Archive for the ‘Globish’ Category


Rant about Contractions

February 3, 2012

Posted by Kanga.

beach, green bush, and the Arabian gulf

This picture was taken in Ras Al Khaimah. It isn’t related to what follows, but I liked it and just thought I’d post it for your viewing pleasure.

I work with students who are learning the English language as a second language. 100% of the students, not just a small percentage. I have no training in teaching English as a first or second language. As a librarian, teaching the language is not my task, but in attempting to get the students to read English materials, I cannot escape some of the challenges of learning the language.

I’ve always known that English is a difficult language full of exceptions to the rules. I before E, except after C, and a lot of other exceptions like weird, forfeit, vein, etc.

This week it was contractions – can not into can’t, are not into aren’t, etc. Being someone who probably thinks too much, I began to ponder why do we do this in this manner and who decided that the laziness of speech should be noted in written form. Why not just write “cant” and “wont” and “arent” and “wouldnt”, etc. I suppose because some of these would be confused with other words, like cant and wont, although context ought to indicate which meaning is appropriate. And, why not spell woodnt and shoodnt? Why bother with “ould” which is not very phonetic.

It is no wonder that Globish is becoming so prevalent. Arabic, for example, lacks definite and indefinite articles. It seems perfectly natural to say “Miss, I want pen” instead of “Miss, I need a pen.” Actually, it is often just “Miss, pen” or “pen.” There is also “Miss, I want paper.” Which really means “I need a piece of paper” not “I need a ream of paper.”

[Correction – there is a definite article in Arabic – Al. I should know better than to write about things I don’t really know about.]



Lessons in Globish

May 8, 2009

The secret to mastering Globish is in the vocabulary. Globish has a very limited vocabulary. Not much in the way of synonyms. So, you have to figure out which word works. After a lifetime of driving up to the gas pump and saying “fill ‘er up with regular,” we now have to say “95 full” in order to get a tank of 95 octane. Nothing more, nothing less. [Yes, it’s been a long time since Americans have been able to afford saying “fill ‘er up,” but if you said it, the attendant would understand.]

Another example, when you order water at a restaurant and the waiter asks “big or small” do not say “large.” He will only have to ask again “big or small” because large is not in the vocabulary. No synonyms, remember.

If a coworker asks if another coworker has gone for the day by saying “is Saleena left?” Don’t reply with “Saleena is gone.” It does not compute. This also illustrates the fun of native Arabic speakers trying to learn English. I am told that Arabic doesn’t have a lot of verb tenses, like English does. They pretty much speak in the present tense. They don’t have future perfect, pluperfect, dangling pariciples, whatever. So, the complexities of English are quite a challenge. I’m not a grammarian myself, but I can manage the basic verb tenses.

This business of having to stick to a limited vocabulary and use the same words contained in the question when you answer is especially difficult for me, because I have always had an aversion to using the same words. For example, if someone said “hello” to me, I would say “hi,” or vice versa. I don’t like to reply the same way.

Also, I apparently don’t pronounce the word “orange” in an intelligible way. I say it “orunge.” I haven’t quite figured out how to say it the “right” way, yet, so I’ve given up on ordering orange juice. Back home I got teased for saying “nekked” instead of “naked.” Of course, we don’t say that word at all here!


This will always annoy me.

April 3, 2009

Many of the waitstaff here have very low levels of proficiency in the English language. They speak Globish (see my Jan 26th post for first mention of Globish). They clearly have also been instructed to address customers as Ma’am and Sir. Two things about this annoy me. They run the words together “ma’amsir” or the even worse “momsir” and use this term for either of us. Also, some use it with every sentence. In their eagerness to please and do the right thing, they may ask you if they can remove each empty dish from the table individually. “Excuse momsir may I take” or something to that effect. Some use it as a space filler much like “um” or “ah.” I’ve considered asking to speak with the manager and explain how annoying and even disrespectful this all sounds to us, but I’m afraid his/her English would be just as problematic.

Luckily, the waiters at our favorite restaurant manage to separate the words and use them judiciously. They usually see Paul coming and greet us very warmly. They have, occasionally, called Paul “boss.” He recently asked one of them what his name was and offered his own name in return, so we hope that “boss” may disappear and be replaced by Mr. Paul. Of course, I can’t hope for anything more than Mr. Paul’s wife or ma’am. I suspect that it would be considered culturally inappropriate for them to address me directly by name.

Maybe this is the logical place and time to talk about names. Muslim names are structured differently than Western names. A person has a single name that refers to them specifically, what we would call a “first name.” This is followed by “son of” or “daughter of” and the father’s name. It may also be followed by another “son of” with the grandfather’s name. In some cases, you eventually get to a “family” name which is usually proceeded by “al” meaning “the.” Some have shortened their name which results in it being more Western, although I don’t know if that is the motivation. Daddybird’s boss, for example, goes by just his first name and family name. When a woman marries, she does not change her name. She is still Mariam daughter of Abdullah son of Achmed. However, when she gives birth to a son, she may become “mother of” followed by the son’s name, Um Ibrahim, for example. There is a popular animated show here called “Freej” that has four older women as main characters and all the characters names are “mother of ____.”

So, there’s today’s lesson in Muslim name structures. Class dismissed.


Globish, not English

January 27, 2009

Apparently, the language we hear every time we interact with non-native English speakers has been dubbed “Globish” by a French author, Jean-Paul Nerriere

Ironically, according to WorldCat (the world’s largest library catalog) his book has been translated into Spanish and Korean, but not English.

At least now we have a label for the language we struggle to understand. We experienced it last night at the store when our coupon was expired (due to my inability to read dates that are dd/mm/yyyy) and there was also a sales promotion that involved other coupons and somehow we managed to understand all this via what used to be called “broken English,” but is now Globish. At least, we think we understood it. If a new version of our outdated coupon arrives in the mail in a couple of weeks and if we manage to figure out how to spend the new coupons before the expiration date (happily spelled out as May 31, 2009), then we will have succeeded.


Taxi fun

October 31, 2008

Last Tuesday night we had another fun taxi experience. This time is wasn’t because it was difficult to get a taxi, although it was. We did finally get a taxi. We told the driver where we wanted to go. He said he was new and asked if we knew how to get there. He asked us where we were from. We told him United States of America. He grinned very big and said “US Amrika?!” We said, yes. He was apparently really pleased and kept grinning and laughing. Paul asked him where he was from. He told us Pakistan. He said – “President Bush…good…no good?” You probably know what our answer to that was. He told us Benazir Bhutto was good. He asked all kinds of other questions — was our whole family here? was I Paul’s wife? did we have children? would Barack Obama be a good president? etc.

We could tell he was a new taxi driver because he hadn’t learned the bad habits, yet. He only honked at another driver once. He was cautious and polite when changing lanes. He didn’t tailgate the car in front of him. He’ll learn eventually.


Electrical devices and other trivia

October 11, 2008

This is what electrical outlets look like here. Each one has a toggle on/off switch. Below are two typical plug styles and an universal adapter that lets you plug in just about anything. The voltage is 22o, twice the 110 in the States. There are also switches for each of the major appliances – the kitchen stove, the clothes washer, and the clothes dryer. We’ve had to learn to check and make sure things are switched on, otherwise you’re waiting a long time for the frying pan to heat up.
Below is the light switch for the bathroom and the water heater switch. Each room that has plumbing has its own water heater switch. If you don’t switch it on, all you can expect is lukewarm water. If I want a hot shower in the morning, the water heater has to be switched on before I go to bed. Then the water will be HOT, the kind of melt plastic bottles hot that Paul was complaining about.
Below is the back of the packaging for the night light that Paul got for the bathroom. In case you can’t read it, I will transcribe.
“Nushi Night Lamp
This nigh lamp series is elegant in appearance. It adopts advanced electric circuit and material
It is safe and energy-saving.
There are several colors of light for choice.
The white color is high brightness, suitable for using at the corridor, staircase and bathroom.
The yellow, pink amd light blue coldrs are suitable for bedroom, their gentle light will not dazzle while sleeping.
The green color is suitable for karaoke room and decoration cabinet.
It brings comfort and romantic feeling to your home.”
The front of the package was labeled “Dim Night Lighting.”
I have been careful to preserve the spelling errors and grammar for your enjoyment. We are often entertained by the descriptions on packages here, like OMO laundry soap that declares “Dirt is good.” Makes no sense to me.
We discovered and purchased the world’s ugliest kitchen clock. As you can see it is a big ear of corn with eyes that swing back and forth with the pendulum, which has two onion headed beings in love on it. And, for some unknown reason, he has a picture of melon/cantelope on his stomach/clockface and a saying “Love – Thinking of you. All the best wishes. Benediction your friend.” It isn’t actually keeping time. We either need a better battery or a new clockwork.
Below is the advertisement in the window of a travel agency in our neighborhood and if you have seen anything South Park, you will recognize why I took this picture. There is a fair amount of trademark and copyright infringement here. At the very least, they walk close to the line — like SFC Southern Fried Chicken (knock off of KFC) and Frozen Slab Ice Cream (knock off of Cold Stone Creamery).