Chapter 1: Language and global business expansion
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To say that language permeates every facet of international business would meet with little argument, especially from those involved in global activities in any form. In the twenty-first century, as the globalization of business proceeds, it is exposing companies to a wider and wider array of the world’s different languages. Despite the rise of technologies that are ameliorating some of the demands of communicating across languages, communication in the global village is becoming a more complex activity. Much of business still relies on social exchange, on person-to-person interaction, which is difficult to sustain through automated translation or through the use of professional translators. It has been estimated that if two countries have a common language, trade between them will be 42 per cent greater than between two countries that do not (The Economist, 2012a). Ready acceptance of the importance of language, however, is not the same as understanding its role: where and how it is important; and what is the range of its effects? As Maclean (2006, 1377) comments, ‘Companies deal with language issues every day, they cope, the world continues to turn. How they do so, however, remains largely absent from the literature.’