Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 20, 2018

Interlinguistic insecurity in the workplace, an issue for higher education

Nicole Lancereau-Forster and Josiane Martinez


Due to globalization and the spread in the use of foreign languages in the workplace, language needs have been regularly and increasingly researched, whether from linguistic, psychological or socio-economic perspectives. The use of these languages, far from being neutral, gives rise to a whole set of attitudes, feelings, behaviours and representations from the speakers of these languages. It may also induce for employees situations of stress, work-related suffering and compromised promotion. This article deals with the interlinguistic insecurity of French employees using English as a foreign working language in oral communication. A quantitative research enquiry involving 642 French employees from various fields of activity was carried out. It explored attitudes, feelings (for example foreign language anxiety or feelings of inferiority), behaviours (such as withdrawal) and representations (like awareness of shortcomings and desire for improvement) linked to interlinguistic insecurity in the workplace. The above attitudes and feelings were analysed in the light of three variables: gender, age and education level. The effects of these variables and their relevance were investigated. The results showed that education level was the prevalent variable and that interlinguistic insecurity is a real issue for higher and continuous education. Possible approaches to alleviate insecurity in the workplace were then considered on linguistic and cultural grounds.


Questionnaire – part 2 (English translation from the French original)

Rate each item, from 1 to 5 (1=minimum to 5=maximum), according to the feelings or behaviours you are most likely to adopt.

Complete the sentence: “when I have to use a foreign working language”, …

1- I enjoy it
2- I am afraid of being ridiculed if I make mistakes
3- I am aware that I have a French accent and that bothers me
4- I feel a sort of anxiety
5- I am more and more willing to improve
6- I feel a mental block and that leads to withdrawal, harldly speaking or not at all
7- I sometimes feel inferior
8- I do not really like to speak the FWL without preparation
9- I discover another culture with pleasure
10- I am aware that I do not always have the adequate cultural behaviours linked to the FL


Aude, Bretegnier & Gudrun Ledegen (eds.). 2002. Sécurité/insécurité linguistique, terrains et approches diversifiées, propositions théoriques et méthodologiques, actes de la 5e Table Ronde du Moufia, (22–24 avril 1998), LCF- UMR 6058 du CNRS. Université de la Réunion. Paris: L’Harmattan. Search in Google Scholar

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1982. Ce que parler veut dire: L’économie des échanges linguistiques. Paris: Fayard. Search in Google Scholar

Brannen, Mary Y., Rebecca Piekkari & Susanne Tietze. 2014. The multifaceted role of language in international business: Unpacking the forms, functions and features of a critical challenge to MNC theory and performance. Journal of International Business Studies 45. 495–507.10.1057/jibs.2014.24 Search in Google Scholar

Bretegnier, Aude. 1996. L’insécurité linguistique: Objet insécurisé? Essai de synthèse et perspectives. In Didier De Robillard & Michel Beniamino (eds.), Le français dans l’espace francophone, Tome II. 903–919. Paris: Honoré-Champion. Search in Google Scholar

Calvet, Louis-Jean. 1999. Pour une écologie des langues du monde. Paris: Plon. Search in Google Scholar

Calvet, Louis-Jean. 2015. La sociolinguistique. Paris: PUF. Search in Google Scholar

CEFR. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. 2001. (accessed 29 May 2017). Search in Google Scholar

CELAN report. 2013. (accessed 10 April 2017). Search in Google Scholar

Deneire, Marc. 2008. English in the French workplace: Realism and anxieties. World Englishes 27(2). 181–195.10.1111/j.1467-971X.2008.00551.x Search in Google Scholar

ELAN report. 2006. (accessed 10 April 2017). Search in Google Scholar

Francard, Michel (ed.). 1993/1994. L’insécurité linguistique dans les communautés francophones périphériques. Cahiers de l’Institut de linguistique de Louvain-la-Neuve 1 et. 2. Search in Google Scholar

Francard, Michel. 1997. Insécurité linguistique, In Marie-Louise Moreau (ed.), Sociolinguistique. Concepts de base, 170–176. Liège: Madraga. Search in Google Scholar

Gargalianou, Vasiliki, Katrin Muehlfeld, Diemo Urbig & Van Witteloostuijn Arjen. 2016. Foreign Language Anxiety in Professional Contexts. A Short Scale and Evidence of Personality and Gender Differences. Schmalenbach Business Review 17(2). 195–223.10.1007/s41464-016-0007-6 Search in Google Scholar

Gueunier, Nicole. 1994. Sécurité/insécurité linguistiques chez les étudiants et les jeunes enseignants de français. Le français aujourd’hui 105. 111–118. Search in Google Scholar

Guntzviller, Lisa M., Jakob D. Jensen, J. King Andy & LaShara A Davis. 2011. The Foreign Language Anxiety in a Medical Office Scale: Developing and Validating a Measurement Tool for Spanish-Speaking Individuals. Journal of Health Communication 16(8). 849–869.10.1080/10810730.2011.561917 Search in Google Scholar

Hagen, Stephen. 1999. Business communication across borders: A study of language use and practice in European companies. London, U.K.: Languages National Training Organisation. Search in Google Scholar

Hinton, Perry R. [2004] 2008. Statistics Explained, 2nd. London: Routledge. Search in Google Scholar

Hodgson, John & Richards Ernest. 1974. Improvisation. London: Eyre Methuen. Search in Google Scholar

Holmes, Janet. 2000. Talking English from 9 to 5: Challenges for ESL learners at work. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 10(1). 125–140.10.1111/j.1473-4192.2000.tb00143.x Search in Google Scholar

Horwitz, Elaine K., Michael B Horwitz & Joann Cope. 1991. Foreign language classroom anxiety. In Elaine K. Horwitz & Dolly J. Young (eds.), Language anxiety: From theory and research to classroom implications, 27–39. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. Search in Google Scholar

Huhta, Marjatta. 1999. Language/Communication Skills in Industry and Business – Report for Prolang/Finland.<>. (accessed 10 Apr 2017). Search in Google Scholar

Klitmøller, Anders & Jakob Lauring. 2013. When global virtual teams share knowledge: Media richness, cultural difference and language commonality. Journal of World Business 48(3). 398–406.10.1016/j.jwb.2012.07.023 Search in Google Scholar

Labov, William. [1966] 2006. The social stratification of English in New York City, 2nd. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Lancereau-Forster, Nicole. 2013. L’anglais comme langue de formation en IUT et langue de travail dans le domaine aéronautique industriel. Thèse de doctorat. Toulouse: Université de Toulouse 3. Search in Google Scholar

Lancereau-Forster, Nicole. 2014. Variation de la perception de besoins langagiers dans un contexte d’IUT (Institut Universitaire de Technologie). Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité XXXIII(1). 151–167. (accessed 13 April 2017).). Search in Google Scholar

Lancereau-Forster, Nicole & Josiane Martinez. 2015. La gestion linguistique des entreprises. Communication at the Colloquium titled 1ères rencontres de l’Observatoire OULis. University of Toulouse, 19th June (unpublished). Search in Google Scholar

Landy, Robert J. 1982. Handbook of Educational drama and theater. London: Greenwood Press. Search in Google Scholar

LEMP. 2015. Summary of survey report: Analysis of the foreign language skills requirements of French employers. Erasmus +. (accessed on 12 April 2017). Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D., Richard Clément, Zoltán Dörnyei & Kimberly A Noels. 1998. Conceptualizing willingness to communicate in a L2: A situational model of L2 confidence and affiliation. The Modern Language Journal 82(4). 545–562.10.1111/j.1540-4781.1998.tb05543.x Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, Peter D & Robert C Gardner. 1994. The subtle effects of language anxiety on cognitive processing in the second language. Language Learning 44(2). 283–305.10.1111/j.1467-1770.1994.tb01103.x Search in Google Scholar

Maclntyre, Peter D. 1999. Language anxiety: A review of the research for language teachers. In Dolly J. Young (ed.), Affect in foreign language and second language learning, 24–45. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Search in Google Scholar

Neeley, Tsedal. 2012. Global business speaks English. Harvard Business Review 90(5). 116–124. Search in Google Scholar

Neeley, Tsedal. 2014. Language Investments Pay Big Dividends for Global Companies. (accessed 13 April 2017) Search in Google Scholar

Neeley, Tsedal. 2017. The Language of Global Success. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Neeley, Tsedal B. 2013. Language matters: Status loss and achieved Status distinctions in global organizations. Organization Science 24(21). 476–497.10.1287/orsc.1120.0739 Search in Google Scholar

Owens, Thompson W & Paul M Baker. 1984. Linguistic insecurity in Winnipeg: Validation of a Canadian index of linguistic insecurity. Language in Society 13. 337–350.10.1017/S0047404500010538 Search in Google Scholar

Piekkari, Rebecca. 2008. Languages and careers in multinational corporations. In Suzanne Tietze (ed.), International management and language, 128–137. London: Routledge. Search in Google Scholar

PIMLICO report. 2011. (accessed 10 April 2017). Search in Google Scholar

Stenton, Anthony. 2013. The role of the syllable in foreign language learning. Improving oral production through dual-coded, sound-synchronised, visual annotations. Language Learning in Higher Education, Journal of the European Confederation of Language Centres in Higher Education (CercleS) 2(1). 145–161. Search in Google Scholar

Tenzer, Helene & Markus Pudelko. 2015. Leading across language barriers: Managing language-induced emotions in multilingual teams. TheLeadership Quarterly 26(4). 606–625.10.1016/j.leaqua.2015.05.006 Search in Google Scholar

Trudgill, Peter. 2000. Sociolinguistics, 4th. London: Penguin Books. Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2018-09-20
Published in Print: 2018-09-25

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston