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Review of  The Use of English in Institutional and Business Settings


Reviewer: Aradhna Malik
Book Title: The Use of English in Institutional and Business Settings
Book Author: Giuliana Garzone Cornelia Ilie
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Pragmatics
Sociolinguistics
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Book Announcement: 19.3343
Read Review Discussions Issue:
19-3361

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Review:
EDITORS: Garzone, Giuliana; Ilie, Cornelia
TITLE: The Use of English in Institutional and Business Settings
SUBTITLE: An Intercultural Perspective.
PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG
YEAR: 2007

Dr. Aradhna Malik, Institute of Management Technology, Nagpur, India

SUMMARY
The book is a collection of fourteen articles describing the use of English in a
diverse variety of settings across the world. The readings highlight the use of
English as a common platform of communication by people in various walks of
life, between native and non native speakers of English and other world
languages. The articles have been organized into four categories focusing on
different aspects of the use and goals of the English language. The review
begins with a summary of each article in the context of the category it is
under. The review concludes with a summary of the book as a unit of scholarly
work and evaluation of its academic contribution.

The book begins with an introduction by Garzone to the articles that follow. She
highlights the reasons for the spread of English as 'lingua franca' in the
international business environment, and attributes the primary responsibility
for this spread to colonization by the British, globalization, liberalization of
the American economy, and the development and marketing of technical networking
and business tools by English speaking nations. According to the author, the
criticisms against a widespread use of English include a threat to the language
ecology of the world, and hegemony of English over local languages. The author
feels that this hegemony, in addition to being a residue of colonization, could
also be a result of the widespread need for technical tools in the business
environment, which are developed primarily by speakers of the English language
who do not take into account the needs of the non-native speakers of English,
thereby increasing a need for the non-speakers of English to learn and use
English in order to use these tools which can help them succeed in the
international business environment. The author emphasizes that due to the
widespread use and modifications to the use of English in many countries all
over the world, no country is in a position to claim ownership of the language
anymore. The author concludes with the observation that discussion of
intercultural aspects of 'lingua franca' communication involves recognition of
the significance of intercultural issues connected with social contexts,
practices, and conventions, and on the semantic side, the awareness of problems
associated with the need to convey specific local meanings for which there is an
'empty box' in the 'lingua franca' repertoire.

The first category of articles in the book is titled, ''English in the Promotion
and Marketing of Products Across Cultures'' and the first article in this
category is titled, ''Constructing identities in the fashion industry: Building
brand and customer image through press releases'', by Paola Catenaccio. The
article discusses the diglossic dance between Italian and English press releases
of four famous Italian fashion houses - Armani, Trussardi, Dolce and Gabbana,
and Cavalli. The article focuses on the role of this dance in communicating and
shaping the global identities of exclusive customers all over the world. The
efficacy of these press releases is evaluated in the light of Jacob's
preformulating features of press releases, namely, self reference, self
quotation, and explicit semi performatives. The role of English in communicating
the above brands through an ingenious mix of Jacob's features is discussed in
the context of the rapidly growing global fashion market. In addition to
highlighting the role of English as a global language, the author points towards
the role of English and Italian in communicating the desired identities to
exclusive customers by using the two languages in parallel and complimentarily.
The article concludes with a comparison of the ''culturalness'' of the themes used
by each of these designers in their designs.

The next article in this category is titled, ''A question of taste: Translating
the flavor of Italy'', by Delia Chiaro. This article discusses the use of three
different translational styles in promotional messages for Italian food products
on the World Wide Web. The use of translational styles, namely, intrasemiotic,
intersemiotic, and syncretic styles of translation, require different degrees of
input and have different kinds of impact on the target audience. The article
describes the role of the promotional text developed through these styles in
communicating Italianness to the target audience. The author notes that the
promotional messages convey the truly authentic Italian and ''pretend'' Italian
brand images through these promotional messages. They also note that depending
on the applicability of the product to different contexts, these promotional
messages convey the traditional and modern Italianness to the target audience.
Since food is one of the most marketable products in the global environment, the
role of English in promoting many Italian foodstuffs is highlighted through this
article.

The last article in this category is titled, ''English in print advertising in
Germany, Spain and the Netherlands: Frequency of occurrence, comprehensibility
and the effect on corporate image'', by Marinel Gerritsen, Catherine Nickerson,
Corine van den Brandt, Rogier Crijns, Nuriá Dominguez, Frank van Meurs, and
Ulrike Nederstigt. The article provides a snapshot into the use and acceptance
of English in the social milieu of the above mentioned countries through print
advertisements in popular magazines. Results indicate limited but consistent use
of English in sales information in all three contexts, though understanding of
the language is lesser in the case of Spanish readers as compared to the readers
in Germany and the Netherlands. Results also indicate a neutral attitude to the
use of English by the readers and consumers of the products, and no effect on
the prices that the respondents associated with products advertised in English.
This study demonstrates increasing acceptance and embeddedness of English in the
local business interactions rather than hegemony of English over Spanish, Dutch
or German in the respective countries.

The second category of articles in the book is titled, ''Concepts and Issues
Across Languages and Cultures''. The title of this category suggests a
'miscellaneous' category into which several pieces of only semi-related
scholarly work can be grouped together.

The section begins with an article by Cornelia Ilie titled ''British 'Consensus'
vs. Swedish 'Samförstånd' in Parliamentary Debates''. This article highlights the
comparisons between the notions and connotations of 'consensus' in the
Parliamentary debates in Ireland, England, and Sweden. The author discusses the
connotations of 'consensus' in the English Parliamentary system as a synthesis
of opinions in a seemingly confrontational debate environment. The English see
consensus more as a process of reaching a commonly acceptable solution to the
problem at hand by manipulating or convincing the participants in the situation.
The English, according to the author, view consensus as a process that leads to
the appointment or generation of a decision in line with the opinion
(manipulated or not manipulated) of the participants. Hence, according to the
author, in the British system, consensus seems to be a ''preferred political
strategy'' due to its synthetic nature that generates goodwill among the
participants. The author notes that in Ireland consensus has a negative
connotation. The Irish see consensus as an imposed 'selection' versus a
democratic 'election' of decisions. They feel that consensus leads to
confrontation and denial of democratic rights in the fundamentally democratic
Irish Parliamentary system. The author also observes that in the Swedish
Parliament, 'samförstånd'/ 'konsensus' refers to the process of reaching
unanimity in a decision as a matter of policy. An example of the effects of
noncompliance of the decisions made as a result of this process demonstrates the
cultural commitment of the Swedish politicians to this process.

The next article in this section is titled, ''On course for the next stage of
success: The annual reports of U.S. and Japanese companies'', by Daniel Wawra.
The article discusses the differences in the semantic use of the English
language by American and Japanese companies in the banking sector in their
annual reports. The author highlights the cultural influences on the choice of
words and the formality in presentation. According to the author, despite the
adaptation of the content to a global context, the cultural underpinnings in the
organizational behavior of companies working in the same domain, in two very
different cultures, are reflected in the words they use, and the manner they use
these words in.

The third article in this section is titled, ''The discourse of pro- and
anti-whaling in British and Japanese news editorials: A comparative cultural
perspective'', by Kumiko Murata. This article deals with the use of the English
language, in an English speaking region, and compares it with parallel discourse
in the Japanese language on the same topic in Japanese texts. The article
discusses the discourses on whaling (killing whales) in two different contexts.
The author observes that based on data collected over a period of fourteen years
from the archives of two newspapers, discourse in the United Kingdom refers to
anti-whaling activities, and includes emotionally loaded words to characterize
the anti-whaling activities in the United Kingdom and pro-whaling activities in
Japan. On the other hand, discourse in Japan refers to the pro-whaling
activities in Japan, and seems to include neutral terms that are backed by
scientific facts and research to characterize (and justify) the need for
whaling. In addition, the author notes the potential of these discourses to
influence the ''understanding of the text'' by readers, and points out the impact
this could have on the readers of the text.

The last article in this section is titled, ''Recontextualizing language: Indian
activists and the recasting of English'', by Maria Cristina Paganoni. This
article highlights the theme of this book, and demonstrates how the cultural
origins of the English language influence its prestige in a colonized state. It
also brings to light how this influence, in turn, leads to a need for
'de-hegemonizing' the language, and integrating its use in day to day
interactions by 'recontextualizing' it. The article describes the cultural
influences on the use of English in the writings of prominent Indian social
activists. The author highlights the efforts of these activists in adapting the
use of English to the social context in India. The author also points out the
inclusion of local terms, and choice of words appropriate to the local culture
in the writings of these activists. This article draws attention to the adoption
of English as a second language in the Indian subcontinent. The author also
points out the cultural influence on the choice of words and how these choices
can result in the hegemony of the language especially in colonized cultures.

The third category of articles in the book is titled, ''Cross Cultural
Perspectives on Speech Acts'' and the category begins with an article by
Stephanie Zilles Pohle, titled, ''Offers in Irish English and German business
negotiations: A cross-cultural pragmatic analysis.'' The article discusses the
results of simulated negotiations (conducted in English) between native German
executives and Irish executives working in Germany. Results highlight the
cultural differences in the Irish and German styles of negotiations. According
to this study, the Irish seem to use words that are more inclusive and community
centered as compared to their German counterparts who tend to use more
individualistic words. They also use face saving tactics much more than their
German counterparts who seem more detached and direct during their negotiations.
No mention is made regarding the proficiency of the participants in the English
language.

The second article in this category is titled, ''Speaking and not speaking across
cultures'', by Grahame T. Bilbow. This article describes a comparison between the
interactions (in English) of 36 local Chinese and 51 Western expatriate managers
of a large airline company in Hong Kong, across eleven meetings at work. Results
indicate that Westerners tend to talk more than their Chinese counterparts. The
author also notes considerable differences in the range of speech acts used by
the two groups, and the cultural differences that influence their contributions
to and silence in meetings at work.

The last article in this category is titled, ''Written business invitations: A
cross-cultural rhetorical analysis'', by Ora-ong Chakorn. The author discusses
intercultural differences in forty letters of invitation written by Thai and
native English speakers in Thailand. The study points out the differences
between the operationalization of the performative speech act though the
structure and moves for inviting remain the same. The study also points out
intercultural differences between the ways these moves are made. The author also
highlights the use of these moves with respect to different types of business
invitations.

The last category in the book is titled, ''Intercultural issues in face-to-face
communication'' and the first article in this section is titled, ''Communicating
within and across professional worlds in an intercultural setting'', by Gina
Poncini. The article discusses the interactions of three bilingual (English and
Italian) producers of the Italian Nebbiolo wine (one native speaker of Italian,
and two native speakers of English), in a winery in Valtellina, Italy, during a
three day convention on the Nebbiolo grape in January 2004. The article
highlights the use of English as a primary means of communication for conveying
technical details regarding the functioning of the winery. The participants use
English as a common ground to initiate and establish a connection, and then move
on to finding common ground in their work, through the use of common technical
terms, expressions, and finally a mixture of English and Italian as the
relationship progresses.

The next article in this section is titled, ''Modes of communication between
suppliers of services and non-native English-speaking users: Doctor-patient
interaction'', by Carmen Valero-Garcés and Bruce Downing. The article discusses
the differences in monolingual, bilingual helper, and interpreter facilitated
modes of communication in the context of an American clinic with English
speaking doctors and English and Spanish speaking patients. The study highlights
the differences in the effectiveness of communication through the above
mentioned channels. Results demonstrate that even though bilingual employees or
helpers (trained in the medical profession as nurses or technical staff, but not
as doctors) are able to convey the doctor's message to the patient effectively
and respond to some queries posed by the patient without consulting the doctor,
the 'direct interaction' between the doctor and the patient is more when trained
interpreters are used.

The third article in this section is titled, ''The linguists conference setting:
A comparative analysis of intercultural disparities during English to Italian
sign language interpretation'', by Cynthia Kellett Bidoli. The author describes
the complexities associated with interpretation of conference proceedings in
English to Italian and subsequently to Italian sign language for a mixed
audience of hearing and hearing disabled people at an international conference
in Italy. The author notes the semantic losses and (sometimes) semiotic
additions to the content during translation of the content into Italian and
eventually into Italian sign language. This study, like many others in the book,
highlights the role of English in a well-attended intercultural setting.

The last article in this section (and the book) is titled, ''English as a 'lingua
franca' in business contexts: Strategy or hegemony?'' by Catherine Nickerson. The
article provides a summary to the preceding chapters in the book. The author
provides insights into the issues that were covered, and the issues that could
have been covered if adequate research had been available. The author
acknowledges the role of English in providing a common platform for
communication in global interactions, and mentions the problems that can arise
due to the assumed superiority of English over local languages in non-native
English speaking countries. The author also makes a specific mention to the role
of English in business settings especially in multinational companies. The
article ends with suggestions for research primarily in the context of
interlingual situations where there is a difference in the impact of
interactions due to use of English versus the use of the local language.

EVALUATION
The articles in the book cover a diverse range of uses of the English language
in varied contexts in the intercultural and international environment from
hospital clinics to conferences to the fashion industry. Though four main themes
emerge from the introduction – the diglossic relationship between English and
the local language in different countries, adaptation of the English language to
the specific culture and context and vice versa, the role of the English
language as lingua franca in specific settings, and the unique utility of
English in specific contexts, the book eventually boils down to a collection of
studies that demonstrate the use of English in different contexts.

The articles in the first category (English in the Promotion and Marketing of
Products Across Cultures) cover a diverse range of business situations but are
limited in their coverage of cultural contexts, and focus exclusively on the
more developed European countries. The primary premise of the authors in this
category is the utility of English in selling commodities by virtue of its use
in a variety of business settings. The authors are unable to put forth a
convincing argument regarding the need to use English in addition to the local
language in local markets, except in the case of the very first article that
focuses on the use of English by a business that boasts of a globe-trotting,
brand and exclusivity conscious clientele.

Two of the four articles in the second category (Concepts and Issues Across
Languages and Cultures) deal with the use of English in English speaking regions
and compare parallel discourse in non English speaking countries. These
comparisons could have been carried out between any two culturally and
linguistically different countries. Here too, it is not very clear how or why
the use of English may be relevant in these contexts. The third article in this
category discusses the influence of corporate culture in English speaking
partners of organizations in non-English speaking countries on the structure of
a document (annual report) that is to be shared by both partners. Here again,
the need to refer to English is not very clear. The last article in this
category discusses the post-colonial hegemonic struggle between English and the
local language in a country that was under the British rule for over three
centuries. In this article, the author makes a convincing argument regarding the
acceptance of, and cultural influence on the adoption of English as a second
national language.

The three articles in the next category (Cross Cultural Perspectives on Speech
Acts) demonstrate a variety of speech acts in intercultural situations in
different countries around the world. These three articles focus on the
influence of intercultural differences on the use of English in different
cultures but not about the specific utility of English in these intercultural
situations.

Only one article in the last category (Intercultural issues in face-to-face
communication) describes the use of English as a collaborative tool that helps
native and non-native speakers of English understand and communicate work
related technical information to each other. The hegemony of English over other
languages in corporate settings, though not implied, is subtly conveyed through
this article. The last article in this category and the book summarizes the
themes of the preceding articles, and does not provide any fresh insights into
the issue.

Even though the authors mention the role of technological advances in governing
the spread of English as 'lingua franca' in the developed and developing nations
of the world, this compilation of articles lacks any scholarly work on the
subject. Even though each article stands out in its domain, the relationship of
the articles to each other in each section seems limited, as does the
relationship of many articles to the theme of the volume. Overall, the book
serves as an informative and rich collection of scholarly work that demonstrates
the widespread use of English in a diverse range of formal business and
institutional settings across the world, but it is not clear why the included
articles were chosen out of the many articles that could have been more relevant
to and coherent with each other. English is widespread in its use in many
countries across the world. The reasons for choosing this subject, the different
headings, and the various articles under each of these headings are just not
clear. The collection, despite the noteworthy quality of each of its articles,
lacks identity of purpose as a unit of scholarly work.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Aradhna Malik earned her PhD in Human Communication Studies from the University
of Denver, U.S.A., in June 2007. She is currently working as a Visiting
Assistant Professor at Vinod Gupta School of Management at the Indian Institute
of Technology, Kharagpur, India. She has about two years of teaching experience,
and has also been actively involved with in-house training programs for software
companies. Her research interests include communication competence, technology
and social interaction, intercultural communication , communication for
development, and management of social welfare organizations.
 

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