'Every word has its special weight'. A qualitative case study of multilingual realities at Siemens, Hungary

Title'Every word has its special weight'. A qualitative case study of multilingual realities at Siemens, Hungary
Publication TypeWorking Paper
AuthorsArendas, Zsuzsanna
PublisherCEU Center for Policy Studies
Place of PublicationBudapest
SeriesCPS Working Papers
Series Number2016/2
Full Text

It is a generally accepted fact that multinational companies (MNCs) are typically multilingual due to their operations at different sites in various parts of the world, employing large numbers of local employees. However, to facilitate ’in-house’ communication, and to manage the often vast linguistic diversity, they use a common corporate language, which is English in present business world. It serves as a channel, a link, or a lingua franca between employees belonging to different nationalities, ethnicities or lingusitic backgrounds. For an anthropologist, studying daily manifestations of cultural forms and practices, the instantly arising question is how the idea of a common coprorate language is implemented and used in everyday work-related situations at different sites and locations of MNC practices.

For studying the above, I have chosen Siemens Hungary a company with headquarters in Germany and senior managers coming from Germany and a sizable local (Hungarian) workforce. It was clear from the first visit at Siemens that the lingua franca is English, though its status as a company language was not always certain, the interplay of different languages connected to different forms and locations offered an interesting case for analysis.

How are the ’multilingual realities’ being shaped at the Hungarian unit of the studied company? What is the take of Hungarian native speakers on foreign language use at their company? How is the German management coping with multilingualism, if at all? These were the central questions this study attempted to address through using the lessons from repeated field visits and interviews conducted at Siemens Hungary.

Center for Policy Studies (CPS)
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