Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Language Ethics in Multinational Workplace

When it comes to language, there are  many aspects which need to be considered. Accent, punctuation, pronunciation, grammar, etc but those are not the topics I wish to cover. The focus of today's topic is the ethical way of communication when you are in a workplace with people from different countries and different language backgrounds.

Every person from every country has their own language and if they meet with people who share the same language, definitely it would be more comfortable to speak in their native language. It is a common phenomenon. Now, the issue rises when there are other people around who do not understand your language. How to deal with such situation?

English is a universal language which is used in most MNCs, but among people from the same nation, it is not easy to maintain the English-language awareness. Since I am an Indonesian, I would use that language for an illustration. Now, if you are an Indonesian, there would be times when you spontaneously speak in Indonesian before the non-Indonesian employee. It is acceptable but to which extent? To the extent that you leave the non-Indonesian blinded with no information at all? It's not fair and most of all it's not ethical.

It is acceptable even to talk using your language to the people who do not understand your language, but when the person say "I don't understand what you are saying", the least you could do is translate whatever you said to the language he understood. If you fail to do so, definitely he/she would be offended. In some culture, it is even taken as back-stabbing.

This may sound a small issue, but if it is not taken care in the very beginning, the after effect could be disastrous. The relation gap between employees could arise. The trust with colleagues would be diminished gradually. The respect towards other employees could be gone. The one who would face bigger problem for this is the management system for there is no synchronization.

Other than that, a specific employee who becomes the victim of such action would definitely have psychological and emotional effects. The feeling of not being respected, the feeling on not being taken into account could occur. It could lead to inferiority complex when facing the other employees which eventually would decrease the level of performance.

The feeling of being accepted and taken into account plays important role in work performance and when an employee starts feeling unhappy with the working environment, there won't be any other compensation which would boost up his/her performance level.

The bottom line is it's always the wisest to say a person is an idiot right in front if his/her face using the language he/she understands rather than saying that a person is an angel using the language he/she does not understand at all.


  1. There is a case for making wider use of Esperanto rather than English.

    Take a look at: