Double Gaps in International Professional Communication: What Is Behind the "Universal" Working Language and Culture?
With the modern trend of economic globalization, workplaces become increasingly cross-cultural and multinational, which in turn raises the demand for international professional communication (written communication is the focus of my study). Much scholarship has addressed issues pertaining to language and culture differences in such communication. These studies typically discuss problems that arise when native English speakers encounter non-native speakers or when western culture encounters other cultures. Informative as they are, these studies, as Perkins points out, often anchor on the western (U.S. and European) perspective, making the research not global/multicultural but (inter)national. These studies, Weiss argues, generalize and stereotype "other" cultures. Furthermore, as Verluyten points out, they largely overlook the communication among these other cultures. In this paper, I draw on two cases studies and my own experience to investigate some of the less studied global communication issues. I conducted the cases studies with two Chinese professionals: one of them an oil drilling technician working for China's biggest petroleum corporation on long-term overseas projects; the other working for a Dutch pharmacy manufacturer located in China. I conducted intensive interviews with them on the phone and studied their workplace writing samples. I also draw on my own experience studying English and working as a writer/translator in China, as well as studying/teaching English writing in the United States. I conclude that non-native English speakers and people from cultures not of western origin face double gaps in their workplace global communication. Language-wise, with English as the de facto "universal" working language, non-native English speakers face double language gaps: the gap between their native language (for example, Chinese) and English, as well as the gap between their unique way of using English and other non-native speakers' (for example, Omani's) way of using English. Culture-wise, with Western culture becoming the working culture in multinational corporations where top management is primarily westerners, various third contexts, as defined by Bolten, are created.
Keywords: International Professional Communication, Language Gap, Culture Gap, Western Focal Point, Orientalism
Ms. Han Yu
Ph. D. Candidate, English Department, Illinois State University