Although language has become a central theme in international business and management research, this stream still holds many unexplored research avenues. One area that has attracted some attention, but lacks extensive systematic assessment, is the connection between language and personal reputation. Qualitative research has offered tentative insights suggesting that proficiency in key organizational languages increases the status of individuals over and above their functional abilities. In this study, we use data from 171 pairs of expatriate academics and their local academic collaboration partners. We asked the local academic peers to rate expatriate academics' reputation, their local and English language skills, and collaboration performance. As expected, we found a positive association between academic reputation and collaboration performance. In line with analyses from qualitative research, we show a moderation effect of language skills, where high common organizational language (English) proficiency compensates for a weaker perceived reputation in predicting collaboration performance. Surprisingly, however, there was no moderating effect of local language skills.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: 19 April 2022.