I was driving home the other day and listened to an interview on the radio with a certain Jean-Paul Nerriere, who has written a book and “invented” a language called Globish. It appears that Globish refers to a simplified form of English which uses a total of only 1,500 words, avoids slang and sticks to short and simple sentences. This Globish is a form of English that all speakers, especially those who are non-native, can easily understand.
I agree with some of this but disagree with most of it as I will explain in the next few posts. First of all I agree that non-native speakers should avoid slang or overly idiomatic language when they speak. I also agree that everyone, native or non-native should use simple, short and direct sentences for clarity. I agree that every non-native speaker should make a special effort to completely master the most common 1,500 words of English.
Beyond that it gets more complicated. Even the simplest natural conversation in English will only have 90% or so of its vocabulary consist of these high frequency words. Any more specialized content will see this ratio of frequent words drop down to 75%. It is simply not possible to be effective in many situations with so small a vocabulary.
Learning new vocabulary is on ongoing part of language learning. If done in a systematic way it can be done efficiently and be a source of satisfaction and sense of achievement. The solution to better communication across language barriers is to simplify the process of language learning and make it more enjoyable and more efficient. In this way more people will be able to communicate in two or three languages.
One more thought, it may be easier for a Frenchman or European language speaker to get by with 1,500 English words, since he or she can guess at the meaning of new Latin or Greek based words. The same is not true for someone coming from a non European background. But there will be more on this in upcoming posts.