Let’s use English!: An ethnographic study on the impact of the introduction of a lingua franca on employees of a Japanese multinational.
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From the first of April 2011 to the 30th of June 2011 I have worked at the P&O department of a Japanese multinational called Odani Hardware Europe (OHE) for three days a week. The company’s core business was the production of heavy machinery. During this period, I have spent my time working on a program called the Common Language Program (CLP), a program that was created to improve the quality of communication within OHE by promoting and supporting the usage of English. Next to my internship, I have conducted research for my thesis for the Utrecht School of Governance. During my internship I have studied the interaction between Japanese expatriates and local office employees at OHE’s Amsterdam subsidiary. From the local office employees about 95% had the Dutch nationality. Through participative observation, a large number of informal conversations and interviews I have deepened my understanding of the implications and difficulties for the CLP with regard to the interaction between both language groups within the organisation. The positive conclusion of my research for OHE was that in general both the Japanese expatriates and local employees were enthusiastic about the project and think that the communication within the company has to be improved. However, at the same time the informants were very sceptical about the viability of the project. In a nutshell, it seems that the communication difficulties are not just a matter of a lack of English proficiency, but rather it is about a separation within the organisation that is caused by cultural barriers, organisational barriers and different ‘views’ that battle for ‘truth’.