An Outline for an Integrated Language-sensitive Approach to Global Work and Mobility: Cross-fertilising Expatriate and International Business and Management Research

Ivan Olav Vulchanov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review

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Purpose: The purpose of this conceptual literature review is to investigate how language factors have been studied in the expatriate literature, and how cross-fertilisation with the broader language-sensitive international business and management field may facilitate integrated research of language in global work.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper is based on a thematic review of expatriate research and international business and management literature. The findings are structured through Reiche et al.'s (2019) three-dimensional conceptualisation of global work, after which two frameworks are developed to conceptualise how language connects the three dimensions – actors, structures and processes.
Findings: The literature review demonstrates that language-related topics are yet to gain status in the expatriate tradition, and the majority of studies, which do consider linguistic factors appear largely dissociated from the growing community of language research in the broader international management and international business fields. However, once consolidated, the literature reveals that language is present in all dimensions of global work. A processual view of corporate language management highlights the central role of human resource management (HRM), while a dynamic multi-level perspective indicates that language may form bidirectional relationships between the three dimensions of global work.
Originality/value: Due to the segmentation between language-sensitive research in the expatriate and international business/management traditions, few studies have considered the HRM implications of global mobility and the multifaceted nature of language at work. This conceptual literature review brings both perspectives together for a more contextualised and holistic view of language in international workforces.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Global Mobility
Issue number3-4
Pages (from-to)325-351
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 03. November 2020.

The author gratefully acknowledges funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions grant agreement No. 765355 (GLOMO, “Global Mobility of Employees”,


  • Language
  • Multilingualism
  • International business
  • Expatriate management
  • Global work

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