A Short Course in Globalese
People across planet Earth have started talking to each other. Hermit kingdoms sell tours. Internet chat-rooms stretch from Katmandu to Caracas. Individuals travel like never before, trying on each other’s clothes and grimacing over each other’s foods. What do they speak? English, one of the most complex major languages on the planet, is routinely identified as ‘the world language’. But this paper posits that many crosscultural conversations occur not in any sort of formal English, but in a mixed-code tongue using elements from a variety of sources. English vocabulary, Asian grammar, and fashionable terms associated with technology and commerce feature highly. In the first part of this essay, the writer shows how peripatetic groups can deeply infiltrate the vocabulary of the places they visit, particularly if they take significant roles in the sociopolitical discourse of their destinations. The example given is from Hong Kong, a Cantonese-speaking community influenced by speakers of other languages for historical reasons. In the second part, the writer argues that a similar process is happening on a global scale. As the population-heavy, fast-growing economies of Asia take a higher profile role in global discourse, and as Asia’s people travel more, their mother tongues alter the language of international communication. Blended with contributory streams from the old/new media and from advertising, this is leading to the emergence of a new language which could be called Globalese.