When Language Divides…Dotsub Can Help


Along with cultural concerns, global companies should plan strategically about the issues of differing languages within the organization – in particular, when establishing a dominant company-wide language.

In a global work environment, adopting a dominant language seems like a no-brainer, however, the results can be startling.  Management often settles on a common language to increase communications and to encourage collaboration.  Then counter intuitively, they find miscommunications, increased delays and an “us vs them” attitude instead.  Recent research [1] reveals that in a dispersed multilingual team, language plays a dynamic role.

Greatly simplified here, the study followed six groups of mixed nationalities based in Germany, the US and India.  The company had headquarters in Germany, the target market was the US, and English was the business language.  The India-based workers were well versed in English having studied it for years. The Germans however, found English to be awkward and had difficulty expressing complex or technical ideas.

The researchers followed the six workgroups then measured language anxiety and frustration.  The two teams at either end of the scale were: a team consisting of Americans and Germans found working together very hard and suffered from subgrouping and the “us vs them” effect.  The Americans felt they were being excluded and were outsiders.  On the other end of the scale, a German and Indian team fared best, citing almost no language anxiety or frustration.  This was unexpected because both Indian and Germans were working in a non-native language.  So, what would explain such differing results?

Delving further, researchers found it was power or lack of it.  It was a German company so they had the power.  But the target market was the US, so Americans had power but to a lesser extent.  This power imbalance was behind the deep frustration Americans and German workers expressed about such things as when the parties would break off into their own language during a meeting.  However, the exact same behaviors were not upsetting if done by the India-based people.  All of the Indian workers were younger, held less seniority, and knew that they were not in power.

So what’s a manager to do?

Provide an encouraging non-threatening environment to improve language skills.  Dotsub gives leaders and managers options to help address these situations.

  • Training and communication videos spoken and captioned in the new dominant language.
    • Helps learning by presenting both visual and auditory mediums.
    • Self-captioned videos have shown to improve fluency and reading skills in non-dominant language speakers.
  • Training and communication videos spoken in the dominant language and captioned in the worker’s native language.
    • Increases understanding which is particularly important in technical applications such as medical procedures.
    • Aids in learning the dominant language.
  • Searchable captions allow workers to find background information in videos to review or study on their own.

Other helpful steps include watching for people’s coping aids to avoid language embarrassments; acknowledging power imbalances and creating clear lines of communication; and importantly, encouraging empathy as people grapple with working across languages.


Girard, Kim (1/21/2014) Language Wars Divide Global Companies, Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2014/01/21/language-wars-divide-global-companies/


 formolom.ruуслуги поддержки сайтовпрограмма для взлома скайпа на деньги