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Language policing in international organisations – explicit and embedded orientations to language repertoires and their impact on professional identity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Spencer Hazel


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International organisations are faced with conflicting priorities in their management of communication within their multilingual workforce. On the one hand, the adoption of a single language as workplace lingua franca can facilitate communication across an organization. At the same time, such a policy can privilege some of the workforce while linguistically disempowering others, both in terms of professional identity as well as the employees’ performance. On the basis of analyses of video-recordings of professional practices at various internationalised organisations, including international arts collaborations, multinational business, construction sites and NGO work, we observe that where a particular language policy may not be explicitly discussed between members, it can still be present implicitly, embedded in how participants micro-manage their interactions. In other words, members display orientations to perceived deviance towards members of the workplace whose language repertoires do not tally with expectations pertaining to the institutional positions they hold.The paper argues for greater attention to be paid to language practices in international organizations, as one way into developing more nuanced understandings of the linguistic considerations implicated in how professional identities are brought about, affirmed or contested.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hazel S, Kappa K, Kraft K

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Multilingualism in International Organizations and International Co-operation

Year of Conference: 2018

Online publication date: 10/05/2018

Acceptance date: 07/03/2018

Publisher: The Study Group on Language at the United Nations