Globish: a remarkable language

On the internet I found a factsheet with the Globish vocubulary, It is a small PDF file with around 5 pages. The funny thing is, that this is the complete language. What the learner has to do is to print out the list, memorize the words and he is able to communicate in Globish in any country worldwide. Is it possible that somebody will fail in that task? No, because Globish is the easiest language ever invented. It is much simpler than German, Chinese or Esperanto.

Let us take a deeper look into the list. At first, it seems a bit implausible, that such a small list is enough. What is for example with the color-names, are they on the list? The lovely color “black” is available, but also “blue”, “green” and “yellow”. The colorname “red” is not available in Globish. Perhaps the authors have forgotten it, I don’t know. But what is on the list are number-words like “one”, “two”, “million” and so forth. Also some basic objects like “flower”, “garden”, “pen” and “cat”. Overall it is possible to construct meaningful sentences with the wordlist. Not only for native speakers but the more important audience are non-native speakers who learn Globish as their second language.

Let us compare Globish with potential alternatives. Is it possible to create a simplified version of the Russian language on a factsheet not more than 5 pages? Or a Spanish version? I would guess not. Both languages are very complicated to learn. The Russian language for example contains non standard letters called Cyrillic script. It was widespread used in the middleage in Eastern Europe. In contrast the Spanish language which is spoken in large parts of the world contains a complicated vocabulary which is hard to guess for non-native speakers. For example “spider” is called in Spanish “la araña” and “blue” is “azul”. Sure, if someone is already familiar with the language it is not a big thing to use this words in a smalltalk, but what if somebody is grown up the first years in his life outside of a spanish speaking country? How long does it will take until he memorized the vocabulary list?


Learning English alone

Sometimes it was asked, if it is possible to learn English alone. That means not attending an English class but learning the learning something else. Accepting the challenge is only possible, if it is known how exactly somebody can learn a language alone. There are two useful tools in doing so: a bidirectional dictionary and a sheet of paper for writing texts.

The idea is, that the learner is using the dictionary to get knowledge about new words. For example, he wants to know what a word from his mother tonque is called in English. Without a dictionary he doesn’t know, because English is unknown to him. But only knowing the vocabulary is not enough, the second step is to use the vocabulary in real sentences and essays. This is done by writing down the text to the sheet of paper.

Let us investigate a potential bottleneck in this setup. What will happen if we are taking away the dictionary and the possibility to write down words to a paper. Is the student anymore able to learn alone the language? In my opinion not, that means being alone can result in not learning the language.

Learning japanese with Stackoverflow

The famous Stackoverflow bugtracker has a japanese section, which is beta. The traffic there is low, but some of the questions are interesting. Today, a question about an OCR problem was posted. In detail, the question was about noise reduction of a line which goes through handwritten letters. I’ve done my best to answer the question. At first, I googled in the English Stackoverflow forum and found some answers. Then i wrote the answer in perfect English and used Google Translate for converting the text into Japanese. According to the back-translation, the result was not very well. The japanese was perhaps not the best one. But what is the alternative? The OP had a serious problem and i want to help him. So I posted my answer under the question and hope the best that his japanese is better then my own.

The most effective way to learn English is a bidirectional dictionary

In English classes many ideas are present how to teach students effectively. But in most cases, a simple but effective tool is not used: the bidirectional dictionary. The reason why such a book is important has to do what the student should do. He has the task to write a text in the new language, which is English. The problem is, that he doesn’t speak the language, that is the reason he is in the class. And the way to to learn it, is asking the dictionary. The process in detail.

At first, the student gets a concrete task. For example: Write 100 words in English and introduce yourself. In most cases the student starts optimistic and writes down the first sentence: “Hi my name is Manual.” In the next sentence the student want to write, in which country he lives. But he doesn’t know how to express it in English. The answer what the English class has to give is how the student can learn it. The answer is to use the two-way dictionary. In the German-english dictionary he searches for the word country, and gets the English word which is country. Then he searches for the word for “i live” and at the end he can write down the overall sentence.

The good news is, that more is not needed. It is only a question of how many of such 100 words paragraphs the student has written down. The workflow in doing so is always the same. He writes down the first sentence, and if one word is unknown, the student is asking the dictionary. After a while he memorized the words for its own, but the dictionary is needed nevertheless, because the student can increase the difficulty of the sentences.

It is a bit surprising, that this simple tool is not often used in English classes. Most schools only allow monolingual dictionaries but some are not allowing any dictionary. How the student can learn a foreign language without a dictionary? Right, they don’t. And that is the reason why classical English classes are a waste of time. The students are sitting 10 years in the class, never used a bilingual dictionary and their English skills are very low. Learning English to speak can be done also with a dictionary. Here the student is not writing down the first sentence, but is speaking loud the words. If he stops because he doesn’t know a certain words he asks either a human-translator or a printed bidirectional dictionary. So there are two options the student has. If he knows who to express a sentence in English, he is talking. If he doesn’t know the word, then he is asking the dictionary. A third different option is not available. That means, it is not possible that the student should talk in English but is not able to do it because he doesn’t speak the English. That is a failure pattern which should be avoided.

English podcasts are great

I know, in two blog posts so far, I linked to English language podcast. But the English speaking podcast-sphere is so good, that again the same message has to be pushed out. Perhaps at first a look back into history. In former times, I only heard German language podcast, because this is my mothertongue. The problem there was, that the available number of podcasts was very small. At first, my idea was, that huge numbers of podcasts must be out there and it is only a question of using the searchengine for finding them. My next idea was to blame to the creater, because they have produced not enough content. But in reality the problem was me, the listener. What I’m doing now is switching the language to English, and voila, the numbers of podcast is extreme high.

I’ve made a simple test and asked a website, what they have about Indiegame-development. That is a very special topic, because programming is not very widespread in mainstream and most games are created not as opensource by single person. But surprisingly the number of podcast is high. The result list shows around 10 different podcast with this topic, and every podcast consists of different episodes. It feels a bit like in Cockaigne, because every podcast is for free and can be played instantly.

I do not thing, that the german podcast scene can compete with this amount of user-generated content. The reason is, that the number of german speakers is very limited and it simply makes no sense, to record a podcast for them. Mainstream topics, like political news or podcasts about food are available in german, but if someone is interested in special subjects he has no choice than switching the language to English. The funny thing is, that it is relatively easy for the listener to learn the English language. Much easier for example, to switch on the creator side the language to German.

I would guess that the real internet and the real podcast scene is English language driven, and that my first impression with German-audiocasts was only a tip of an iceberg. I would assume, that the number of podcasts in English is 20 times higher than on German. I do not want to criticize the German audioscene. For example, “Chaosradio Express” has today over 216 episodes in their archive And everyone of them is high-quality-content with special topics from computing. But, apart from this singular project, no other podcasts are available and I will guess, that in future nothing will change. The problem is perhaps, that the german audiance is with 100 million speakers to small for producing more content.

Let us investigate further how good the English podcast universe is. We are searching for a special interest podcast about the LaTeX typesetting system. The good news is, that at least one podcast is out there, But, it consists only of three episodes and thats it. It seems, that LaTeX is a bit too special for the podcast scene, and the number of audience is to small. About another topic, a surprisingly richful number of podcasts is available: Publishing.

Another interesting sub-topic podcast is a series dedicated to Ada lovelace. No it is not a joke, a complete podcast about the early computer programming scene is available.

English rocks

A while ago I decided to switch the language here in the blog from German to English. I can remember quite well how uncomfortable it was in the beginning to write English texts, but after while the progress was there. I do not understand how exactly language learning on humans is working, but it seems that the ability of writing English is proportional to the number of sentences someone has entered in the foreign language. A nice side effect was, that writing practice also improved my English hearing skills. In the past, I preferred podcasts in the German language. The disadvantage was, the the number of potential audiocasts was limited. In German language mostly the Chaosradio Express, the /dev/radio show and some smaller projects are available. All of them are really good podcasts, but the problem is that the number of audience is limited. In the English language the number of audio projects is higher. It is very easy to find even for special topics a huge number of episodes. Today, I’ve found a promising podcast about Computer history, I can’t say, how good the episodes are, but according to their homepage they have 59 episodes so far about all aspects of Windows, Android and so on.

The reason, why the number of podcasts in English language is so much higher is simple: worldwide is the audience bigger. And the demand is so much greater. The disadvantage is the language barrier. It is a bit exhausting to hear a podcast in foreign languages. Most of the episodes are not spoken in simple English. That could be a problem for the untrained ear.

English as a tool

I love my mothertonque, which is German. Most articles here in the blog are written in it. More than 800 postings are printed out would need many DIN A4 pages. In contrast, reading and writing in English is not my favourite task. The language itself is not very complicated to learn, the basic globish type consists of only 1000 words and the grammar is also easy. But, as a non-native speaker my English will be always insufficient. If i can decide for my own, I would never switch away from German language.

The problem is the following: posting something in German is equal to posting to a local internet. In theory, the content is accessible worldwide for 7 billion people, in reality german blogposts are read only by people inside the country’s border. A short look into a worldmap shows us, that German is like French a worldlanguage with millions of speakers, but compared to all the other the country is tiny. That is the reason why i switched to English, even it is only a basic version without sophisticated quality.

In present, it seems anachronistic to choose a certain language. In theory it is easy to translate German blogposts into every other language. But in reality such translators are not available. This results is low visibility. People in Australia, Argentina, Russia or Canada have no intention to climb about the German language barrier. So It’s up to me as an author to translate.

I do not believe, that with posting an article in English the traffic counter will raise magically. But what is true, that from now on there is no artificial barrier which prevents somebody to understand my text. So it’s up to searchengines and the readers to identify my blog.

It is still difficult for me to write in English. Because the language is so different from German, the words are weird, the order is different and the writing is much slower. But after writing some texts it is much easier than at the beginning. With every written blogpost, it is a bit more comfortable to formulate a sentence in the foreign language. It would be nice to know of how my skills would look in one year. Perhaps, they are the same as today, or they are much better. I don’t know. But I’m motivated to give it a try.

One thing is easy to achieve: the prevention of spelling mistakes. In my text processor Lyx there is wonderful spell checking tool integrated which underlines mistakes by a red line. So it is no problem to improve the text. Other aspects like a rich full vocabulary or a better grammar are hard to reach. As far as i know, there are no good automatic tools out there, so it depends on the learner.

The best argument for using English as the primary language is a look at the worldmap. According to Wikipedia, in Australia alone are living 24 million people. Additional India has 1200 million people and how much are living in the lovely Japan I can only guess. Normally, these countries would never read my blog, because they can’t. If an internet user in one of these countries types in a searchstring into google, my German speaking blog will simply not shown in the result list. So they wouldn’t click on the URL in 1 million years.