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Foreign language use among decision-makers of successfully internationalised SMEs: questioning the language-training paradigm

Knowles, Deborah and Mughan, Terry and Lloyd-Reason, Lester (2006) Foreign language use among decision-makers of successfully internationalised SMEs: questioning the language-training paradigm. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 13 (4). pp. 620-641. ISSN 1462-6004

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14626000610705787

Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this research is to assess the place of language skills in the international orientation of decision-makers of successfully internationalised SMEs. The position of language skills in this area of literature and policy is problematic and a new paradigm is proposed. Design/methodology/approach - This paper considers findings from an empirical project using both quantitative and qualitative methods, first, a 1,200 company telephone survey and second, an 80 company batch of face-to-face interviews. Findings - Strong international orientation seems indeed to be a determinant of success in international trade. The decision-makers of the successful companies were notably more likely to have foreign language skills than those in the other groups and were also the only group to include self-reported skills at the highest level. However, comparison of the countries in which the firms were dealing with the languages in which decision-makers claimed skills shows very clearly that the decision-makers of the "successful" international companies were often not using their foreign language skills in business. In addition, these decision-makers also possessed better attitudes towards foreign experience and other elements of international orientation. Practical implications - The paper discusses the implications of the findings for policy-makers responsible for training and trainers themselves. The evidence supports the view that government subsidies focusing on language training might be better directed at a more varied range of activities to develop international orientation. Originality/value - The article contributes to the development of qualitative research in this area in examining the foreign language use of decision-makers in successful international SMEs and locating this within their broader international orientation. It posits that language skills make an indirect contribution to overall international business success which is more valuable than their direct contribution to improved communication with specific foreign clients and markets.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Decision making, international business, language, small to medium-sized enterprises, training, United Kingdom
Research Community:University of Westminster > Westminster Business School
ID Code:3721
Deposited On:04 Apr 2007
Last Modified:18 Oct 2011 11:03

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