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‘On the same page?’ Marginalisation and positioning practices in intercultural teams

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Abstract

This study investigates participation problems in teams with mixed language proficiencies. Utilising an in-depth single case study approach and drawing on interactional data and interviews, it explores participation in team meetings. It takes a positioning theory approach, and analyses how the least proficient speaker is subtly positioned in various ways: as silent, different, difficult and incompetent. It argues that these positionings contribute to the marginalisation of his contributions in team meetings and in effectively silencing him and that this occurred through interactional patterns in which his contributions were a) ignored, b) dismissed outright and c) treated with only token interest. The paper ends by considering the range of factors, both interactional and attitudinal, that seem to have contributed to this silencing, including cultural stereotypes that seem to influence the dynamics of the interactions.

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... Stahl et al., 2010) and much has been written about the different communicative and relational challenges that intercultural teams face (e.g. Behfar et al., 2006;Debray and Spencer-Oatey, 2019;Tenzer and Pudelko, 2017). Fletcher (1999) pays special attention to the question of relating in teams and suggests that team members need to engage in relational behaviours that create team by "creating the background conditions in which group life can flourish and the feeling of team can be experienced" (p.85). ...
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... International students are often portrayed in the literature as vulnerable and facing great challenges (see summary in Dippold, 2015), such as acculturating to new ways of learning and building relationships with tutors and fellow students (Debray & Spencer-Oatey, 2019;Sovic, 2013;Tian & Lowe, 2009). In particular, the literature on international students' experiences of studying in an Anglophone context highlights the linguistic demands they face, reporting for example that international students' difficulties with speaking are more severe than problems with writing (Berman & Cheng, 2010;Sherry et al., 2010) and that speaking in class discussions and giving presentations are particularly challenging (Berman & Cheng, 2010;Kettle & Luke, 2013;Schweisfurth & Gu, 2009). ...
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This paper is based on a year of ethnographic research in an American company in Japan. The company, a high-tech computer firm, has a policy of requiring English to be used in all overseas offices. Like most other foreign companies in Japan, this company has difficulty attracting high quality Japanese employees. They need to hire Japanese managers who have both business experience and English language skills. At the same time the company attempts to compete with the Japanese business community by hiring new college graduates, overlooking the English language requirement. As a result, there is considerable variation in the English language abilities of Japanese employees. This causes problems because the American managers insist on the use of English for meetings, classes, and any interactions involving foreigners. English facility and the ability to deal with Americans socially becomes a source of power for English proficient Japanese employees. The use of English and Japanese in the company becomes an important means of restricting access to information as well as a source of power and advancement to a subset of employees. Ethnographic examples of language use in the company as it relates to the issue of power brokerage and employee advancement in the company are presented in the paper.
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High levels of trust and shared vision contribute to collaborative behaviour among units belonging to the same corporation. We examined the relationship of language fluency and socialization mechanisms to inter-unit shared vision and trustworthiness, using a sample of 310 inter-unit relationships involving subsidiaries of multinational corporations located in China and Finland. Results show that language fluency related significantly to shared vision and perceived trustworthiness in both the Chinese and Finnish subsidiaries. We also found socialization mechanisms to have a positive relationship to shared vision in the Chinese but not the Finnish sample, and no significant relationship to perceived trustworthiness in either sample. The interaction effects of language fluency and socialization mechanisms produced different results in the Chinese and Finnish samples. The study confirmed the importance of language fluency for inter-unit relationships and offered several suggestions for future research.
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The present review seeks to bridge research on accents, stigma, and communication by examining the empirical literature on nonnative accents, considering the perspectives of both speakers and listeners. The authors suggest that an accent, or one's manner of pronunciation, differs from other types of stigma. They consider the role of communicative processes in the manner in which accents influence people and identify social and contextual factors related to accents that affect the speaker, the listener, and the interaction between them. The authors propose a framework of stigma of accents and possible future avenues of research to examine the social psychological and communicative effects of accents. They also discuss implications for stigma of other types of accents (e.g., other native, regional, and ethnic). Understanding how stigma of accents and communication affect each other provides a new theoretical approach to studying this type of stigma and can eventually lead to interventions.
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