How non-native English-speaking staff are evaluated in linguistically diverse organizations: A sociolinguistic perspective

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to examine the effects of evaluations of non-native speaking staff’s spoken English in international business settings. We adopt a sociolinguistic perspective on power and inequalities in linguistically diverse organizations in an Anglophone environment. The interpretive qualitative study draws on 54 interviews with non-native English-speaking staff in 19 UK business schools. We analyze, along the dimensions of status, solidarity and dynamism, the ways in which non-native speakers, on the basis of their spoken English, are evaluated by themselves and by listeners. We show how such evaluations refer to issues beyond the speaker’s linguistic fluency, and have consequences for her or his actions. The study contributes to the literature on language and power in international business through offering fine-grained insights into and elucidating how the interconnected evaluative processes impact the formation and perpetuation of organizational power relations and inequalities. It also puts forward implications for managing the officially monolingual, yet linguistically diverse organizations.

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Correspondence to Martyna Śliwa.

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Accepted by Rebecca Piekkari, Guest Editor, 20 March 2014. This paper has been with the authors for 3 revisions.

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Śliwa, M., Johansson, M. How non-native English-speaking staff are evaluated in linguistically diverse organizations: A sociolinguistic perspective. J Int Bus Stud 45, 1133–1151 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/jibs.2014.21

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Keywords

  • language (language design, silent language, translation)
  • academia
  • linguistic diversity
  • organizational inequalities