"English as corporate language" in the multilingual reality of multinational companies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Research units


This conceptual paper advances the notion of "English as corporate language" in the multilingual reality of multinational companies (MNC) with novel insights from the English as lingua franca (ELF) paradigm of sociolinguistics. Inspired by Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday. dramaturgical metaphor of social life, we develop the notion of English as corporate language by making a distinction between the frontstage official language used in corporate communication and backstage working language used in interactions among MNC employees. We argue that the former approaches the notion of English as a native language and the latter represents ELF in the business domain (BELF); they are different in terms of understanding language competence, multilingualism and role of language in building legitimacy. Our conclusions imply first, that the frontstage English may not always be accessible to the backstage BELF users, due to which employees may feel disadvantaged or disempowered. Second, the use of formal language testing in recruitment and performance appraisal may transform into a gate-keeping mechanism that leads to power inequalities. In our recommendations, we call for an emancipatory language policy accepting different standards of English for different positions and adopting ideas of the Plain Language initiative to better reach all MNC employees.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-351
Issue number4
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • BELF, Corporate language, English, English as Business Lingua Franca, multilingualism, multinational company

ID: 17417907