"At Lundbeck our common language is English”: En kvalitativ, empirisk analyse af engelsk koncernsprog og sprogpolitik

Sara Pedersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In this Master’s thesis, the concepts of corporate language and language policy have been analysed by means of an empirical case study. Research was carried out at the premises of the international pharmaceutical manufacturer, H. Lundbeck A/S, where until recently no particular regulations regarding language use had been laid down. This year, however, Lundbeck has drafted a language policy, and in the present study, this draft was discussed in relation to existing literature about language policies and the opinions of five employees. These were the Communication Director, the Employee Representative, the HR Manager, a foreign researcher, and the Divisional Director for Service and Technical Operations. In order to learn as much as possible from the informants, the method chosen was that of qualitative interviews. This provides the researcher with large quantities of empirical data, as the informants are able to talk freely. The interviews were transcribed, and direct quotations from these formed the basis for an analysis of how English language is employed in the workplace and of the influence a language policy may have on language use. The results of the analysis showed that at the headquarters of Lundbeck there is (1) variation in the amount of English used, (2) use of Danish in certain contexts, (3) mixed levels of language competencies, and (4) miscellaneous opinions on corporate language policy in general and Lundbeck’s language policy draft in particular. English is used to facilitate communication within the group, which consists of subsidiaries throughout the world and a multicultural workforce. However, as Lundbeck is a Danish company, the use of Danish is heard widely across the headquarters building. The mixed levels of language competencies concerns skills in both Danish and English. The most highly educated employees speak English quite fluently, whereas employees with relatively low levels of education barely have any command of English. There are a number of foreign employees at Lundbeck headquarters, and even though some of these have embarked on Danish courses, the level of Danish competency of this group of employees is not high enough to be usable in everyday work. The concept of a language policy is considered reasonable by the informants. They can all see the advantage of standardising communication and regulating language use, which make it easier to attract the best employees in the world. Although Lundbeck’s language policy draft places great responsibility on the shoulders of Lundbeck’s managers, as these have to ensure that employees understand corporate messages which are distributed in English. Thus managers need sound English skills, something which is also stressed in the language policy draft. In addition, a general high level of English competencies for the staff on the whole is reached through their recruitment strategy. In the course of job interviews, Lundbeck can check whether potential future employees already possess adequate language competencies, or at least are willing to upgrade their skills through courses. This holds true of both English and Danish. As regards foreigners applying for positions at Lundbeck, it is only fair to notify them of the degree of Danish use within the company and to offer them the possibility to attend Danish courses in order to become fully integrated in the company culture. The launching of the language policy draft does not appear to involve major changes in the language use within Lundbeck – it simply describes the current situation. It seems wise of Lundbeck to have drafted a somewhat gentle language policy. According to language acquisition theories, it is not prudent to impose language usage on people – encouragements, invitations, and incitements are the way to proceed. And this is exactly what Lundbeck is trying. English language will undoubtedly find its way into multinational companies such as Lundbeck in the future, as English symbolises internationalisation and is the lingua franca, when it comes to worldwide communication. Being a case study, no general conclusions can be drawn from the analyses. However, the present study may provide inspiration to other scholars in future research into corporate language and language policy, and thus the aspiration of this Master’s thesis is to contribute to the on-going debate about English language use in Denmark.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages105