"I just don't feel comfortable speaking English": Foreign language anxiety as a catalyst for spoken-language barriers in MNCs

Nathalie Aichhorn, Jonas Puck

Publikation: Wissenschaftliche FachzeitschriftOriginalbeitrag in FachzeitschriftBegutachtung


Over the last two decades, the impact of language standardization in MNCs has attracted considerable research attention. However, although the current IB literature strongly suggests that the introduction of English can cause a significant barrier, we still have not fully understood the micro-foundations of such barriers. We conducted an inductive study and interpret our findings using an interdisciplinary approach drawing from both IB related research as well as research from the field of linguistics and language studies. We propose that a major challenge for MNC employees is the foreign language anxiety they typically experience in a non-native language. It is manifest in communication avoidance and withdrawal, as well as code-switching. Our findings indicate that such communicative behaviors can have a considerable impact on interpersonal communication, affecting both the content and relationship dimension. Our study contributes to emerging research on the role of anxiety-related factors as micro-foundations of language barriers and provides a so far rather neglected starting point for firms to reduce the language barrier in corporations.
Seiten (von - bis)749 - 763
FachzeitschriftInternational Business Review
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2017