Regulating ‘Foreign’ Language in the Workplace: From Myths to Best Practices

By JC. Bruno Teboul and Barbara Lynn Speicher.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Current globalization and immigration trends make linguistically diverse workforces a virtual certainty in the 21st century. One particular challenge that these trends create for managers involves the integration of language minorities (i.e., individuals for whom the predominant national language is not the mother tongue) into the social fabric of the organization. Management practices and documented litigation from several countries (e.g., the United States) suggest that integration of this sort is no easy task. Part of the difficulty seems to stem from often misguided assumptions about foreign language usage in the workplace, as well as the strategies deployed to curtail its use. In this paper, we analyze and contest many of the conventional positions about the impropriety of foreign language use in the workplace and critique some of the popular justifications for workplace language rules. Alternatives to foreign language regulation are also offered.

Keywords: Diversity in the Workplace, Language Minorities, Foreign Language Rules

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.169-180. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 613.230KB).

Prof. JC. Bruno Teboul

Associate Professor, Department of Communication, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Professor Teboul, a native of France, received his B.A. in International Relations from the Universidade do Minho, Portugal in 1985. In 1986 he moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate work in Communication. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Communication in 1988 and 1992, respectively. His principal research and teaching interests include organizational communication, socialization to work, and communication in multicultural organizations. Professor Teboul has published in Management Communication Quarterly, The Howard Journal of Communications, Communication Research Reports, The International and Intercultural Communication Annual, Western Journal of Communication, and Communication Theory. His recent publications include an article on relationship development processes at work.

Dr. Barbara Lynn Speicher

Associate Professor and Chairperson, Department of Communication, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Barbara L. Speicher, received her M.A. in Linguistics from Ohio University and her Ph.D. in Linguistics and Language and Cognition from Northwestern University. Since joining DePaul University in 1988, she has taught linguistics courses and courses in multicultural and intercultural communication. Her research examines language attitudes, discourse analysis of media representations, and communication patterns within and between groups in the multicultural U.S. The main focus of that work attempts to reveal both differences and similarities between groups, in terms of class, race, gender, and power; to expose the normative tone of traditional literature, particularly as it defines co-cultural groups as deviant; and to examine theories stemming from both ethnographic and experimental research within the framework of natural discourse. Her work has appeared in Language in Society, The Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development , Curriculum Inquiry and The Howard Journal of Communication.


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