I visited the electronic version of El País the other day and was struck by one of the headlines, “Hablemos inglés, o algo parecido” (Let’s speak English, or something like it).

What the article discusses is “globish”. As described, it is a type of “dialect” of English that is used in the international business world to establish a sort of conversation that is at the very least understandable for two people of different nationalities who perhaps are not entirely fluent in English and who wouldn’t receive passing grades on any English test, but who do have the skills necessary to close a deal.

This concept was initiated by a former executive of IBM, Jean-Paul Nerrière, when he saw this phenomenon in meetings, conferences, or symposiums with international attendants and decided to create the term “globish”, incorporating “global” and “English”. According to Mr. Nerrière, this English is limited with a vocabulary of 1,500 words.

In fact, when I did some additional research on the “language”, I was quite surprised to find that there are courses offered to learn it.

The concept gives rise to a debate on he positive and negative aspects. Moving beyond the simple discussion of whether or not it is appropriate, it is obvious that knowing even a superficial amount of English is useful and, in a world such as the one we live in today, we tend to apply the law of minimum effort and it is highly probable that this type of “English” increases its presence with the passing of time.

What is concerning, obviously, is the potential damage it can cause to English and language in general. Also, it would change the definition of what is necessary in order to be considered “fluent” in a language, with some not able to acheive more than mere “communication” in this limited use.

Jean-Paul Nerrière states that the idea is not to compare globish with real English, but to see it as a tool that can be useful in certain circumstances and can somehow make people who are reticent to learn English, those who do not have the resources to do so, or those who never take the chance because they believe it to be too difficult or will take up too much time, can become inspired and start learning the language.

It must also be said that the vocabulary of globish is limited to the most common words and constructing sentences that are complex is not possible. This renders this offshoot as truly “poor English” that is, nevertheless, grammatically correct.

What is a reality is that it appears apparent that there is an immediate necessity to learn English, even in its most basic form, since there are always new ideas to simplify how to learn and use it; simple English, basic English (850 words), etc.

In short, we will have to let time show us how meetings, conferences, etc. where people from different national and linguistic backgrounds take part are eventually handled.

(Version in Spanish: