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The globalization of the world economy in the 21st century has led to an expansion of businesses and organizations. New markets worldwide, as well as the emergence of various international institutions, economic unions, and trade partnerships, has created the need for cooperation. Such consortiums benefit from multinational collaboration as an elaborate knowledge base, and unique perspectives are acquired through diversity.
While cross-cultural teams can address the issues that arise in the context of international business, there are often internal operational challenges (Hult International Business School 2017). Language, which is a form of cultural identity, sets specific standards and patterns of communication that can differ significantly in various parts of the world. Language management is a discipline that organizations utilize to develop a policy and training to enhance the performance of cross-cultural cooperation. In the structure of an international organization, language directly impacts communication and cultural perceptions of business conduct.
One critical purpose of communication is knowledge sharing. There is explicit knowledge which is data and information that can be easily translated. However, tacit knowledge is abstract, and based on individual experiences and emotions. Such knowledge is achieved through interpersonal communication – at business meetings or social events. If there is efficient communication within an organization, such knowledge sharing can be observed. Employees and departments can synchronize their work and overcome challenges through advice, motivation, and education that are part of the tacit knowledge base. It is a practical method of solving business problems (Amin & Shahid 2013).
Business strongly relies on social interaction that can only be established if people have a method of communication. A language is a tool of relaying information. Human beings develop individually and organizationally based on emotions and experiences. Some of that tacit knowledge is passed through generations; others can only be acquired through personal experience. As communication evolves, there is a certain level of trust established since there is a mutual exchange of information.
Proficiency in a language helps to understand the intricacies, both cultural and personal, of the communication process. For example, successful cooperation on a business project requires discussion on potential benefits and failures of various decisions. If there is weak linguistic proficiency, it is unlikely that experiences can be accurately shared. There may be additional confusion about the emotion behind spoken words.
The tone of voice used in conversation represents different meanings according to culture. The inability to distinguish linguistic intricacies can jeopardize business operations since it may be difficult to relay feelings such as urgency or concern.
The concept of cross-cultural management is the ability to direct employees in an organization on how to work with colleagues and clients from different countries. It is critically reliant on collaboration between companies in various parts of the world, especially areas with complex cultural backgrounds. Language is essentially a part of the cultural heritage. As businesses seek to develop an understanding of a culture in a new location, employees must undergo a training process.
Culture is learned through experience and communication. However, to communicate, knowledge of language becomes necessary. Culture and communication are inseparable (Kawar 2012). Organizations seeking to develop internationally and invest in cross-cultural management must emphasize the process of language acquisition. Culture is critical from a management perspective as certain social rules must be followed in communication with people.
Certain cultures maintain hierarchical social structures that reflect corporate power distribution. There are specific patterns of communication established based on one’s rank and importance. The manner of addressing individuals based on such parameters can vary within a language. Management requires constant interaction with employees, including discipline and motivation aspects. In any country, these require a sensitive approach since a violation of cultural values can be deeply insulting. A competent cross-cultural approach eliminates potential liabilities for the business.
Studies show that consistent management communication in a common language (most often English) leads to stronger group cohesiveness which reduces conflict and potentially improves outcomes. There is a positive relationship between communication frequency (which improves with the use of a common language) and group involvement and trust in a multicultural institution. This has large-scale implications for the implementation of human resource management strategies. The focus should be made on consistently using a common language in personal and professional communication.
The number of languages spoken by members of an organization does not impact group cohesiveness if there is a unified standard of language use (Lauring & Selmer 2010). Language fragmentation is a concept that affects performance in a multi-cultural environment resulting in miscommunication, distrust, and conflict which leads to a decline of group cohesiveness. If a common language is established in all aspects of operation and employees are trained to use it, various problems of miscommunication in translation can be eliminated.
Furthermore, the implementation of a controlled language standard reduces ambiguity and complicated syntax. This allows for precise technical communication and presents straightforward information for employees lacking a linguistic experience with the universal language utilized by the organization.
In a large international corporation, it may be impractical to expect everyone to understand a common language. Employees without high proficiency in the corporate language, especially in leadership positions, may experience disempowerment due to their linguistic inadequacy. As a result, there will be a noticeable decrease in work ethic and performance results. It may lead to fragmentation within the workforce as people will cluster based on language proficiency (Gehrke & Claes 2014).
Also, it does not eliminate the issue of cross-cultural contact, as idiosyncrasies of a specific language and patterns of communication cannot be easily achieved through training. Modern global corporations have implemented strategies to address this issue by creating local branch offices that hire native speakers or culturally experienced professionals to conduct business in the region (Grzeszczyk 2015). Branch offices of a company hire residents, establish a strong customer base, and can cooperate efficiently with local businesses and regulators.
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Expatriates that have a necessary linguistic experience are sent to regional branches to maintain communication with the central headquarters of a corporation. A culturally competent approach without the forceful requirement to adopt a standard language worldwide is another language management strategy that can be implemented by multinational organizations.
Language is critical to the activity of international organizations. It can be exemplified in many forms and affects such functions as management hierarchy or culturally competent business operations. Language barriers create dysfunctions in communication, employee morale, and workplace openness. The complexity of challenges that linguistic fragmentation brings to multinational corporations presents the necessity to implement language management strategies. An organization attempting to conduct international affairs must address this aspect of human resource management because ignoring the issue results in severe consequences of lost market share and revenue.
Amin, A & Shahid, M 2013, Influence of language on knowledge sharing: a case study of Pakistani workers in selected Swedish multinational companies, Master Thesis, Mälardalen University. Web.
Gehrke, B & Claes, M 2014, Global leadership practices: a cross-cultural management perspective, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
Grzeszczyk, K 2015, ‘Language management in international business. Implementation of strategies to bridge linguistic and cultural barriers’, World Scientific News, vol. 7, pp.136-159. Web.
Hult International Business School 2017, How cultural differences impact international business in 2017. Web.
Kawar, T 2012, ‘Cross-cultural differences in management’, International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.105-111. Web.
Lauring, J & Selmer, J 2010, ‘Multicultural organizations: common language and group cohesiveness’, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, vol. 10, no. 3, pp.267-284. Web.