English as a Lingua Franca in a Dutch Multinational Organization
Enk, K.L. van
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This paper investigates the use of English as a lingua franca (ELF) in the Global team of Atradius. ELF is used as a ‘contact language’ for speakers with different native languages. In this international organization, there is a variety in proficiency and no language policy is currently instated. The study answers the following question: To what extent is successful and efficient communication reached when English is used as a Lingua Franca within the Global team of Atradius Amsterdam? This research shows that while participants may indicate that there are no challenges in the communication, a deeper look into the use of ELF, communication strategies and cultural differences can prove otherwise. Additionally, the extent of efficient and successful communication largely depends on the participants’ ability to solve these issues presented. Two English native speakers, three non-Dutch non-native speakers, and five Dutch speakers are interviewed about their experiences with cultural differences and using ELF, and how this results in challenges or conflict. The results of the interviews reveal that challenges such as high expectations, confidence levels and native languages can complicate the communication process. Dutch is often used amongst Dutch employees as a result of having no language policy. Additionally, while non-native speakers focus both on correctly sending and receiving of messages by using linguistic competencies, native speakers focus more on sending a message intelligibly. Furthermore, Dutch directness can be a source of misunderstanding as Dutch and non-Dutch people seemingly have different perceptions of ‘face’. In the Global team, participants indicate that all challenges in communication are solved, and misunderstanding is hardly ever severe enough to result in conflict. Participants are able to adapt to the other speaker’s level, can fix miscommunication, and transfer any message, despite challenges in ELF and cultural differences. This implies that the team reaches efficient and successful communication. Suggestions for multinational companies include bringing awareness to ELF use and cultural differences, assessing newcomers on their proficiency and implementing a language policy to further improve the in- and external communication.