Monday, June 07, 2010

Cameron on Globish

No not that Cameron, the good one, Deborah Cameron, who starts her review of Robert McCrum's Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language with some nice scene setting:

Last month, as volcanic ash drifted across the skies of Europe, I found myself in a van travelling from Dubrovnik to Antwerp with a Belgian, a German, a Turkish couple living in Holland, a Russian studying in Dublin, a Chinese woman heading to Beijing via Amsterdam, and two Croatian drivers whose services we had hired. How did we communicate? In English, of course. That "of course" is the starting point for Robert McCrum's book, an account of how English achieved its present status, framed by an argument about the present and future consequences.

She goes on to discuss whether McCrum's book is just another addition to the flag-waving and patriotism that appears in some other accounts of English's rise to international power and decides that it probably is. More important to Cameron  is what McCrum doesn't talk about: the unequal access to English around the world and the different values placed upon different varieties of the language. This last point chimes in with many other arguments about English as a Lingua Franca and/or English as a World Language, and it's an area that's worth a look if you're an A2 student thinking of Language Discourses around this topic for your ENGA3 exam in a few weeks.


Brian Barker said...

Please do not overestimate the position of English.

I live in London and if anyone says to me “everyone speaks English” my answer is “Listen and look around you”. If people in London do not speak English then the whole question of a global language is completely open.

The promulgation of English as the world’s “lingua franca” is impractical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker!

Impractical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is how English is used internationally at the moment.

Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is essential.

As a native English speaker, my vote is for Esperanto :)

Your readers may be interested in seeing Professor Piron was a former translator with the United Nations

A glimpse of the global language,Esperanto, can be seen at

Dan said...

Hmm...this is exactly the same as what you posted on the Guardian's comments page. You've not got a vested interest in Esperanto, have you ;-)