English proficiency vs. professionalism : a case study of perceived management of linguistic diversity in an international organization
DisciplineIntercultural Communication (maisteriohjelma)Master's Degree Programme in Intercultural Communication
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The role, complexity and effects of language in international business are greatly acknowledged, but this is yet to show in research (Piekkari, Welch & Welch, 2014: 9). The purpose of the paper is to get an understanding of the extent to which one’s English proficiency affects the perceived professionalism and competence in one’s job. In addition, this case study looks into the management of linguistic diversity in an international organization, the case company. The research questions are: 1) How do professionals relate language proficiency to perceived professionalism? and 2) How is linguistic diversity approached and managed in a multilingual work place? The data consists of four interviews conducted with employees of an international start-up company located in Finland. The case company aims at the global market and its official language is English. The interviews are semi-structured and follow chosen themes; background information, language at work, language related issues and company’s approach to linguistic diversity. The interviewees are aged between 21 and 25, and have different nationalities, native languages and level of English skills. The nationalities are Finnish and Vietnamese, and native languages are Finnish, Vietnamese and Chinese. English skills vary in the interviewees’ own words from “close to native” to “kind of fluent”. The interviews were recorded and transcribed before further analysis and reflection on the theoretical framework. The results of the study are in line with the hypothesis that one’s English proficiency affects the perceptions of professionalism – the evaluations of competence. Language skills can be an indicator of one’s level of education and may affect one’s position in an organization. The case company has no official language policy, and based on the findings this does not seem to affect language use, communication or management of linguistic diversity. Linguistic diversity, and diversity in general, is managed moderately and action is taken only when an issue arises. Diversity is considered an advantage contributing to the success in global business, which seems to promote the business success. The interviewees’ experiences and perceptions enlightened the position of English and the management of linguistic diversity in the case company. Despite the size of the sampling, the findings can be beneficial for the case company and other organizations in understanding the necessity and value of language decisions. Some challenges concerning the study were the lack of resources and thus the limited sampling. ...
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