Linguistic Diversity in Blue‐Collar Workplaces: Practices Beyond the Use of A Lingua Franca

Dorte Lønsmann, Kamilla Kraft

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    In this paper we examine the management of linguistic diversity in blue‐collar workplaces and its implications. The blue‐collar context is somewhat neglected in studies of globalisation and its consequences for the workplace. Hence, our focus here is on blue‐collar workplaces in the context of the super‐diversity that arises in transnational workplaces where employees often live and workin separate countries, daily have face‐to‐face interactions with stakeholders from other countries, and/or where there are high levels of staff exchange. In short, workplaces with little possibility for establishing stable linguistic practices.This study is based on data from two ethnographic studies of blue‐collar workplaces in Denmark and Norway, and it includes observational data, ethnographic interviews as well as interactional data. The latter has been analysed using conversation analysis.Our data suggests that, unlike in white‐collar multilingual workplaces (Neeley 2012; Kraft & Lønsmann forthcoming), English plays no or only a modest role in multilingual blue‐collar workplaces. In the Scandinavian context, the local languages Danish and Norwegian are more common as lingua francas, and employees often establish practices beyond the use of a lingua franca to overcome the challenges posed by the multilingual context. Our data reveal how bluecollar employees often find themselves in interactions where the use of a lingua franca is not a viable strategy. The strategies used to resolve these situations include drawing pictures, gesturing, referring to signs, and even speaking Danish/Norwegian regardless of the fact that interlocutors do not understand the language. Through the use of these linguistic and other semiotic resources, the barriers posed by linguistic diversity are usually overcome and the task carried out. But this efficiency also enables structures such as staff segmentation and job precariousness to be reproduced and reinforced. We wish to discuss these dynamics and tensions between successfulcommunicative practices and problematic social structures in (super)diverse settings.Kraft, Kamilla and Dorte Lønsmann. Forthcoming. A language ideological landscape: The complex map in international companies in Denmark. English in Business and Commerce: Interactions and Policies. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Neeley, Tsedal. 2012. Global business speaks English: Why you need a language strategy now."Harvard Business Review 90(5): 116–124.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2015
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventDiversity and Super-Diversity: Sociocultural Linguistic Perspectives - Georgetown University, Georgetown, United States
    Duration: 13 Mar 201515 Mar 2015


    ConferenceDiversity and Super-Diversity
    LocationGeorgetown University
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
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