The next world language

Novelist Nury Vittachi firmly believes the next ‘world language’ will not be English. In today’s keynote address to delegates attending the 2013 IPEd national conference, Vittachi conveyed his belief that the ‘globalese’ – a fusion of English vocabulary, Asian grammar and fad terms associated with technology, commerce and savvy marketing – will be what global communities embrace as the mother tongue in the future.

His was a highly entertaining speech, filled with many examples of this ‘globalese’. Born in Sri Lanka with a writing career that has taken him to Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, Vittachi is now based in Hong Kong, so there is no doubt to his first-hand experience in the new language he believes will take over the world. On arrival in the UK his first English phrase was ‘How do you do?’ which was met with puzzled and almost suspicious expressions of response from those fearing an alien invasion had commenced. Those familiar with London vocab would know that a simple ‘Whatcha?’ is sufficient when wanting to determine what someone is up to/doing.

The internet increased the confusion, and websites – one of which Vittachi was editor – popped up highlighting the differences between English and Asian phrases. It provides for a good laugh, especially when ‘Google’ in Vietnam is not a well-known internet search engine, but a well-used brand of toilet paper. Worth deeper consideration with all the crap we can find online…

Vittachi says that work for editors on an international scale, particularly in Asian countries, is abundant. While Western nations are fast moving towards an online environment with little thought for quality (and therefore the role of the editor), a study he conducted in 2005 showed that 80 per cent of Asians did not have internet and valued books and newspapers more. He says that although internet use has risen, little has changed in the way Asian nations relate to hard copy publications, and so the need for editors in these countries is huge.

Good to know. Thanks Nury, yours was an excellent way to start the conference.

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