to become English speakers? We didn't all learn and use Italian because non-Italian speakers signed emails and letters with "ciao"!

Jun. 07 2010 12:48 PM
WALTER BLASS from Warren, NJ

John McCrum is way off base as proclaiming Magna Carta as part of the "globish" evolution. It was written in Latin. It was largely drafted by John's Barons who were furious at his appropriating rights that Henry I had given up in the 12th C. document Charter of Liberties. Incdeed it was originally known as the Articles of the Barons ( c.f. Wikipedia.) It was hardly the philosphy of King John who usurped his brother's throne even while the latter was still alive in an Austrian Jail. Let's not re-write history like the Soviets or the Nazis!

Jun. 07 2010 12:46 PM
Lucia from Brooklyn

Wow -- this guy did NOT do his homework. People in China text using Chinese characters all the time (on blackberries or any kind of phone). And text speak is not all English! I think its fair to say each language has its equivalent of LOL. Also, I don't think it fair to call Chinese "unintelligible". Maybe it is to HIM!

And what about the fact that internet URLs can now be written in Arabic, Russian and Chinese characters? From what I heard, your guest didn't address this important issue that favors non-English languages in international, online fora.

Jun. 07 2010 12:43 PM
Michael from Soho, Manhattan

"Chinese doesn't speak to us. It's incomprehensible." What absurd statements to make about the Chinese language and Chinese culture! I am an American of Chinese descent that speaks English, Mandarin and French fluently. There are so many people in America interested in learning Mandarin. Any language is incomprehensible to those who don't speak it. And what about the Chinese Diaspora? There are Chinese communities and people of Chinese descent who have integrated into many, many countries all over the world bringing their cultures and traditions with them. I could go on and on because this is indeed a complicated subject. I was planning on buying Mr. McCrum's book but now will not as he makes broad strokes without considering details.

Jun. 07 2010 12:43 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Speaking of IT, I think if that so much of the Internet & computer tech in general had originated in a language other than English, accented letters (& maybe other alphabets) would have been incorporated into coding at a more basic level & it wouldn't be so complicated to type them on computers.

Jun. 07 2010 12:41 PM
michelle rogers from Dublin

the experience of English being brutally imposed on the Irish people conflicts greatly with what Robert is saying about English growing from the bottom,his viewpoint is quite prejudiced actually.

Jun. 07 2010 12:30 PM

correction; make that together with OUR very specific mood and tense variations. in 2nd para in my comment

Jun. 07 2010 12:26 PM
maggie from nj

ANy experienced ESL teacher knows that the reason a non-native speaker will comprehend another non-native speaker better than a native speaker is that native speakers encode language information in intonation and rhythm as well as content and grammar. Non-native speakers do not easily learn/use these aspects of the language when speaking. This is the reason we often have trouble understanding an Australian or cockney or Indian English accent. I'm not surprised a Frenchman came up with the dubious globish theory--a frenchman may have been totally unaware of these two factors.

Also a reason for the spread of ENglish is that it is NOT difficult at the beginner or intermediate level--learners hit the wall at the advanced level when the extraordinary vocabulary and idiomatic usage in English becomes salient, together without very specific mood and tense variations . These are just two issues I have w/ yr guest.
I really am not impressed by this guest who has some interesting history to convey but is woefully blank in the area of living English.

Jun. 07 2010 12:22 PM
Sophia from NY

Do you see a simplified form of Chinese overtaking English as the predominant world language?

Jun. 07 2010 12:22 PM

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