Release your inner ELF

Bethany Cagnol highlights an acronym nightmare attached to international communication. Download her slide show for the full picture.

Most web content in English does need to communicate with people who are not native English speakers. Never mind whether the web site is directed at people living in other countries, because it's just crazy to assume everyone in the US or UK is a native English speaker.)

So, says Bethany, we need to use a special kind of language: ELF (English as a Lingua Franca).

Oh no! Not Latin! A Latin word for Frankish language? How plain is that?

ELF, otherwise known as
EIL (English as an International Language), or
EILF (English as an International Linga Franca), or
English as a Global Language, or
Offshore English, or
Globish, or
Panglish, or
Interlanguage, or
EIAL (English as an International Auxiliary Language), or
English for Cross-cultural Communication , or
EIP (English for International Purposes)...

At last, this is common knowledge: native English speakers cause greater confusion than non-native English speakers.

A Business Spotlight follow-up survey on communication at work (2007) found these bald facts.

Why do you have communication problems in English with native speakers?

  • They speak too fast 86.1%
  • They use unknown expressions 60.0%
  • They use too many idioms 57.4%
  • They use difficult words 55.7%
  • They don't speak clearly enough 55.7%
  • They have a heavy accent 45.2%
  • I can't make myself understood 15.7%
  • They talk too much 13.0%
  • They make grammatical mistakes 1.7%


Sobering information. We should take it seriously not only for podcasts or videos but for written web content.

Global English (short version here) is what I called it in 1997. My main concern is figuring out practical ways of fixing the problem. Luckily, it's not too hard. But in one respect, it's counter-intuitive.

My main concern it to show you

My message was that native English speakers have to adjust their language if they want to communicate with non-native speakers... who were then called EFL or ESL speakers. (Again, that's the short version.)


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