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Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 427–452 | Cite as

Media choice in multilingual virtual teams

  • Helene TenzerEmail author
  • Markus Pudelko
Article

Abstract

This study investigates the impact of language barriers on multilingual virtual teams members’ choice between different communication media in their inner-team interactions. Through interviewing team leaders and members in both mono- and multilingual virtual teams, we discover discrepancies in media choice and media performance between these two settings and identify foreign language-induced cognitive load as a key reason for these divergences. Our study advances research on communication and knowledge exchange in multilingual virtual collaboration by showing how language barriers alter the process of converging different viewpoints through team interaction, by suggesting language-related modifications to the seminal media synchronicity theory, and by demonstrating the benefits of new media in multilingual settings. It also broadens the disciplinary scope of language research in international business by introducing theories from communication studies and cognitive research. In practical terms, it highlights the benefits of redundant communication, the need for an adequate media infrastructure in multinational corporations and the importance of motivating team members to use new media.

Keywords

language teams and teamwork virtual collaboration media choice theory qualitative comparisons 

Abstract

Cette étude examine l’impact des barrières linguistiques sur le choix des membres d’équipes virtuelles multilingues entre différents médias de communication pour leurs interactions intra-équipe. En interrogeant les leaders et membres dans des équipes virtuelles mono- et multilingues, nous découvrons entre ces deux contextes des différences dans le choix et la performance des médias et nous identifions une charge cognitive induite par la langue étrangère comme raison clé de ces divergences. Notre étude fait avancer la recherche sur la communication et l’échange de connaissances dans la collaboration virtuelle multilingue en montrant comment les barrières linguistiques modifient le processus de convergence des différents points de vue par des interactions au sein de l’équipe, en suggérant des modifications liées à la langue concernant la théorie précurseur de la synchronicité des médias et en montrant les avantages des nouveaux médias dans des contextes multilinguistiques. Elle élargit aussi la portée disciplinaire de la recherche linguistique en management international en introduisant des théories émanant des études sur la communication et la recherche cognitive. En pratique, elle met en relief les avantages d’une communication redondante, le besoin d’une infrastructure média appropriée dans les entreprises multinationales et l’importance de motiver les membres d’une équipe à utiliser les nouveaux médias.

Abstract

Este estudio investiga el impacto de las barreras de idioma en las decisiones de los integrantes de equipos virtuales multilingües entre diferentes medios de comunicación en las interacciones al interior del equipo. A través de entrevistar a lideres y miembros de los equipo virtuales mono y multilingüe, encontramos discrepancias en la elección de los medios de comunicación y el rendimiento de medios entre estos dos escenarios e identificamos que la carga cognitiva inducida por el idioma extranjero como una de las razones clave para estas divergencias. Nuestro estudio avanza la investigación en comunicación e intercambio de conocimiento en colaboración virtual multilingüe, mostrando como las barreras de idioma alteran el proceso de convergencia de diferentes puntos de vista mediante la interacción de equipo, por lo cual sugerimos que las modificaciones relacionadas al lenguaje a la teoría de sincronicidad de medios seminales, y mediante la demostración de los beneficios de nuevos medios de comunicación en ambientes multilingües. También se amplia el ámbito disciplinar de la investigación de lenguaje en negocios internacionales mediante la introducción de teorías de estudios de la comunicación e investigación cognitiva. En términos prácticos, resaltamos los beneficios de la comunicación redundante, la necesidad de una adecuada infraestructura de medios de comunicación en compañías multinacionales y la importancia de motivar miembros de los grupos a usar nuevos medios de comunicación.

Abstract

Este estudo investiga o impacto das barreiras linguísticas na escolha de membros de equipes virtuais multilingues entre os diferentes meios de comunicação em suas interações intraequipe. Através de entrevistas com líderes e membros de equipes virtuais tanto mono quanto multilingues, nós descobrimos discrepâncias na escolha e desempenho da mídia entre essas duas configurações, e identificamos a carga cognitiva induzida pela língua estrangeira como uma das principais razões para essas divergências. Nosso estudo avança a pesquisa sobre comunicação e troca de conhecimentos na colaboração virtual multilingue ao mostrar como as barreiras linguísticas alteram o processo de convergência de diferentes pontos de vista através da interação da equipe, sugerindo modificações relacionadas com o idioma para a teoria da sincronicidade da media seminal, e demonstrando os benefícios das novas mídias em ambientes multilingues. Ele também amplia o âmbito disciplinar da pesquisa sobre idiomas em negócios internacionais ao introduzir teorias dos estudos de comunicação e pesquisa cognitiva. Em termos práticos, ele destaca os benefícios da comunicação redundante, a necessidade de uma infraestrutura de mídia adequada em empresas multinacionais e a importância de membros de equipe motivados para usar as novas mídias.

Abstract

这项研究调查了语言障碍与多语言虚拟团队成员在他们组内互动中对不同沟通媒体的选择的影响。通过访谈在单语言和多语言虚拟团队中的团队领导和成员, 我们发现媒体选择和媒体绩效在这两种环境下的差别, 并确认了外语引起的认知负荷作为这些差别的关键原因。我们的研究通过显示语言障碍如何通过团队互动来改变不同观点趋同的过程, 通过建议对开创性的媒体同步理论进行语言相关的修改, 以及通过证明新媒体在多语言环境中的好处, 推进了在多语言虚拟配合中的沟通和知识交换研究。它还通过引进传播学研究和认知研究的理论, 扩大了国际商务中语言研究的学科范围。实际上, 它强调了冗余沟通的好处, 跨国公司需要一个适当的媒体基础设施和激励团队成员使用新媒体的重要性。

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Anne-Wil Harzing for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. They are very grateful for the constructive guidance offered by Paula Caligiuri and three anonymous reviewers.

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© Academy of International Business 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of International BusinessTübingen UniversityTübingenGermany

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