Accepted Paper:

The diversification of culture through the inclusion of other languages in the margin: a case of a Japanese transnational organisation in indonesia  


Yukimi Shimoda

Paper short abstract:

This study examines cultural diversity, particularly its relations to language standardisation, through the everyday experiences of those who work in a Japanese overseas office in Indonesia. This study suggests the necessity of more nuanced analysis on languages in international business activities.

Paper long abstract:

Discussions about diversity and multiculturalism in international business settings often contrast sharply with language standardisation, for instance English as lingua franca, in the course of globalisation. In practice, however, neither expatriate nor host national employees use English as their sole language of communication with each other, especially when neither are from English-speaking countries. This study examines cultural diversity, particularly in relation to language use, by exploring the experiences of those who work for transnational organisations and corporations, and move across national boundaries. Data is drawn from in-depth interviews and participant observation at an overseas office of a Japanese transnational organisation located in Indonesia.

This ethnographic study focuses on the way in which Japanese expatriate employees communicate with host national employees and local counterparts within and outside the overseas office. Japanese expatriates and host nationals, neither of whom consider English as their first language, use English as an official language but occasionally use other languages to complement their imperfect English and/or to show respect towards other cultures. Mixing multiple languages enhances their understanding of other cultures and helps (or sometimes does not help) construct personal relationships across cultures. The everyday usage of languages in a transnational workplace reveals some reality of cross-cultural communication in international business activities and the complexity of intercultural dynamics. Consequently, this study suggests that it is necessary to apply a more nuanced analysis on language issues in considering relations between cultural diversity and language standardisation.

Panel P075
Cultural diversity and multiculturalism in enterprise (Commission on Enterprise Anthropology)