Linguistic and Cultural Skills for Communication in Global Workplaces of the 21st Century

Linguistic and Cultural Skills for Communication in Global Workplaces of the 21st Century

Carmela Briguglio (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0243-4.ch005


This chapter examines issues in intercultural communication in regard to the use of English as a global language in the workplace of the 21st century. The findings that emerged from data gathered in two multinational companies inform discussion about the sort of communication skills that workers will require in the global workplace. A case study with an Australian undergraduate class served to examine whether the skills identified in multinational workplaces are, in fact, being developed in graduates. Based on all the above, the author has developed a four dimensional model comprising the intercultural communication skills that future graduates, including engineers and IT professionals, will require for global workplaces. Some strategies that will facilitate the development of such skills are also discussed.
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The phenomenal spread of English as a global language is unprecedented (Crystal, 1997; Brutt-Griffler, 1998; Graddol, 2000 & 2006). Ferguson (1982, in Kachru 1992, p.xv) states that:

There has never before been a single language which has spread over most of the world, as English has done this century […]. The spread of English is as significant in its way as is the modern use of computers.

Moreover, the pace of the spread of English seems to be accelerating. While only as far back as 1997 Graddol (1997) was predicting that the number of ‘native’ or ‘first language’ (L1) speakers was likely to decline and the number of second language (L2) speakers was likely to grow, we know now that this has already happened (Yano, 2001; Graddol, 2006). At the same time Crystal (1997) was estimating the number of L1 speakers of English in some 56 countries to be around 337 million, with L2 speakers estimated to be between 1.2 and 1.5 billion. With increasing numbers of learners in China and India alone, we know that these figures for L2 speakers have increased significantly since then (McArthur, 2003; Graddol, 2006).

Graddol (2006, p. 12) also informs us that not only has the pace of the spread of English increased, but the creature itself is changing as it develops into its new global form:

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