University of Twente Student Theses


Corporate versus local language: Employees’ language choices in a multinational corporation in the Netherlands

Verboom, R.K. (2016) Corporate versus local language: Employees’ language choices in a multinational corporation in the Netherlands.

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Abstract:Purpose: Multinational corporations (MNCs) often introduce a common corporate language, usually English, to stimulate performance and socialization between employees who are speakers of different local languages. This thesis seeks to explore when, why and how employees in MNCs choose between using their local language and the corporate language. Method: The primary data source was 25 semi-structured interviews, which were conducted with Dutch and expat employees of the MNC Mobover. Interviewees were based in the Netherlands, primarily at the headquarters, and to a lesser extent, at the subsidiary office. Findings: The findings of the study were threefold. First, three language groups were distinguished, namely Dutch employees, expats, and expats who were native English speakers. The language usage and choices differed for each of these groups. For example the Dutch had relatively more colleagues with whom they spoke their native language. Second, the study linked the three language groups and their language choices to four language choice scenarios: choice, no-choice, inclusion and exclusion. Third, the study found the following five factors that influenced employees’ language choices: a) language proficiency, b) written and spoken communications, c) language choice and professionalism, d) social identity: local groups, e) social identity: global group. Discussion: Native English speakers have an advantage over non-native English speakers, as their local language equals the corporate language. For Dutch and expat employees who are not native speakers of the corporate language, advanced proficiency and attachment to local identity are the main reasons to choose local language instead of the corporate language. Future studies should investigate the role of attachment to local and global identity in relation to language choice further, while making use of the language choice scenarios presented in this study. MNCs are advised to pay attention to and prevent possible exclusion of employees due to the use of local languages.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:02 science and culture in general, 05 communication studies, 17 linguistics and theory of literature, 18 languages and literature, 70 social sciences in general, 73 cultural anthropology, 77 psychology, 85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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