Project – H. Haberland

Language learning and motivation in the global corporation


A primary focus of the LINGCORP project is the presence and use of multiple languages in global workplaces. In these, people with different language repertoires meet and accommodate to each other. This accommodation is on the one hand a process in which languages are chosen and negotiated on the spot – either spontaneously or within a framework of rules set up by the company, but not always obeyed by the employees. Basically people with different, multiple “voices” or language repertoires can either use several languages at the same time (as in polyglot dialog, cf. Posner 1991, polylanguaging, cf. Jørgensen et al. 2011, or multilingual mode, cf. Gafaranga and Torras 2002), let one of their first languages – e.g. the local one – dominate, or choose a lingua franca (Ammon 1991). This is, of course, a consequence of language and language valuations relevant in the given context. But the repertoire of the speakers in a workplace is not static: accommodation is also possible through language learning processes. The question is: who learns whose language, and why? Two obvious accommodation routes will be that of incoming employees learning Danish and that of local staff improving their skills in English for use as a lingua franca, but this sub-project will also investigate other options (especially that of improving receptive skills in other Scandinavian languages).

Hartmut Haberland

Project Director, Professor, RUC

Research questions

• Which languages are learnt in the case study company?

• What is the motivation for language learning?

  1. Why are some languages not learned?

François Grin (2003) has sketched his COD‐model, originally for maintenance of minority language, where the relevant factors are seen as Capacity to speak the language, Opportunity to use it with others, and Desire to use it (rather than another language available within the repertoire).

A fourth factor should be added: the perceived or actual need to use the language (Haberland 2011). This can be supplemented by the Do‐Think‐Feel model (“practice, knowledge, subjectivity”) used by Llurda et al. (2009), where different languages are categorized as to what people do with them (practice), what they think about them (knowledge), and how they feel about them (subjectivity). This model is based on Bishop, Coupland, and Garrett (2003:44). Motivation of changing one’s repertoire or the lack thereof can be described with relationship to these parameters.