Daniel Welsch


For those who don’t know about it, Globish is a phenomenon described by one Jean-Paul Nerriere, a French marketing-expert-turned-author.

Mr Nerriere, like many Europeans, has been to business meetings in which people from many different countries would communicate effectively in English.

However, as soon as they had to listen to a native speaker, they would be totally lost. Mr Nerriere decided to lay down some rules for English speakers to follow so that they can be understood by non-natives.

For more about this topic, see ¿Por qué no entiendo cuando me hablan en inglés? and my article here about gonna, wanna, ain’t and more.

How Globish works as a language

The reduction of vocabulary to 1500 words is a main tenet of Globish. According to the Toronto Star, words like “kitchen” have been excluded from the Globish dictionary, in favor of expressions like “the room where you cook food.”

you might already be speaking globish
Hey, it’s me. We need to talk. But only in Globish…

One nifty web tool allows you to put a text through a language scanner, to tell you which words need to be rephrased to make them easier to understand.

I tried, and found that words like moment, article, neighborhood and grammar are not part of the official vocabulary.

Speakers of Globish are also encouraged to avoid humor, clichés, and colloquial expressions.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Will Globish take off?

Well, it depends on how you define Globish. According to its proponents, millions of people around the world are already speaking it: they just don’t know it yet. Globish, they say, took off after World War II.

If that’s true, I speak Globish in my classes when I slow way down, use a smaller vocabulary, and explain things in various ways until I know my students have understood me.

It took some practice to learn it, but I feel like I’m almost a Globish native at this point.

The main difference between Mr Nerriere’s idea and the other proposals to improve English that have popped up is that Nerriere is a marketing professional, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard more about it in the future.

In any case, I’m not too impressed with a language that eliminates words like kitchen and neighborhood – and definitely not with a language that frowns on humor.

It’s inevitable that the language will change as there are more non-native English speakers every year.


I’m not convinced that limiting ourselves to 500 words is the solution.



P.S. Here’s another article (video) you might like: ¿deberías aprender Esperanto?

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  1. The idea of such a subset of English is much older …

    Townsville Daily Bulletin Thursday 26 April 1934

    Simplified English Wanted.
    For All Needs.

    A vocabulary of from 1300 to 1500 words is enough to express anything necessary in world trade, diplomatic exchange, or public addresses, Dr. Janet Alken, of the English Department of Columbia University said recently.
    Dr. Alken will head a committee of scholars being formed to work out a system of simplified English, which can be used as an International language. She believes it can be done and
    without simplified spelling, which she termed ‘anarchy.’
    In the opinion of Dr. Alken, a sys-
    tem of English with a vocabulary of no more than 1500 words would be far better as an International language
    than Esperanto, Ido and other at-
    tempts at a universal tongue.
    ‘The trouble with Esperanto and
    the others,’ she said, ‘is that they
    start with one people, while English starts with 240,000,000 people.
    ‘Pidgin English as it is used in
    China and in the Pacific Islands is an adaption of English for International use, but it is not culturally acceptable because respectable people won’t use it. A workable aystam must keep to the language of educated people.


    ‘People all over the world are cry-
    ing for an English they can use for purposes of trade, diplomacy, teaching, and so on, and hundreds of millions would learn it if they could.’
    The trouble with teaching ‘literary’ English to foreigners, Dr. Alken said lies in its vocabulary of some 280,000 words, the difficulty ot its spellingand its irrational idioms. At the rate which people really learn new words, it would take a foreigner eight years to learn enough English to read the ‘London Times’ intelligently, she estimated.
    Simplified spelling doesn’t help, Dr. Alken said, because it doesn’t clear up the difficulties about vocabulary and idiom. She thinks it much better to simplify the vocabulary, and she said that a total of 1500 words is just enough for the average person to learn well in a year.


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