Language Policy and Practice in Multilingual Production Workplaces

Dorte Lønsmann, Kamilla Kraft

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Abstract

Transnational mobility results in a diversification of languages and cultures in the workplace. A common means of managing this diversity is to introduce language policies that often privilege English or the locally dominant language(s). In contrast, managing their everyday working lives may require employees to draw on a range of multilingual and non-verbal resources. Such tensions between policy and practice in multilingual workplaces may impact structures and processes of inequality and power in the workplace. By looking at two sites within logistics and construction, this article offers a critical look at multilingual policies and practices and their consequences for speakers within the workplace. The article investigates how language is conceptualised in language policies and enacted in language practice. From this point of departure we discuss how the tensions between policies and practices impact on the daily working life and professional opportunities of the workers. Our findings suggest that even though multilingual practices are crucial for the flow of everyday work interactions on the floor, the language requirements within the workplace mirror the repertoires and practices of high-status employees, and therefore their competence is valued more highly than the more multilingual repertoires of their subordinates. A consequence of this unequal valorisation of the different linguistic repertoires is the maintenance of existing hierarchies in the workplace and the creation of new ones.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMultilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication
Volume37
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)403-427
Number of pages25
ISSN0167-8507
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Keywords

  • Multilingual workplaces
  • Language policy
  • Language and work

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