This article is based on a thesis by Anniina Järvi which was supervised by Thomas Sabel. This article discusses topics that are addressed in the Bachelor’s thesis “Internal and External Communication and Communication Issues in Multilingual Organizations”.
The use of several languages in contemporary organizations is a relevant topic when looking at working environments in Finland. Fewer and fewer people can manage without having to use for instance English in their daily work. The author’s aim was to investigate these types of matters. The thesis also focused in investigating certain types of communication within organizations, particularly internal and external communication and matters related to it, such as different methods of communication and digital communication. The core aim for the thesis was to gain an understanding on how multilingualism impacts an organizational environment.
What is communication?
Communication can be defined as interaction between two individuals. (Vain, 2021) According to Vain et al., different methods of communication include verbal and non–verbal communication, written communication and listening. Meinel et al. state that digital communication is a more effective way of communicating than the traditional way. This is due to the reason that it is an interactive way of communicating and one can receive an instant answer. (Meinel et al.) Moreover, certain communication channels that are relevant in organizations today are face–to–face communication, video conferencing, emails, phone calls and social media.
Low and high–context communicating
According to Meyer (2014) there are two dimensions in communicating: low–context (a clear and transparent style of communicating) and high–context (communication is implicit and nuanced). Finland is located between halfway of the chart and low–context end. In other words, in the Finnish society, communicating is somewhat clear and direct but not as much as for instance in the U.S. or Australia. (Meyer et al.)
Organizational communication includes both internal and external communicating. The information flow in an organization should be sufficient at all levels. Also, effective communication is essential when an organization is aiming at organizational success. (Rauramo et al.) Effective communication has certain criteria from which it can be recognized as effective. These are for instance the clarity and validity of the communication as well as regularity and accuracy.
Multilingualism can be defined as follows: “multilingualism is a social situation involving groups or communities who communicate, with varying proficiency, in more than one language, in addition to a national or standard language.” (Maher, 2017) Also, in fact, a multilingual person is not necessarily someone who speaks fluently several languages but someone who uses language for different functions (Maher, 2017).
The research methodology in this thesis was qualitative method. It included semi–structured interviews that consisted of four interviewees. The reader may find a more extensive analysis of the answers and discussion in the author’s thesis. The results showed that each participant uses two or more languages with varying frequencies. Foreign languages tend to be found difficult when there have complex vocabulary and jargon. Also, language barriers seemed to occur more in external communication than in internal communication. Moreover, written communication was viewed as an effective method and verbal communication too with the support of another method. Most of the participants thought digital communication is effective due to its rapidity and fluency. The participants found Erin Meyer’s study about the low–context society in Finland overall accurate but with slight differences. Information flow was mainly found as not effective in most cases, except for one who thought it has improved. Most of the participants said effective communication should be short, concise, and relevant. Email, Teams or Skype were the most common communication channels used and face–to–face communication was used in varying situations.