Losing the Translator : A Case Study of the Intercultural Communication of Swedish Business Expatriates in Japan
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to increase the understanding of how host-country language proficiency affects the ability of expatriates to manage business operations overseas. Therefore the relevant aspects of intercultural communication are identified, and then how these aspects are affected by a Swedish expatriate’s proficiency in the host-country language (Japanese) is examined. Subsequently, the effects of the identified aspects on the expatriate’s ability to manage business operations in the host country (Japan) is explored. Additionally, in order to achieve the purpose of this thesis, the following main research question will be answered: How does Japanese language proficiency affect the ability of Swedish expatriates’ to manage business operations in Japan? The literature review includes theories and findings of previous research related to intercultural communication, and what effect language proficiency has on the different aspects of intercultural communication. Furthermore, the literature review elaborates on the role of communication in business, with examples from previous studies on expatriates in Japan, finally ending in the conceptual framework used for this study. The methodology chapter explains the approach, method and design used for this study, as well as introducing the respondents chosen for this thesis. In the empirical findings the respondents’ responses are presented. This is followed by the analysis which includes a comparison of empirical data and literature and a discussion regarding similarities and differences. The analysis explains how language proficiency has a positive effect on the effectiveness of communication between the expatriates and their Japanese co-workers and business partners, as well as on building of trustful relationships, the ability to access information, and consequently work performance. The conclusions of this study are that language proficiency has a positive effect on intercultural communication and consequently on the expatriates’ ability to manage business operations, mainly in the form of trustful relationships, effective communication and access to information.
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