Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anglish as a bridge language?

My wife is a savvy blog reader and she is always sending me links to great articles. So when I read this article, I got a little inspiration to write a blog entry. The article presents an argument that textbooks for learners of Germanic languages should not be written in English, but rather a modified form of English known as Anglish and suggests that if we can utilize a form of English that more closely resembles its fellow Germanic languages, we could more readily comprehend said languages.

So what is Anglish? If you clicked on the previous link, you may now know that Anglish is basically English without influences from other languages. Consider what English would sound like today without the Latin (and Greek) word-stock inherited through the introduction of Christianity and all that time spent with the Normans after the Norman Invasion in 1066. Now you have an idea of what Anglish is all about.

The blog author writes that textbooks with Anglish as the facilitation text (that is, the language of instruction and translation) would be better, because the large share of Germanic vocabulary would give English speakers a learning advantage, an advantage the author claims English speaking learners once had. The learner would be introduced to Anglish and then be introduced to the target Germanic language through Anglish explanations.

I went through a few stages of reaction considering that proposal. At first, I thought, “Gee, you want to learn a language like German, but now you have to learn this other type of English first? What’s the point of that? Wouldn't that be overwhelming for the average language learner?” In my teaching experience, I think it is best to avoid translation, at least for intermediate and advanced students. So why build a learning foundation almost entirely on a system of translation? However, after rereading the article and getting past my initial reaction I thought, “Well, I really like historical linguistics, I can see Anglish as a great way to study language history and possibly facilitate learning a second language.”

After a day of thinking about Anglish and doing some research, I am not convinced that it is an entirely useful strategy in bridging the gap for English speakers learning Germanic languages. I do think, however, that it could be a fun unit or lesson that demonstrates the relationship of the languages and could also inspire students to learn more about historical linguistics and how languages change over time.