In this instance, unlike the ones we
looked at above, the foreign workers are in an inferior position in the employment
structure. These blue-collar workers simply carry out simple instructions given by Spanish
/ Catalan bosses and supervisors. Communications relations are absolutely asymmetrical,
and as one member of a discussion group put it: "We never open our mouths when we're
at work". As the employers see it, knowledge of the language is not necessary to be
able to do this unskilled work, and inability to speak either Spanish or Catalan is no
reason for not taking a worker on. The important thing, in the words of one employer, is
that "they should be hardworkers." There is a perception in this respect that
these workers from former socialist republics are docile and hardworking. In none of the
companies in question had any of the Rumanians risen above the level of manual worker. In
these companies, the managers carry out a variety of functions including selling. It is
notable that none of them know any foreign language and in the rare instances where they
have attempted to penetrate foreign markets they placed the sales effort in the hands of
outsiders. The location of this industry in a basically rural area, some 200 kilometres
(125 miles) from Barcelona, and the fact that production has always been very largely for
the domestic market, has meant that this cluster has remained apart from the main
international channels of production and distribution. Even with the arrival of workers
with a greater linguistic repertoire, as in the case of the Rumanian workers, the local
management's international connections have not increased. But the fact is that their
competitiveness at the present time is predicated on the use of an international
(Romanian) workforce who accept poor conditions of work and pay.
The value of
the different languages is not established at the base of production or productive
process. Catalan and Spanish take on value for the Romanian workers for their capacity to
integrate them into the local community. The native-born speakers on the other hand have
not adapted to the new situation of access to open markets in Europe. Catalan continues to
be the language of power and prestige in the community, and is a necessary requirement
when seeking advancement; it is the only language used by the managers and company owners.
Small and medium-sized health and
social care companies
We analysed a
sample of small and medium health and social care companies located along the coast of
Catalonia especially affected by foreign residents. Progressively, as a result of the
surge and flow of tourists and holiday makers and their tendency to settle along the
coast, the customers using these small concerns have become international. The increase in
linguistic complexity is not the outcome of any process of internationalisation, but
rather of the international nature of the people who seek their services. This
internationalisation poses something of a challenge to these companies, run as they are by
natives. In the first place because the patient-healthcare patient relationship is very
intensive linguistically speaking. Secondly, because the foreign patients are totally
heterogeneous (they may be British, German, Belgian
, and more recently, Eastern
European). Thirdly, because these professionals (doctors and nurses and others --for
example those employed in geriatric institutions) have a linguistic / language repertoire
which is largely limited to Catalan and Spanish. In point of fact, the medical profession
in Spain is heavily influenced by the massive presence of the Spanish National Health
Service, where foreign languages are not asked for, but where Catalan is a distinct
advantage. When training, little or no thought is given to the increasingly heterogeneous
future of Spains coastal areas, or the
way that this might effect day-to-day practice.
three strategies with respect to the linguistic complexity of the local markets. The first
involves companies of local origin which concentrate on the native-born patients. The
second strategy is to recruit staff who have qualifications in one or more of the
languages of the foreign patients. In such cases, auxiliaries and orderlies have in
particular been sought who can mediate between doctor and patient. The third strategy
which is beginning to emerge is where companies are owned by foreigners specialising in
patients from their respective countries and basically employing foreign doctors as well
as some Spanish nationals as auxiliaries. In such cases, the owners tend to be the doctors
themselves. Here, then, the fact that the language of the patients is spoken becomes of
prime importance, generating confidence. In fact, these customers actually prefer medical
staff of their own nationality. In this way, the local or Spanish professionals are seeing
their prospects progressively undermined by their lack of languages, and by foreign
Conclusions: Two linguistic outcomes
we have looked at two linguistic results that are in themselves quite different: 1)
Reinforcement of linguistic divisions as a means of segmenting resources (Ethnocentric
multinational companies, and the Catalan industrial cluster furniture firms), and, 2)
Strategies orientated to increasing and enhancing corporate efficiency and effectiveness,
assuming the costs of external transactions to reach a linguistically heterogeneous market
(Geocentric multinationals in transition, and social and health care companies) as well as
reducing the internal transaction costs by means of de-ethnification of the
corporate language (discontinuation of an ethnic or insider language for the company).
reinforcement of linguistic divisions inside the company in the case of strategy 1) can be
explained by the fact that the language in question is a vital counter in the hierarchic
rationalisation of the company and in power relations, shaping the paths of promotion
within the company. The language policy serves to limit access to tangible and intangible
assets, such as higher management positions and within-company social recognition. This is
what is known as a process of social closure based
on linguistic and ethnic criteria. As a result, there are two clearly defined linguistic
groups in the company, those involved in planning the dominant linguistic
group and those involved in execution (implementation) the linguistically dominated group.
In the cases,
we have looked at the corporate language is that which carries out the functions of
prestige and identity within the corporation. That is to say German (in the ethnocentric
company), and Catalan (in the industrial cluster). In terms of benefits, the strategy
permits the creation of certain shared values and norms among the managers, a fact which
increases confidence and cohesion in this group. The disadvantages include, above all, the
conflicts between Spanish nationality managers in the branches and the German nationality
managers at head quarters. Also, this increases mistrust between the management, Spanish
nationality blue-collar workers, and the German elite of the capital. Furthermore, this
situation is aggravated at the present time in Spain by continual threats and
warnings that production will be switched lock stock and barrel to the East of Europe. We
have defined this scenario as a zero-sum game where the function of utility is derived
from control. The assets to be distributed are limited and fixed. It should be noted that
the reinforcement of language barriers is something which is especially feasible in
companies run on Henry Ford's principles since, here, productive efficiency does not
depend on linguistic factors but rather on a high degree of specialisation and separation
between groups or types of workers.
In strategy 2,
which we have defined as an assuming of transaction costs, language is a key variable in
the productive process. By means of their chosen language policy they hope to enhance
relations with customers and achieve efficiency in internal management. Linguistic capital
in its varying forms is highly valued when appointing new staff. Trilingual personnel are
especially sought after: the languages spoken where the branch is located (Catalan and /
or Spanish, to some extent devalued by their lowered value in global markets; the
languages of contact with the market), English (as the language of the company's technical
and horizontal coordination), and, above all, any one of the languages of the foreign MS
with marketing value. In the small and medium-sized companies in the social and health
care business, the language of coordination and of the international customers tend to
coincide as a result of the ethno- linguistic segmentation of the companies in this
market, as we have seen. What we have here is not a symbolic or emblematic gesture aimed
at reaffirming control of the market, but rather the maximization of communicative
efficiency with the patients or customers.
of the linguistic barriers means an increase in the market value which can benefit the
different actors simultaneously. Workers receive a reward for their linguistic capital and
the companies are able to have access to the global reorganisation of their services and
to a linguistically plural market. Discrimination is effected via the process of staff
selection rather than promotion, which fosters and promotes cohesion within the company.
have seen how analysis of the varying dynamics involved in the different corporate
coordination scenarios clearly leads to different linguistic regimes that are evident in
the mechanisms of selection and promotion of staff. These linguistic regimes are the
result of differing forms of organising production and differing positions taken with
respect to the mobility of factors. Such mobility does not necessarily lead to linguistic
homogeneity, but rather to diversification fraught with inequality. The selection and
promotion of personnel will, if it is based on linguistic factors, imply forms of
occupational stratification differentially affecting different language groups. This poses
serious problems for those social strata which have not succeeded in investing in the most
valued linguistic resources.
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