Economy of language

Van der Meulen, Ignaat Jonathan (2017) Economy of language. MA/MSc thesis, BCE Társadalomtudományi és Nemzetközi Kapcsolatok Kar, Világgazdasági Intézet. Szabadon elérhető változat / Unrestricted version:

PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader

Free and unrestricted access:


Background problem: Language is vital for every organisation; it is needed to convey both internal as external messages but few firms see it as a competitive advantage. For a country such as the United States, which is notoriously known as a country with few language skills, this poses a problem. Only capable of speaking one language is not enough anymore in a globalised world, especially for a country that exports 1.5 trillion dollars’ worth of goods and services to other countries. Purpose: The purpose of this dissertation is to highlight the importance of language in international business. More specifically, the importance of language for American companies which export. The author looks at this issue from two different angles; the current problems with language that hamper the success of American export companies, and future language needs of American companies. Limitations: The dissertation is limited to in-depth study about the importance of language for American companies and the economy. However, to emphasise the need for different languages for companies that are active on the global stage, the economic importance of languages is highlighted. The main limitation of this dissertation is the lack of data since the topic is a rather recent phenomenon and it combines two disciplines, economy and language, that ordinarily do not cross. Method: In this thesis, mainly secondary data is collected. The secondary data comes from renowned databases such as the World Bank, Unicode and various national censuses. The data has carefully been selected and critically evaluated. Findings: The research reveals a sharp decline of economic importance for English. Just over a quarter of the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is coming from people who are capable of speaking English. The same goes for English as a trade language, a decline is visible here as well. Yet, it is still the most prominent language. English is the most important language for American trade but the increasing importance of non-English languages for the U.S. is unmistakeable. The Language Importance Index for the United States could give an insight into which official languages are of the most critical importance for the United States. 110 languages have been 4 subjected to 19 indicators based on five different categories. The top 5 most important languages for global affairs for the U.S. are English, Spanish, Mandarin, French and Arabic. A model has been created that combines the internationalisation theory of the Uppsala model with language management to explain the correlation between language and global business. It seems that language within a firm is a given but the contrary is more likely if the firm wants a successful experience abroad. Conclusion and discussion: A change of importance regarding languages in international business is noticeable and firms should adapt accordingly. English is in decline which means a much-needed revision of the language strategy of American companies. The Language Importance Index for the United States indicates which languages to focus on and could help American firms in the development of a successful language strategy, which the model advocates.

Item Type:MA/MSc thesis
Subjects:Business organisation
Economic development, sustainable development
International economics
ID Code:10587
Specialisation:International Economy and Business
Deposited On:13 Feb 2018 12:21
Last Modified:02 Dec 2021 12:01

Repository Staff Only: item control page