My last post, called Panglish was about English becoming a global language. In it I left out any mention of some of the pitfalls in doing that, chief among them being the oddities of English spelling. A striking example of its absurdities was the suggestion that ‘ghoti’ is a possible spelling for ‘fish’ when you use the ‘gh’ from enough, the ‘o’ from women and the ‘ti’ from nation.
Then there are the inconsistencies of pronunciation - for instance check out the sentence: ‘she too threw a blue shoe through to you two’. Imagine someone not familiar with English trying to pronounce the written language from the way it is spelled!
G.B. Shaw argued that each sound should have a phonetic symbol. In fact, he was so convinced that using just phonetic symbols would solve all spelling and pronunciation problems, that when he died he left a large part of his considerable fortune to pursuing that goal. In the end there was just enough money left to publish one book, ‘Androcles and the Lion’ which, when opened, had phonetic symbols on the left hand side with the corresponding normal printed English on the right. I was so interested at one time that I bought the book and tried to read it with pencil and paper in hand, using the symbols only. I had such a difficult time with sounding out some words that I finally had to give up and check the English version. When I did, I realized that the problem lay with whoever had been assigned to write the phonetics for the text must have had a strong English accent and that many words became unintelligible except, of course, for those who had that same accent!
It’s interesting that a form of Globish has fairly wide use internally in India. When British rule ended in 1947, it left 40 million Indians who knew English well enough to use it for business, jobs, etc. With their own 15 major languages and 12 different scripts, many Indians have found English the easiest way to communicate when moving around the country.
It is entirely possible that globalization of trade and science will force the adoption of a form of Globish as an independent language, taught to all children as a second language, and that it will become a common link language between all peoples in the future. Pipe dream? Let’s hope not. Rie