THE EFFECT OF LANGUAGE COMMUNICATION BARRIERS ON
1Oladejo, Tolulope Odunayo (PhD)
Department of Languages, Mountain Top University
Ibafo, Ogun State
1 Oladejo, T.O. (2021). „The Effect of Language Communication Barriers On Entrepreneurship‟
MTU Journal of Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development. Centre for Entrepreneurship
Development and General Studies (CEDGS), Mountain Top University, Ibafo, Ogun State,
Language is the most common tool of communication as it plays vital role in helping people
build a bridge of relationship. On one hand, it is an essential factor for all traders and their
customers. Communication is on the other hand, fundamental to the existence and survival of
individuals, groups, societies, and nations, as human communication is a social interaction
process and without communication, barriers in business conversations will arise especially from
inappropriate communication strategies adopted by interlocutors. This paper unravels language
barriers to business communication in Mowe town of Ogun State, Nigeria and linguistic
strategies employed by traders and their customers in the town in their effort to counter the
challenges. The paper is based on research carried out in selected businesses within Mowe town
of Ogun State. The study is hinged on John Searle (1975)‟s Speech Acts Theory. The study used
purposeful sampling method where 80 respondents were sampled within the central business
district of Mowe town. The study is qualitative and is aimed at exploring the factors that cause
language barriers and their impact on effective communication in Entrepreneurship. Methods of
data collection used include questionnaire, participant‟s observation and interview. The study
observed that many customers in the town use their mother tongues in communicating with
traders who do not speak their mother tongues which led to breakdown in communication
between the customers and the traders. The study concluded that language barriers arise from
different subjects such as meanings and uses of words, symbols, images, gestures, languages and
Keywords: Communication, Language Barriers, Entrepreneurship, Speech Acts
Language is essentially a means of communication among the members of a society. Language
has a power which no other instrument can have and it is a medium of expressing our views and
ideas to another individual. It is the most common tool of communication as it plays vital role in
helping people build a bridge of relationship. The significance of communication between
people equates the significance of language – the most important means of communication. In
this respect, language is of crucial importance in the individual development of humans and
this is best mirrored by the development of language.
Human communication is a social interaction process and without communication, barriers in
business conversations will arise especially from inappropriate communication strategies
adopted by interlocutors. Communication is the central human activity and one of the most
essential aspects of human life. Communication is how human beings interact to convey
messages, information or express emotions and language is the medium through which the
process of communication takes place. Language in communication can be verbal, i.e. using
words to read, write and speak or non-verbal, i.e. using signs, facial expressions or body
language. Despite the variety of the means of communication, messages are sometimes not
comprehended or simply misunderstood. This is what caused the barrier in language
communication especially in the domain of transacting business with people from different
linguistic background. This paper hinges on the effect of language communication barriers on
It is recognized in Nigeria that language is essential in business communication and in attracting
new investments. It is clear that a common language is important for unity and boost of economy
for there to be economic sustainability, there has to be unity of purpose and sharing the same
vision in a common language which is globalised as David Crystal called it English Language as
a globalised language. For there to be development via economy, effective communication is
essential and this is done through a language. Entrepreneurs use communication to function
effectively and language is one of the most important aspects of communication of a people.
Through language, ideas are conceived, received, stored and expressed by the entrepreneur.
Therefore, language is a major instrument through which entrepreneurs and people all over the
world express their ideas, thoughts, feelings and sentiments and through which they
communicate with other people. An entrepreneur would have been an island to himself without
language to enhance effective communication with others. Entrepreneurs and people use
language to pass on information and knowledge of commerce and trade.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The present study is the Effect of Language Communication Barriers on Entrepreneurship. In
order to achieve this aim, the following are the objectives of the study:
To identify the language skills that influence language communication in
To analyze and explain the language practices and guidelines that can prevent language
To identify the challenges faced by customers and traders in language variation.
To describe the situations surrounding language issues in Entrepreneurship.
To identify how mother tongue can affect entrepreneurs‟ communication.
1. Do language skills influence language communication in entrepreneurship?
2. Are there enough language practices and guidelines that can prevent language barriers?
3. Are there situations in your daily work when you struggle with language issues?
4. Does your mother tongue affect your communication?
5. Are there any effects of Language Communication Barriers on Entrepreneurship?
THE ROLE OF LANGUAGE AS A COMMUNICATION TOOL:
Language is a tool to interact with others.- This involves at least two people. Language is used as
a means of interaction in order to receive feedback from the other interlocutor. Language serves
as an indicator of a person's level of education. Language used reveals the level of education of
its user. We are able to determine the social class of a person through his/her language used for
interaction or communication. Also, language indicates authority- A leader„s authority is shown
through the mastery of a language. A leader is able to wield his power r authority if he is fluent
and eloquent and can express his ideas clearly through a language. Language serves as an
instrument of advertisement- Language helps to attract customers or clients through a convincing
and captivating advertisements of the products. Language serves as an indicator of social status-
Indicates a person's social standing. With the language, one can reflect on his position in society.
Language barriers are those features of language use that result in mis-understanding or complete
loss of communication. Language barriers deal with aspects of language use that make it difficult
to understand. This could be because of a variety of factors like differences in educational
background, level of literacy and area of the language user.
TYPES OF LANGUAGE BARRIERS
a) Foreign Language
Nigeria is a multilingual language which has diverse languages both foreign and indigenous
languages. Communication between people of different countries and areas becomes difficult if
neither of the speakers has a common language to communicate. Hence, there is a need for a
unified language that may be foreign to the users
b) Dialects, Pidgin
Dialects are regional variants of a language and do not have a written script. People in different
parts of a state or country develop and use a regional variety of the official language as a result
of the influence of other languages or gradual changes in pronunciation of a particular language.
Dialects are distinct from one another even though they have the same language as the base.
Pidgin is a version of the language that arises when users of two different languages create an in-
between language that eases communication. Words and grammatical forms of either language
are adopted into use and a pidgin is formed. This is usually a second language and is used only
when speakers who know the pidgin version needed to communicate.
Accents are peculiar ways of pronouncing words of a language. English is spoken in many other
accents other than the standard Received Pronunciation. Accents occur when speakers belonging
to different regions or countries speak a language not their own. Their mother tongue will
influence how they pronounce words in the foreign language. This causes difficulty in
understanding what is being said.
d) Jargon and Slang
Jargon is language or words that are specific to a particular profession. Excessive use of jargon
in communication may make comprehension difficult. For example – a drug prescription, the
medical test results, financial and legal documents that required the need of interpretation of
experts for the layman. Slang refers to those words or expressions that are peculiar to a group of
persons who are familiar with it. It is an informal language that persons of a close-knit group
coin to indicate shared experience or emotion. It may be considered offensive by people who are
not familiar with it.
e) Word Choice
The choice of words made by a speaker is a result of his/ her knowledge and mastery of the
language. However, caution must be taken while constructing sentences and should particularly
be aware of the multiple meanings of words (connotative, denotative) and their uses in idioms
and phrases. Idioms and phrases are expressions typical to a language. It requires practice and
continuous reading to become familiar with the meaning they convey and to understand how
they are to be used in conversations and writing. For example – “Burning the midnight oil‟ is an
ambiguous sentence as the listener does not know if the speaker means the real oil or if it is the
idiom that is being used. Verbosity or wordiness can also make the message obscure. The use of
unfamiliar words or more words creates fatigue in the mind of the reader making for a break in
communication. For example – a simple sentence like “she likes to enjoy sunsets” can be made
verbose by framing a sentence like “She has the preference for relishing eventide.”
Effects of Language Communication Barrier on Entrepreneurship
In a business situation, language barriers can have a devastating effect on transactions. The
reason is that business transactions depend on language and communication for success, and
whenever this communication does not occur, business transactions are negatively affected.
There is also an effect on Business. Language barriers affected businesses in several ways.
Firstly, the conversations can be unduly long as a result of communication problems from the
customers. There is an effect on the business owners‟ emotions when transactions are not going
on smoothly and there is a low turn-out of sales. Effect on Customers is another effect of
language communication barrier as the customers will be grossly affected by lack of
understanding the traders‟ language which can lead to the frustration of the customer.
The Speech Act Theory developed from Austin‟s (1962) work: „How to do things with
words‟ forms the basis of this present study. This idea was further developed by Searle (1969)
who became one of the major proponents of the theory. According to Austin, a speaker utters a
sentence to perform some acts which he calls speech acts. Speech is premised on the fact that
people perform various actions through the use of words and when utterances are made, a
particular act is performed; this is called Speech Act. . Speech Acts according to Austin (1962)
fall into three classes, which are: locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts.
A locutionary act is an act of saying something; that is, the act of producing an utterance.
This is referred to as uttering a sentence with certain sense and reference or linguistic meaning.
For example: „Don't eat that piece of candy‟; “I am hungry”; „Come here‟. Illocutionary acts are
the core of any theory of speech acts. The illocutionary act is an act of performing some action in
saying something such as giving information, warning, issuing a threat, request etc. This is
realized, according to Austin (1962) as the successful realization of the speaker‟s intention,
which for Searle (1969) is a product of the listener‟s interpretation. For example: „Kindly lend
me some money!‟; „We congratulate you on your appointment‟; „What is your name?‟etc.
The perlocutionary act is the effect or influence on the feelings, thoughts or actions of the
listener/hearer. Perlocutionary acts refer to the effect of the utterance of the speaker on the
hearer i.e., what the speaker is able to achieve by saying something such as convincing,
persuading, inspiring, consoling, etc. it brings about an effect upon the beliefs, attitudes or
behaviors of the addressee.
This study investigates The Effect of Language Communication Barriers on Entrepreneurship. In
order to achieve this, the researcher used descriptive research design; tabulations, basic methods
of data analysis and simple percentage are also employed.
INSTRUMENTS FOR DATA COLLECTION
The designed instrument for this study is a self-constructed questionnaire. The questionnaire was
administered by the researcher and it was a Strongly Agree, Agree and Disagree structured
The study is a descriptive survey research of The Effect of Language Communication Barriers on
Entrepreneurship. The linguistic approach adopted is based on the linguistic framework of
Speech Acts Theory of Searle (1969). The study used purposeful sampling method where 80
respondents that are business owners were sampled within Mowe town.
The researcher employs frequency and percentage method to indicate the distribution of the
questionnaire according to the respondents. The study presents the results of the survey on the
effect of language communication barriers on entrepreneurship. The questionnaire contains two
sections-the respondent‟s profile and all the variables that are studied.
Table 1 indicates the sample respondent‟s profile from the questionnaire. There were 100
questionnaires distributed among selected respondents randomly while the researcher was able to
collect 80 questionnaires back from the respondents.
Table 1: Response Rate
Used for Analysis
Source: Researcher’s Compilation
Demographic data of Respondents
Source: Researcher’s Compilation
Table 2 summarizes all the demographic data of the respondents including gender, age, marital
status and Formal Education Level. From the 80 respondents, the results indicated that there
were more female with 74% than male, 26%. The majority of the respondents(40) aged between
31 – 40 years old (5%), 26% of respondents were 25 – 30 years old consisting 21 respondents,
13% of respondents were 41 – 50 years old consisting 10 respondents and 11% of respondents
were 51-60 years old consisting of 09 respondents. The results show that 46 (58%) of the
respondents were married while 18 respondents of 23% were singles and 11 respondents of 14%
are either separated or divorced and the remaining 05 (06%) are widowed. At the formal
education level category, 20 respondents of 25% have no formal education at all while 44% of
35 respondents have the primary education and 15 respondents (19%) had their technical/
Figure 1: Charts of demographic data of respondents
RESEARCH QUESTION 1: Do language skills influence language communication in
It was discovered from the respondents that language skills have great influence on the language
communication in entrepreneurship. From the questionnaire, 35% of the respondents strongly
agreed that language skills like speaking and listening majorly affect language communication
during transaction while 34% respondents also agreed but the other 31% of the respondents do
not agree that language skills can influence language communication in entrepreneurship.
RESEARCH QUESTION 2: Are there enough language practices and guidelines that can
prevent language barriers?
There are no enough language practices and guidelines that can prevent language barriers
according to the responses of the respondents. Out of 80 respondents, 56% disagreed with the
research question while 25% agreed and 19% respondents strongly agreed that there are
language practices and guidelines that can prevent language barriers.
RESEARCH QUESTION 3: Are there situations in your daily work when you struggle with
There are situations in the daily work of some business owners at Mowe town when they
struggle with language issues. This was observed from the responses of the questionnaire sent
out. 31% of 25 respondents strongly agreed while 23% of the 18 respondents agreed with the
research questions especially with customers that are not from the same language community.
The remaining 37 respondents (46%) disagreed with the question because majority of the
customers patronizing them are from the same language speaking community.
RESEARCH QUESTION 4: Does your mother tongue affect your communication?
Majority of the respondents agreed that their mother tongue affect their communication in terms
of accent and negative transfer of items from their mother tongue to the target language. 63% of
the respondents strongly agree while 25% of them also agreed but the remaining 12% of the
respondents disagree with the research question.
RESEARCH QUESTION 5: Are there any effects of Language Communication Barriers on
It was observed that 35% respondents strongly agreed to the research question while 25%
respondents also agreed that language communication barriers really have effects on
entrepreneurship. The remaining respondents (40%) do not agree that language communication
barriers have any effects on entrepreneurship.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
The findings of the analysis reveal that there is always a misinterpretation of words which arise
as a result of the gap between the meaning as intended by the sender and that as understood by
the receiver. This happens when the receiver does not assign the same meaning to the word as
the sender had intended.
It was also found out from the analysis that wrong choice of words lead to communication
barrier which result in distorted messages and this may create bad impression. It was also
observed that another cause of language communication barrier is the use of impolite words. The
findings also reveal the use of Ambiguous or Vague words that are not clearly or explicitly
It was observed from the study that many customers in the town use their mother tongues in
communicating with traders who do not speak their mother tongues. This led to breakdown in
communication between the customers and the traders.
It was discovered from the research that business owners experienced problems of word
pronunciation and heavy accent interference in speech thus leading to communication
breakdown with the clients.
Language barriers arise from different subjects such as meanings and uses of words, symbols,
images, gestures, languages and dialects. Language barriers are things that prevent people from
understanding each other. They are common challenges to individuals, groups, international
companies. It is observed from the study that traders and their customers in Mowe town have
communication challenges as a result of multiplicity of language and language variations in the
The study recommends that in order to forestall language communication barriers in
entrepreneurship, business owners can make use of the following guidelines:
Learn a foreign language or a target language, the words and sentences that are essential from the
language should be learnt as it can serve as an escape hatch where it is necessary. Speaking in a
simple, precise, clear and straight forward language will help avoid ambiguity and verbosity.
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