Management of language diversity in international supply chain relationships of UK SMEs

WILMOT, Natalie (2017). Management of language diversity in international supply chain relationships of UK SMEs. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Abstract

Although language has claimed a place in the field of international business studies, the vast majority of research in this area has focused on language management practices in multinational organisations, and has therefore largely ignored the question of how small organisations cope with linguistic diversity in their international supply chain relationships. This doctoral research uses a case study methodology in order to explore language management practices at four British SMEs, aimed at understanding the practices used; the interplay between language practices and power; how practices vary depending on whether they are implemented in upstream or downstream supply chain relationships; and the perspectives of language agents on these issues. My findings highlight a number of issues which have implications for the international management literature. Firstly, I contribute to the literature on language management practices to show the methods used by smaller organisations, including language nodes, lingua francæ, body language, pictorial communication, translators, the extensive use of lean media, and Google Translate. The findings also revealed the unplanned nature of many of the decisions relating to language management practice at SMEs. Rather than having a strategic approach, the organisations had often arrived at their current practices through a process of bricolage, where they redeployed linguistic resources which had originally been acquired for other purposes, highlighting the emergent nature of strategy-making in smaller organisations. Additionally, the extensive use of the English language as a medium of communication in all the organisations studied was noted. However, in contrast to previous research on Business English as a Lingua Franca (BELF), I found that native speakers took ownership of the English language and positioned themselves as arbiters of correct usage, which had implications for how they related to linguistic Others in supply chain relationships of which the language users themselves were not necessarily aware. There was a marked difference found between the practices used between upstream and downstream relationships. The organisations were much more likely to engage in a wider range of practices, and be more accommodating linguistically, for their customers than they were their suppliers. This demonstrates the primacy of the customer relationship in international supply chains, in contrast to recent research which highlights supplier relationships as a source of competitive advantage. Finally, the study shows that small organisations largely focus their energies on language practices which address oral and informal communication with their partners, rather than on formal marketing tools such as websites and flyers. The study uses the lens of skopos theory in order to explore the efficacy of the translation practices which organisations use to translate written communication.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Director of studies: Diana Sharpe
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Helen Garner
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2017 16:20
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2017 08:31
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/16811

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