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 Language in International Human Resource Management:
Research and Future Directions


Guest Editorial Team:

Fabian Jintae Froese (University of Goettingen, Germany)

Vesa Peltokorpi (Hiroshima University, Japan)

Alfred Presbitero (Lead Guest Editor) (Deakin University, Australia)

Markus Pudelko (Tübingen University, Germany)

Helene Tenzer (Tübingen University, Germany)


Language shapes and influences people’s attitudes, social perception, personal identity, attribution, and intergroup relations (Krauss & Chiu, 1998). Given the importance of language in social functioning, language permeates every facet of international business (IB) (Piekkari, Welch & Welch, 2014). Since the turn of the millennium, a fast-growing research field has started to explore the role of language in IB (for recent reviews see Brannen & Mughan, 2016; Tenzer, Terjesen & Harzing, 2017; Karhunen, Kankaanranta, Louhiala‐Salminen & Piekkari, 2018). Studies at the individual level have investigated, among many other issues, foreign language anxiety and its influence on individual task performance in global virtual teams (Presbitero, 2020), and the social capital of multilingual employees (Barner-Rasmussen et al., 2014). At the group level, language proficiency issues were found to create power distortions (Tenzer & Pudelko, 2017) and present leadership challenges (Tenzer & Pudelko, 2015). At the organizational level, recent work has revealed, for example, the impact of linguistic diversity on social identity formation (e.g., Harzing & Feely 2008); and established the decisive impact of language on knowledge transfer to geographically dispersed operations (Peltokorpi & Vaara, 2014; Schomaker & Zaheer, 2014; Reiche et al., 2015), and on reverse knowledge transfer (Peltokorpi, 2015; Peltokorpi & Yamao, 2017). 


Whereas language has been extensively studied from an IB and organizational behavior perspective, we know less about the role of language for international human resource management (IHRM). Prior studies have indicated the importance of language-sensitive recruitment and promotions (Peltokorpi & Vaara, 2012, 2014), language training (Peltokorpi, 2017), and how language skills influence employees’ career mobility (Itani et al., 2015; Latukha et al., 2016; Pudelko & Tenzer, 2019). Studies have also explored linguistic influences on the cross-cultural adjustment of expatriates (Selmer & Lauring, 2015; Zhang & Peltokorpi, 2015; Froese, Kim & Eng, 2016). Despite these efforts, the theoretical and empirical focus on language “continues to dramatically lag the realities that employees face on the ground” (Neeley, 2017, p. 5). More research is needed to better understand the role of language for different areas of IHRM. This special issue aims to advance theory and understanding in this area. Studies that utilize qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method designs and investigate language from micro, meso, or macro levels are welcome. Topics can be examined from different theoretical groundings and perspectives. Possible topics could include but are not limited to the following areas: 


Language, international recruitment, and promotion practices

How could language-sensitive recruitment and promotion practices influence the attractiveness and reputation of a MNEs? How does language influence recruitment and promotion outcomes for both individuals and organizations?


Language, and training and development of global managers and leaders

How could organizations and employees in a multilingual environment guide the development of language training programs in MNEs? How could a corporate language evolve and develop? Should MNEs introduce corporate language policies, and if so, how should those be designed and implemented?


Language and global performance management

How does language diversity influence global performance management? How can the effectiveness of performance management between supervisor and subordinate in MNEs be improved?


Language and international career opportunities

How could language skills contribute to career mobility and career advancement? What are the linguistic barriers and challenges in international careers? 


Language and diversity/inclusion

How could the corporate language shape perceptions that diversity and inclusion are valued in MNEs? Could language serve as a marker of organizational identity and inclusion? What kind of language policies support international talent attraction and retention?


Language, team work/collaboration and workplace culture

How could familiarity with the corporate language enhance inter-team work and collaboration? How could language shape workplace culture and climate? How could language be utilized as a source of power for host country national employees in MNEs? How could the politics of language influence group dynamics in organizations? 


Language and sustainability

How could language be utilized in championing sustainability among HR practitioners? What type of language would be appropriate to engage employees towards sustainability?


Language and employees’ wellbeing

How do prolonged foreign language-based anxiety and cognitive load influence employees’ health and overall well-being? How can HRM intervene?


Linguistic gender marking and IHRM

How do languages that emphasize or downplay gender distinctions influence women’s choice of occupation? How do these grammatical features influence the talent pool MNCs can tap in different countries?


Language in managing global crisis

            How could language be effectively utilized in managing employees who are affected by a global crisis such as a pandemic? What type of language would be appropriate to manage the uncertainties faced by employees and firms in times of a global health crisis?


The deadline for submission of papers is on 30 April 2021. The journal submission site will be open for submissions from 1 March 2021. Please contact the lead guest editor, Dr. Alfred Presbitero ([log in to unmask]) or any of the other guest editors for questions and inquiries. Thank you and we look forward to your submissions!




Barner-Rasmussen, W., Ehrnrooth, M., Koveshnikov, A., & Mäkelä, K. (2014). Cultural and language skills as resources for boundary spanning within the MNC. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(7), 886-905.

Brannen, M. Y., & Mughan, T. (2016). Introduction. In: Brannen, M. Y., & Mughan, T. (Eds).  Language in international business: Developing a field. New York City: Springer.

Froese, F. J., Kim, K., & Eng, A. (2016). Language, cultural intelligence, and inpatriate turnover intentions: Leveraging values in multinational corporations through inpatriates. Management International Review, 56(2), 283-301.

Harzing, A. W., & Feely, A. J. (2008). The language barrier and its implications for HQ-subsidiary relationships. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 15(1), 49-61.

Itani, S., Järlström, M., & Piekkari, R. (2015). The meaning of language skills for career mobility in the new career landscape. Journal of World Business, 50(2), 368–378.

Karhunen, P., Kankaanranta, A., Louhiala‐Salminen, L., & Piekkari, R. (2018). Let’s talk about language: A review of language‐sensitive research in international management. Journal of Management Studies, 55(6), 980-1013.

Krauss, R.M., & Chiu, C. (1998). Language and social behavior. In D.T. Gilbert, S.T. Fiske, and G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (pp. 41-87). Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK. 

Latukha, M., Piekkari, R., Doleeva, A., Järlström, M., & Jokinen, T. (2016). Does corporate language influence career mobility? Evidence from MNCs in Russia. European Management Journal, 34(4), 363–373.

Neeley, T. (2017). The Language of Global success: How a Common Tongue Transforms Multinational Organizations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Peltokorpi, V. (2015). Corporate language proficiency and reverse knowledge transfer in multinational corporations: Interactive effects of communication media richness and commitment to headquarters. Journal of International Management, 21(1), 49-62.

Peltokorpi, V. (2017). Absorptive capacity in foreign subsidiaries: The effects of language-sensitive recruitment, language training, and interunit knowledge transfer. International Business Review, 26(1), 119-129.

Peltokorpi, V., & Vaara, E. (2012). Language policies and practices in wholly owned foreign subsidiaries: A recontextualization perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 43(9), 808-833.

Peltokorpi, V., & Vaara, E. (2014). Knowledge transfer in multinational corporations: Productive and counterproductive effects of language-sensitive recruitment. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(5), 600-622.

Peltokorpi, V., & Yamao, S. (2017). Corporate language proficiency in reverse knowledge transfer: A moderated mediation model of shared vision and communication frequency. Journal of World Business, 52(3), 404-416.

Piekkari, R., Welch, D., & Welch, L. S. (2014). Language in international business: The multilingual reality of global business expansion. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Presbitero, A. (2020). Foreign language skill, anxiety, cultural intelligence and individual task performance in global virtual teams: A cognitive perspective. Journal of International Management, 26(2), 100729.

Pudelko, M., & Tenzer, H. (2019). Boundaryless careers or career boundaries? The impact of language barriers on academic careers in international business schools. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 18(2), 213-240.

Reiche, S., Harzing, A. W., & Pudelko, M. (2015). Why and how does shared language affect subsidiary knowledge inflows? A social identity perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 46(5), 528–551.

Schomaker, M. S., & Zaheer, S. (2014). The role of language in knowledge transfer to geographically dispersed manufacturing operations. Journal of International Management, 20(1), 55-72.

Selmer, J., & Lauring, J. (2015). Host country language ability and expatriate adjustment: The moderating effect of language difficulty. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26(3), 401-420.

Steyaert, C., Ostendorp, A., & Gaibrois, C. (2011). Multilingual organizations as ‘‘linguascapes’’: Negotiating the position of English through discursive practices. Journal of World Business, 46(3), 270–278.

Tenzer, H., & Pudelko, M. (2015). Leading across language barriers: Managing language-induced emotions in multinational teams. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(4), 606-625.

Tenzer, H., & Pudelko, M. (2017). The influence of language differences on power dynamics in multinational teams. Journal of World Business, 52(1), 45-61.

Tenzer, H., Terjesen, S., & Harzing, A. W. (2017). Language in international business: A review and agenda for future research. Management International Review, 57(6), 815-854.

Zhang, L. E., & Peltokorpi, V. (2016). Multifaceted effects of host country language proficiency in expatriate cross-cultural adjustments: a qualitative study in China. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27(13), 1448-1469.



Alfred Presbitero, PhD

Department of Management

Deakin Business School

Deakin University

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

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