News – The New Lingua Franca and Globish

The BBC reports today on French responses to the incorporation of English business terminology into the French language. The 2008 ‘Prix de la Carpette Anglaise’ (‘English Doormat Prize’), awarded to whoever or whatever has displayed ‘fawning servility’ to the English language, was won by France’s higher-education minister, Valérie Pécresse. Her offence was to inform the media that English was now the easiest mode of communication in Europe, so she would not speak French in meetings. A runner-up this year was the supermarket company Carrefour, which rebranded its Champion chain as Carrefour Market, rather than ‘marché’.

A retired French businessman, Jean-Paul Nerrière, however, has embraced this trend. He believes that a new form of English is developing around the world, used by people for whom it is their second language. He calls the language ‘Globish’, and his book – Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish – explains it. Globish has only 1,500 words and users must avoid humour, metaphor, abbreviation and anything else that can cause cross-cultural confusion. It must be spoken slowly and in short sentences.

Globish still has its opponents, of course, and not just in France. The BBC’s correspondent laments its ‘stunted business-speak, its bland insignificance, its cultureless access-for-all availability’ and wonders if English will suffer by association.

In France, meanwhile, the sponsor of the Prix also brings legal actions against companies that breach the law by not issuing French language versions of instructions to staff. Until Globish attains universal acceptance, you may prefer to stick to English and French. And if you’re worried about bad PR in France, Global Lingo would be delighted to offer localisation and translation expertise.