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Sunday, March 25, 2012


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 ‘ghotiis 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 could be that Globish provides the answer. It is established as a simplified form of English with only 1500 words, spelled as they sound. Try reading a few Globish words where a back stroke over a letter indicates the letter is pronounced as it is in the alphabet: brij, erly, laf, offis , nàshn, lòn, juj, lern. Current English speakers could learn Globish as a hobby so in speaking to a foreigner they wouldn’t say something like:Globish is the gateway to international conversation’
but instead: ‘Globish helps u tauk tu pèpl frum uther cuntrys’.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012


As I mentioned in a blog post about a trip to Portugal in 1981, we had been able to pick up cheap airline tickets in London. The reason became clear on the return flight. It had only a few passengers and, once off the ground, the pilot opened his door to the passenger cabin and invited us to join him.
I was surprised that though we were flying out of Portugal over Spain and then France, whenever there was radio contact with Air Traffic Control people on the ground, they always spoke English. It was obvious when the pilot explained why. There are well over 5000 separate languages spoken globally and when international flights began to be common in the 1940’s, an International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] was formed and an agreement was reached that members involved in international flights must be proficient in standard English radio phraseology. In 2008, the competency of ICAO members in English increased so they must now have mastered English as a general spoken language. That was but one ‘foot-in-the-door’ to predicting English would be the language to evolve into Panglish, a global language of the future.

Although there are 1,113 million Chinese and only 372 million people who speak English as their native tongue, still it is the second largest group with those who speak Hindi/Urdu third. When you think of it, there are many reasons that English is a natural choice for the global communications. First. with so much English colonial expansion around the world, many speak it as a second language or are at least familiar with it.

Many of the relatively recent advances in science, technology and communications have been made in English speaking countries. Add to that the tremendous affect of English media in broadcasting via global satellite TV and radio, making our culture readily available especially in newscasts, films and music world wide. Then include the development of the internet with all its English resources and ease of communication and you realize it is no wonder that English has made inroads in so many parts of the globe.

Apparently in the last 20 years or so, there has been so much growth in the use of the English that now it is the choice not only as the common language for economic and scientific communications, but also as the chief language of diplomacy, sport, pop music, tourism, etc.

There is now such a large global demand for teachers of English as a second language that it is predicted that in a few decades there will be more people using English as a second language than native speakers. It will then be they who have the upper hand in how English evolves and changes into Panglish. There is no precedent to help predict what will happen then but just as teenagers have developed their own special lingo for texting messaging, it probably won’t take long for transformations in English to catch on. It will be fascinating to witness the evolution of Panglish as a workable global language and I'm sorry I won’t be around to see it happen! Rie

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sprouting Seeds

For me, spring is in the air and my mind turns to gardening and I’ve already planted seeds inside in containers, those that take a long time to germinate and flower. But because I’m curious, I have been reading up this week on the benefits of sprouting seeds for the table and I’m astounded at what I’ve learned!

Sprouted seeds happen to be one of the most nutritious and easily digested foods you can possibly eat because they not only contain lots of vitamins, essential fatty acids, proteins, and minerals, but because when you sprout them they have enzymes that make these nutrients so easy to assimilate. If you just eat the seeds they go right through you because they contain an enzyme inhibitor that prevents them from sprouting. Even grinding the seeds doesn’t get rid of the inhibitor and it’s only when it is removed by water and the seeds are able to sprout that the enzymes can release their nutrients and transform them into useable form.

First of all, for those who may not be familiar with seed sprouts, check out the video to see how to make them easily. At the sprouting stage a seed’s nutritious value is at its highest since it contains all the important ingredients needed for a mature plant. It has been shown for instance that a sprouted seed can contain as much as 400% more protein than a full grown plant and even higher percentages of vitamins and antioxidants. That means when you eat a good helping of sprouts, what you are ingesting is the nutritious value you could only get by eating hundreds of plants!!

If you look into the significant health benefits of sprouts you discover that they are also packed with nature’s chemicals that protect the plant against disease and these are also of benefit to animals like us. Examples are antioxidants that counteract damaging free radicals, saponins that boost the immune system, and sulforaphane that can remove carcinogens and kill cells that are potentially cancerous. The discovery of sulforaphane especially in broccoli has made it a popular vegetable for protection against cancer but research shows that by eating broccoli sprouts you get up to 100 times the amount of the compound of a mature broccoli plant.

Among many other benefits of sprouts you can add that: they are full of fiber; a healthy system works best when it is alkaline and the fact that sprouts are an alkaline food makes them an ideal addition to the diet; they help prevent hormonal imbalances that cause hot flashes in menopausal women; and they make for a low cost substitute for fresh produce that’s not very abundant or fresh in the winter months

There are many kinds of seeds that can be sprouted and a list is given in the link. A word of caution - be sure the seeds are organic and meant for sprouting – seeds packaged for planting may contain chemical fertilizers.

Happy sprouting! Rie

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Earth’s Crust

In my travels I have visited a number of locations where I was very aware of the Earth’s crust being so thin that the heat of the molten rock the crust floats on, causes water to boil, steam to rise and geysers to spout. The first and most spectacular site was Yellowstone National park, with its variety of thermal features, then came Iceland, full of steaming landscapes and geothermal plants. These experiences and a vague awareness of tectonic plates has caused me to do some reading this week [thank goodness for those who enrich cyberspace with so many well informed online articles].

I had always thought that when our planet was being formed some 4.6 billion years ago it was a huge ball of molten rock that cooled down in a few hundred million years or so, a crust formed, and life evolved and things were pretty stable after that.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Scientist now theorize that in the cooling process large slabs of solid rock very likely did form and float on Earth’s boiling molten rock mantle in its early years but that they drifted into each other, partly melted again, broke apart and reformed many times over the first billions of years.

Alfred Wegner, a brilliant multidiscipline scientist, was the first to propose the idea of continental drift as early as 1911, though he wasn’t sure why. What prompted his proposal was that he had happened on a some research that gave a list of fossils of identical creatures and plants that existed on land that was on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. When you look at a map of the Earth, especially if you take continental shelves into consideration, you can easily see that the continents seem to fit together like the pieces of a big puzzle. The the east coastline of Brazil fits into the west coast of Africa almost perfectly and the same is true of other continents.

As more fossil records have been found, along with evidence from glacial scrapings over land surfaces, all the indications point back to the existence of a supercontinent called Pangea some 300 million years ago [see picture upper left]. As scientists from many disciplines continue to find new evidence, they can go further and further back in time and now postulate other similar continental reconstructions with names like Ur, Atlantica, Nina, Rodinia, Gondwana & Laurasia.

By recognizing many clues about the way land masses are displaced, it is now recognize that the Earth’s surface is composed of some 14 large rigid slabs or plates that move relative to one another – hence the name plate tectonics, or ‘surface built of plates’ - see diagram on the right.

It has taken decades of controversy and accumulating evidence to finally gain acceptance of the far-reaching theory of plate tectonics and I found an animated video very helpful in visualizing the process of why continental plates move.

The global positioning satellites [GPS] tracking system can now accurately measure plate motions and they are in the order of only a few centimeters a year. In the last 100 years we’ve learned a lot about our planet – lets hope it won't take the next 100 to learn better how to predict and cope with volcanic and earthquake disasters caused by still boiling molten rock not too far under our feet! Rie