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The Language of Global SuccessHow a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations$
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Tsedal Neeley

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196121

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196121.001.0001

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Linguistic Expats and Bounded Fluency

Linguistic Expats and Bounded Fluency

“I am an expat in my own country”

(p.42) 3 Linguistic Expats and Bounded Fluency
The Language of Global Success

Tsedal Neeley

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the Japanese linguistic expats and their linguistic shock, which initially presents a barrier to learning a foreign language. It provides the results of the seemingly insurmountable challenge at the mandate's announcement—base English language proficiency for the Japanese domestic workforce. Here, the term “linguistic expat” is used to describe employees like Kenji who live in their home country yet must give up their mother tongue when they enter their place of employment or sign into a conference call from a remote location. This chapter shows how this twist—a mismatch between language, nationality, and organizational culture—made the Japanese employees uncomfortable. Learning English, at least in the first phase, required that they form new perceptions of themselves, their company, and their jobs. The demands of the mandate made them feel anxious about their productivity and insecure about their future at Rakuten. Although the majority of the linguistic expats progressed in their acquisition of English, few were able to reach a level where fluency was automatic.

Keywords:   linguistic expat, bounded fluency, Japanese employees, foreign language learning, Japanese domestic workforce, English language proficiency

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