Engelsk - en nødvendighed!

Betina Holm Hejlsø

Student thesis: Master thesis


For my master's thesis I have chosen to write about Danish global companies which have English as their corporate language. My thesis question is: To what extend is companies' choice of corporate language affected by politics or research on the area? To answer this question I found the following subjects to be relevant: Communication; corporate language; language barriers; first language and multilingualism; and finally English as a lingua franca (ELF). The theory is mirrored with empirical interviews, with the heads of the communication departments of Danisco A/S; Novozymes A/S; Nordea and ISS (Group). A cornerstone in communication is that the customer is always right, and a seller should therefore always meet a customer on his/her language. New research shows that companies increasingly use English only, because it is their corporate language, and think that when communication fails it is the customer's fault for not being proficient enough in English. The corporate language is a company's official language and this is the language it uses internally, and to a varying extent externally. Though companies see this as a chance to be more effective and to save money on translation, studies have shown that not to be the case. Researchers are not very fond of this monolingualism either, and argue, that ultimately there would be more profit in meeting the customers in their own language. Doing business across borders bears with it its own difficulties. Companies meet language and culture barriers when dealing with people from other cultures. This can result in loss of business. However, if companies meet their customers in their own language, there is a chance that transactions will be more successful. We understand things better in our first language. Some would argue that it is because language is bound to our culture, but there is no real proof of that. However, Risager argues that, though language is not culture bound, it is affected by the context in which it exists. When dealing with the rest of the word, or just to understand one self better, it is good to know other languages than the mother tongue. That is why the EU is working toward multilingualism for all EU citizens. There is no denying, though, that English is the lingua franca of our time, and this is the language most chosen for international business. Companies focus solely on their corporate language, and other languages are not used officially, but there are markets where it is more profitably sound to use the local language. That is an example of how companies have a very pragmatic attitude toward the use of language. The companies in my empirical data collection all used English as their corporate language, and argued that it was the only logical choice. They did not give the impression that their choice of corporate language was based on either the political discourse or on research done on the area. However, I think that the priority the Danish government has given the English language in education, and the general positive attitude the Danes have toward the language, can have had an effect, conscious or unconscious.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages160