Language and Translation in an International Business Context: Beyond an Instrumental Approach

Chris Steyaert and Maddy Janssens

Abstract

This article discusses the role of language and translation in the business context. Drawing on management literature, we identify two different perspectives on culture and language, and discuss their implications for translation and language learning. Within the first perspective of culture as a variable and language as representation, translation becomes a neutral act and language learning a technical skill. Within the second perspective of culture as a metaphor and language as action, translation becomes a managerial act and language learning a cultural production. We conclude by formulating research questions whereby the domains of management and translation studies interface each other.

Table of contents

Growing internationalization and the resulting increase in international contacts within and among organizations are among the most striking features of business in the 90s. A decade ago, international contacts were restricted to [ p. 132 ]sending select groups of expatriate managers to foreign units. In the meantime they have become increasingly routine. Managers travel for short periods of time, follow training programs in other countries, have world-wide meetings through video-conferencing and belong to transnational groups which correspond daily via e-mail. They are in constant touch with managers from a variety of cultural backgrounds speaking different languages.

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