Monday Jul 05, 2010

Globish?

I've just been reading Robert McCrum's Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language. Interesting story (for that's really what it is) about how the development of the English language combined with political, technological and globalization forces brought out a form of English called 'Globish' that's been accepted as a global cultural norm and certainly can lay claim to being the lingua franca of business worldwide.

Jean-Paul Nerrière coined the term 'Globish' in 1995. It was "a utilitarian vocabulary" of 1,500 words; a form of English intended for non-native speakers. We can see it in action when McCrum says:

"Globish is essential to India's globalizing ambitions... (it) is the emerging supranational lingua franca that enables a call centre in Bangalore to answer impossible queries, or sell new product, as far afield as Cheltenham in the UK, Cedar Rapids in the United States, or Co. Cork, Eire."

However, bear in mind other research that shows that consumers prefer language versions of websites when it comes to buying goods and services. And we know that products and services must be localized along with their delivery mechanisms for users gain international markets. Quality of language is a deal-breaker in the enterprise space too and it definitely impacts adoption and productivity too. Try selling apps in the public sector in the wrong language and see what happens!

So, before you think we'll all end up speaking English some day, think again. Language (translated or otherwise) is part of the UX. I couldn't agree more with Gerd Schrammen of Verein Deutsche Sprache (the German Language Association), when he says, "It is perfectly legitimate to expect one's own language to be used at home."

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Oracle applications user experience (UX) assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps community, helping to design and deliver usable apps.

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Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog about product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), user centered design, design patterns, tailoring, BYOD, dev relations, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW and ADF, and a lot more.

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