Multilingualism in business: Language needs

  • 1. Introduction: Changing language needs in a globalised economy
  • 2. Language needs: Definitions and typology, learners’ vs. business perspective
  • 3. Language needs in business and in companies
  • 4. Language needs analyses in business: Methodologies
  • 5. Language needs and teaching and learning of Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP)
  • 6. Conclusion

Introduction: Changing language needs in a globalised economy

Although business has always been to some extent internationally oriented, the globalisation phenomena which we have been confronted with since the end of the 20th century have brought along new communicative scenarios and a series of potential “language challenges”. Thus we might ask, from the perspective of the organisation, which language(s) companies need for communicating with their clients and stakeholders or which language(s) multinational companies choose for their internal communication, or, from that of the individual, which language(s) managers and employees have to master in order to cope with their daily professional requirements. In the context of these questions, we can observe a tradition of so called “language needs analyses”. Some of these have didactic aims, such as defining learning targets for specific language learners or learner groups. In others, the focus may fall on language policy and planning in organisations and companies (either individually or within a certain geographical area). This chapter will give a typological overview of definitions of “language needs” (of companies, of individuals, etc.), as well as describe the types, methods, potential and limits of language needs analyses. In our conclusion, we will highlight the important role of language policies in the business context and for language needs issues, thus leading into Chapter 13, which is dedicated to language policies and practices in business.

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