Volume 161, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0019-0829
  • E-ISSN: 1783-1490
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This paper reports on a field study of language needs in a rather extreme area of contemporary business communication, i.e. between the Dutch-speaking Low Countries and mainland China. Interviews within the Dutch-speaking business community dealing with China, as well as case-study research in Flemish and Dutch small-and-medium-sized enterprises have yielded a model of the business sequence within this particular trade setting. The paper highlights language-specific requirements in each phase of that sequence, drawing attention to the role of written and spoken language, culture, Chinese, English and the translation from one into the other. However, an additional form of discourse has come to the forefront. I will zoom in on this key language, which in simplistic terms is all too frequently labelled as being English, and surmise that it has turned into an asset for business communication rather than a source of misunderstanding. Although this paper is not intended to be normative, it equally commands attention with respect to language situations in the area of business, which supposedly condition didactic issues, by considering varying language and cultural features, discussed in the light of tuition policies.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Blume, M.
    (2006) If you can’t master English, try Globish. Retrieved on25 May 2007, from www.iht.com/articles
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Boden, J.
    (2006) De essentie van China. Bussum: Coutinho.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Browaeys, M.-J., & Roger, P.
    (2008) Understanding cross-cultural management. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Ceysens, P.
    (2006) Wordt Chinees leren een must?Opening speech held at Open debate: “Wordt Chinees leren een Must?”, 16 May 2006, Leuven.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Ni, Zhan
    . (2002) Li Yang crazy for English. Retrieved on 20 January 2011, from www.chinatoday.com.cn/English/e20025/li.htm
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Choi, E. K.
    (2002) Trade and the adoption of a universal language. International Review of Economics and Finance, 11(3), 265–275. doi:  10.1016/S1059‑0560(01)00084‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1059-0560(01)00084-3 [Google Scholar]
  7. Coulmas, F.
    (1992) Language and economy. Oxford: Oxford Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Cremer, R. D., & Willes, M. J.
    (1991) Stock in trade: the role of English in international trade proceedings. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 2(1), 103–116.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. (1998) The tongue of the tiger. Overcoming language barriers in international trade. Singapore: World Scientific. doi:  10.1142/3352
    https://doi.org/10.1142/3352 [Google Scholar]
  10. Custer, C.
    (2010) How many people are learning Chinese? Retrieved on 21 January 2011, from www.theworldofchinese.com/blog/language/1004-how-many-people-arelearning-chinese.html
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Daft, R. L.
    (2004) Organization theory and design (8th edition). Mason, Ohio: South-Western.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. De Pelsmacker, P., & Van Kenhove, P.
    (1996) Marktonderzoek: methoden en toepassingen. Leuven/Apeldoorn: Garant.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Ding, S., & Saunders, R. A.
    (2006) Talking up China: an analysis of China’s rising cultural power and global promotion of the Chinese language. East Asia: An International Quarterly, 23(2), 3–33. doi:  10.1007/s12140‑006‑0021‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s12140-006-0021-2 [Google Scholar]
  14. Firth, A.
    (2009) Doing not being a foreign language learner: English as a lingua franca in the workplace and (some) implications for SLA. IRAL: International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 47(1), 127–156. doi:  10.1515/iral.2009.006
    https://doi.org/10.1515/iral.2009.006 [Google Scholar]
  15. Fixman, C. S.
    (1990) The foreign language needs of U. S.-based corporations. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 511, 25–46. doi:  10.1177/0002716290511001003
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716290511001003 [Google Scholar]
  16. Fromont, A.
    (2010) Language strategies in global trade. Embedding translation studies in social sciences’ methodology. Interpreting and Translation Studies, 13(2), 183–211.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Gambier, Y., Lambert, J., Meylaerts, R., D’Hulst, L., Ferreira Alves, F., & Flynn, P.
    (2010) Strategies under the waterline: language, lingua franca and translation (unpublished working paper for the EGOS conference of Lisbon). Leuven: CETRA.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L.
    (1967) The discovery of grounded theory strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Grin, F.
    (2003) Language planning and economics. Current issues in language planning, 4(1), 1–66. doi:  10.1080/14664200308668048
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14664200308668048 [Google Scholar]
  20. Hermans, J., & Lambert, J.
    (1998) From translation markets to language management: the implications of translation services. Target, International Journal of Translation Studies, 10(1), 113–132.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Hinoul, M.
    (2005) Kenniseconomie Europa: sprong in de diepte. S.l.: De Cavalerie.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. House, J.
    (2003) English as a lingua franca: A threat to multilingualism?Journal of Sociolinguistics, 7(4), 556–578. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑9841.2003.00242.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2003.00242.x [Google Scholar]
  23. Hutchinson, W. K.
    (2002) Does ease of communication increase trade? Commonality of language and bilateral trade. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 49(5), 544–556. doi:  10.1111/1467‑9485.00247
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9485.00247 [Google Scholar]
  24. Krueger, R. A.
    (1998) Focus group kit. Vol. 4 Moderating focus groups. Thousand Oaks: Sage. doi:  10.4135/9781483328133
    https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483328133 [Google Scholar]
  25. Lambert, J.
    (1993) Le traducteur, la traduction et l’entreprise [Review]. Target, International Journal of Translation Studies5(1), 97–99.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. (1995) Van de nul-vertaling tot het niet-vertalen. Nog eens een andere kijk op de vertaalproblematiek. In H. Bloemen, Erik, H. & S. Winibert (Eds.), Letterlijkheid, woordelijkheid. Literality, verbality. (pp. 167–177). Antwerpen/Harmelen: Fantom.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Melitz, J.
    (2008) Language and foreign trade. European Economic Review, 52(4), 667–699. doi:  10.1016/j.euroecorev.2007.05.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2007.05.002 [Google Scholar]
  28. Meyerson, D., & Martin, J.
    (1987) Cultural change: An integration of three different views. Journal of Management Studies, 24(6), 623–647. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑6486.1987.tb00466.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6486.1987.tb00466.x [Google Scholar]
  29. Nickerson, C.
    (2005) English as a lingua franca in international business contexts. English for Specific Purposes, 24(4), 367–380. doi:  10.1016/j.esp.2005.02.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2005.02.001 [Google Scholar]
  30. Peters, V., Wester, F., & Richardson, R.
    (1989) Kwalitatieve analyse in de praktijk en Handleiding bij Kwalitan, versie 2. Nijmegen: Nijmegen Instituut voor Toegepaste Sociale Wetenschappen.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Piekkari, R.
    (2006) Crossing language boundaries: Qualitative interviewing in international business. Management International Review, 46(4), 417–437. doi:  10.1007/s11575‑006‑0099‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11575-006-0099-1 [Google Scholar]
  32. Piekkari, R., Welch, D., & Welch, L.
    (2009) Language matters (unpublished paper for presentation at Invitation-Only Workshop on Language and Multilingualism in Management. Helsinki School of Economics/Melbourne Business School). University of Melbourne: Melbourne.
  33. Politiek pleidooi voor Chinees op school – Zo begint Chinese wereldmacht (2006) Retrieved on24 May 2007, from vl.altermedia.info/onderwijs/politiek-pleidooi-voor-chinees-opschool-zo-begint-een-chinese-wereldmacht_5739.html
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Radio1
    Radio1 (Producer) (2009) Allemaal Chinees leren op jonge leeftijd?Peeters & Pichal.
  35. Ricks, D. A.
    (1999) Blunders in international business. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Snell-Hornby, M.
    (2010) Mind the GAB. The Linguist, 49(3), 18–19.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Sonck, F. G.
    (Ed.) (2006) Investing in China. 21 Success stories. Ghent: Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Stanley, J., Ingram, D., & Chittick, G.
    (1990) The relationship between international trade & linguistic competence (Report to the Australian Advisory Council on Languages and Multicultural Education). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. They all speak English (2006, 16 December) The Economist, p. 33.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Vaillencourt, F.
    (1991) The economics of language: Theory, empiricism and application to the Asian Pacific. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 2(1), 29–44.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Van Meenen, J.
    (2007) China. De gids voor de China-liefhebber. Tielt: Lannoo.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Verluyten, S. P.
    (2000) Intercultural communication in business and organizations. An introduction. Leuven/Voorburg: Acco.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Welch, D.
    (2005) Speaking in tongues. International Studies of Management & Organization, 35(1), 10–27.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Welch, D., Welch, L., & Marschan-Piekkari, R.
    (2001) The persistent impact of language on global operations. Prometheus, 19(3), 193–209. doi:  10.1080/08109020110072180
    https://doi.org/10.1080/08109020110072180 [Google Scholar]
  45. Wester, F., & Peters, V.
    (2004) Kwalitatieve analyse. Uitgangspunten en procedures. Bussum: Coutinho.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Yin, R.
    (1989) Case study research: Design and methods. Newbury Park CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error