Global English article in FT

The Financial Times has a long article on Global English, Whose English?, by Michael Skapinker, with particular reference to David Graddol (see earlier entry and comments).

One concern of the article is how and when English will change. David Crystal is quoted:

Mr Crystal has written: “On several occasions, I have encountered English-as-a-first-language politicians, diplomats and civil servants working in Brussels commenting on how they have felt their own English being pulled in the direction of these foreignlanguage patterns . . . These people are not ‘talking down’ to their colleagues or consciously adopting simpler expressions, for the English of their interlocutors may be as fluent as their own. It is a natural process of accommodation, which in due course could lead to new standardised forms.”

It’s claimed that written academic English has to stay closer to the grammatical rules ‘followed by the native English-speaking elites’. I see quite a few books and articles on German law in non-native English that has not been seen by an editor, or by an editor who realized what was ‘wrong’ with it. But true, that doesn’t mean there is a proliferation of such articles or a development of a legal Denglish.

Barbara Seidlhofer, professor of English and applied linguistics at the University of Vienna, says relief at the absence of native speakers is common. “When we talk to people (often professionals) about international communication, this observation is made very often indeed. We haven’t conducted a systematic study of this yet, so what I say is anecdotal for the moment, but there seems to be very widespread agreement about it,” she says. She quotes an Austrian banker as saying: “I always find it easier to do business [in English] with partners from Greece or Russia or Denmark. But when the Irish call, it gets complicated and taxing.”

Professor Seidlhofer has published on English as a ‘lingua franca’. She believes that a new international English is developing. For that to be the case, the communication between the Austrian banker and the Greeks, Russians and Danes would have to be better than between him and the Irish. And there must be more to it than ‘the patient feels’ changing to ‘the patient feel’, which is nothing more than a development typical of English.

(Thanks to Robin Bonthrone)

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