Tuesday 23 January 2018

Mary Dejevsky: I dread the day English becomes Globish

Mary Dejevsky

IT IS easy to believe that, as native English speakers, we have a stupendous advantage over those who have to learn the lingua franca of our age. But there's a price for speaking the world's most widely spoken language from birth, and it is that you are vastly outnumbered by those who speak it as a second language. And while they bawl out their Eurovision songs, present their learned papers or chatter away in their multinational groups, you -- the native speaker -- are the odd one out. You can mostly understand them but they can find it nigh impossible to understand you.

Now I should start by apologising to those who find my efforts to communicate in a foreign tongue grate on their ear -- at least I try. But I'm starting to find the ubiquity of a lowest-common denominator English a bit tiresome. A few years ago, one strain of it was branded Globish (English in 1,500 words), and -- of course -- it's the possibility of reducing English to such basics that has made it so adept a means of communication. However, I find myself hankering for the sort of English which expresses diffidence or conditionality with the subjunctive and inserts the correct tense after "since".

Many professional linguists would doubtless say there is no such thing as correct usage, only custom and practice, and they would add that language changes, as all living things do. But it would just be so, well, relaxing to be able to include the occasional subordinate clause and use idiom and irony without being misunderstood.

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