Language in International Business

Language in International Business

The Multilingual Reality of Global Business Expansion

Rebecca Piekkari, Denice E. Welch and Lawrence S. Welch

Language matters in international business and global business expansion inevitably mean encountering challenges of communication, language and translation. This book presents a thorough and rigorous analysis of language related to all aspects of global business – international management, networks, HRM, international marketing, strategy and foreign operations modes.

Chapter 5: Language and networks

Rebecca Piekkari, Denice E. Welch and Lawrence S. Welch

Subjects: business and management, international business, strategic management


As noted in preceding chapters, networks are an important aspect of international business. Network formation depends on a process of interpersonal interaction based on a meaningful language connection between the parties. Thus language ability is the precursor and basis for meaningful communication and interaction. This chapter examines the role that language plays in network development. We begin with a general discussion of the network concept and distinguish between different types and uses of networks. We introduce the concepts of social capital and human capital, and explore these through a language lens. In so doing, we build the concept of ‘language capital’. As shown in Figure 5.1, network development flows from interpersonal interaction based on language, leading to the creation of social, human and language capital. Language shapes social dynamics and affects the quality of connections underpinning interpersonal interaction. Thus language acts as a reconstruction agent: it lubricates key processes that affect relationship development; prevents or supports the building of network connections and linkages between social clusters; and assists in the initiation and continuance of international activities.

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