Talk your way out of Belgium! : A study on multilingualism in Belgium and its impact on an SME’s internationalisation

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE); Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE)

Abstract: This thesis aims to connect the fields of multilingualism and internationalisation by studying language strategies of SMEs located in Belgium. Thereby the access to foreign networks in relation to internationalisation theories and the role of language capabilities and multilingualism is examined. This combination of different academic fields in international business and linguistics has previously not been studied satisfyingly and this research thus furthermore provides theoretical and managerial implications in this matter. Hence, this study addresses the briefly presented knowledge gap by answering the research question: What effect does the multilingualism in Belgium have on an SME’s internationalisation? The two following sub-research questions have been raised additionally to ensure the ability to answer the main research question: 1. What is the impact of the multilingualism in Belgium on an SME’s liability of foreignness when going international? 2. How does a language strategy support an SME’s internationalisation process and create a multilingual capability? Empirical data is collected both qualitatively by interviewing three Belgian SMEs and quantitatively by analysing secondary data of 30 Belgian company websites and their vacancy job postings, to provide answers to these questions. The findings are analysed by applying a conceptual framework, which was created by the authors. The study’s findings summarise the presence of multiple individual language capabilities and highlight the lack and importance of institutionalising these in the SME. This step is vital to successfully access foreign networks and overcome liability of foreignness. Moreover, firm capabilities in relation to the SME’s industry are significant for the accurate implementation of a language strategy. Besides, the results show a crucial role of English in international business.

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