Skip to main content

What is Globish?

Globish is a term invented by a French business man, Jean-Paul Nerriere, to describe the form English used as a lingua franca or common world language.

The theory is that communication between those whose first language is not English - known to linguists and language teachers as L2s - has developed its own form and conventions.  In other words, the English used between an Italian designer and his Japanese client in Globish is different in character from that used between native speakers (L1s) .

Some prefer to use less reductive terms like 'international English' (see comments) but Globish has gained academic respectability, with a leading linguist, Robert McCrum, devoting a book to it.

Is Globish just a PC word for English with an accent? And lots of mistakes?

Not necessarily. Many speakers of other languages use a more grammatically 'correct' form of English than those who speak native speakers (L1s).

Do L2s sometimes speak better English then L1s?

One big advantage L1s generally have is a wider range of vocabulary. Steven Pinker has estimated that the average high school student has learned 60,000 words - far more than a second language learner (L2s) can usually acquire. Communication between L2s typically has a narrower, more formal vocabulary.

The key advantage for L1s shared cultural references: to television shows, consumer products, school experience etc. L1s often have more common points of reference - though those educated outside the English speaking world may also miss out in this respect.

Why is Globish useful in business?

Globish puts greater emphasis on clarity of expression, especially when conducting business or discussing technical or legal matters. It does, however, limit flexibility of expression and interpretation.

Globish is not a very pretty word though, is it? 

Monsieur Nerriere is unconcerned if a word is 'ugly'. He prioritises function and meaning, aiming for the linguistic equivalent of a budget airline. Globish aspires to accessibility rather than aesthetic beauty.

But isn't most English still spoken between L1s?

In his survey for the British Council English Next, David Graddol concluded that the majority of conversations in English across the world no longer involve someone speaking their first language.
International tourism is growing {around 763 million international travellers in 2004} but the proportion of encounters involving a native English speaker is declining. Nearly 75% of international travel involved visitors from a non-English-speaking country travelling to a non-English-speaking destination. This demonstrates the ... growing role for global English.
Interview with Robert McCrum on Globish here


  1. Interesting post.

    I'm curious--- what's your two cents on Globish being an English teacher ? Something about Globish seems condescending to me. I tend to use "international english".

    Cheers, Brad

  2. An interesting question. If English is now the international language why does the British Government now employ Esperanto translators ?


    Also check out


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Which countries do not have an official language?

According Henry Hitchings Language Wars (2011) these nations do not currently have an official primary language: UK see hereUSAthough 20 states now have an official language — see hereAustralia 80% speak English but not officialPakistan Urdu became official language in 2015 but  only spoken by 8% of population.EthiopiaAmharic is official language but most spoken is OromoSomaliaEritrea Costa Rica Why these countries?Read extended transcript on Medium 

About the English Language - Teaching Packonly £2.99

Why is English not the official language of England?

58 countries list English as an official language - but not the UK. 

Why does the USA not have an official language?

58 countries have English as an official language - but not the USA.