Language Diversity, Nonnative Accents, and Their Consequences at the Workplace

By | 28 février 2019

As the workplace is becoming increasingly global, organizations are employing more persons who work in a non-native language. Moreover, challenges in communication between employees with different linguistic background are inevitable in international mergers and acquisitions, and failure to recognize and address these challenges can create major obstacles to achieving effective integration benefits. Thus, it is imperative for global leaders and managers to understand the effects of language diversity on intra-organizational dynamics.

Professor Regina Kim and her team examine the cognitive and affective experiences of both native and nonnative English speakers when they interact with one another found that nonnative speakers experienced stereotype threat, anxiety, fatigue, status loss, negative emotions, avoidance goal orientations and avoidance. Consistent with the literature, stereotype threat diminished individuals’ perceptions of their own abilities and lowered their self-esteem, and fostered negative emotions, such as frustration and embarrassment. Nonnative speakers engaged in avoidance goal orientations and were motivated to withdraw from situations where they may experience stereotype threat, such as limiting encounters and interactions with native speakers. Moreover, nonnative speakers experienced cognitive fatigue from communicating in a foreign language, as well as monitoring their own actions and those of the native speakers.

Interestingly, like non-native speakers, native speakers also experienced anxiety, negative emotions, and a tendency to avoid interactions. They also reported feeling fatigued because of the amount of time and energy required to process and understand accented individuals. This finding is consistent with previous laboratory studies have also shown that processing accented speech requires more cognitive energy. Research has found that native English listeners needed more time to process and evaluate Mandarin-accented speech compared to speech in native English. Similarly, speech in non-native accents is more difficult to process than that in native accents. In sum, the results from this study show the emotional as well as the cognitive demands of native listeners.


To read the original article:

Kim, R., Roberson, L., Russo, M., & Briganti, P. (2018). Language Diversity, Nonnative Accents, and Their Consequences at the Workplace: Recommendations for Individuals, Teams, and Organizations. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 55(1) 73–95.

Professor Regina Kim is one member of ICoN. You can find more information about ICoN team members here:



Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts/articles are those of the author (s) alone and do not represent those of IÉSEG School of Management /ICON. ICON welcomes all feedback and comment on articles posted on this blog:

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