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" Not all multilingual teams are created equal " : Conceptualizing Language Diversity Management

By Amy CHURCH-MOREL and A. Bartel-Radic

Abstract

International audienceLanguage diversity is an inherent aspect of international work, and multinational companies have been described as multilingual communities by definition. Recent research has made progress in demonstrating the ways in which language diversity can affect teams and organizations by significantly influencing communication and knowledge-sharing, group dynamics, and power relations, all pointing to the necessity of organizations taking a strategic approach to language management. However, current research does not tell us much about which team language management practices are most effective for specific team configurations and organizational contexts. The aim of this paper is to contribute to fill this knowledge gap through a review of literature in order to build a conceptual model which lays groundwork for studying the connections between a multilingual team’s characteristics, the processes by which the team overcomes or deals with language barriers, and the team’s performance. Language diversity can be compared with other kinds of diversity, differences among individuals which can play a role in organizational outcomes. We first examine the concept of language diversity and language management through the lens of diversity literature. Teams can differ significantly in terms of their purpose, their composition, ways they interact, the duration of their collaboration, the institutional context in which they are embedded, and language management practices are to be adjusted to these team characteristics. As a secondary contribution of this paper, we propose the notion of team language configuration that is to say, the number of native and “foreign” languages present and the team members’ proficiency and experience in using them. The team language configuration is one aspect of the team’s characteristics to which a company’s approach to language management ought to be adjusted. Anchored in diversity theory as well as in research on multicultural teams and in the growing body of work on language diversity in international management, this article then proposes a conceptual model. We aimed at developing a model that, when followed up with empirical studies will lead us to better understand: 1) whether certain language management practices are best suited to particular types of teams, in particular institutional contexts 2) how it is that that some teams handle language diversity more effectively and with a greater degree of satisfaction than others. This knowledge is important if research is to support team leaders and organizations in effective management of multilingual teams

Topics: Multilingual teams, [SHS.GESTION]Humanities and Social Sciences/Business administration
Publisher: HAL CCSD
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-01975503v1
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