Language in international business: A review and agenda for future research

Helene Tenzer, Siri Terjesen, Anne-wil Harzing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)
468 Downloads (Pure)


A fast growing number of studies demonstrates that language diversity influences almost all management decisions in modern multinational corporations. Whereas no doubt remains about the practical importance of language, the empirical investigation and theoretical conceptualization of its complex and multifaceted effects still presents a substantial challenge. To summarize and evaluate the current state of the literature in a coherent picture informing future research, we systematically review 264 articles on language in international business. We scrutinize the geographic distributions of data, evaluate the field’s achievements to date in terms of theories and methodologies, and summarize core findings by individual, group, firm, and country levels of analysis. For each of these dimensions, we then put forward a future research agenda. We encourage scholars to transcend disciplinary boundaries and to draw on, integrate, and test a variety of theories from disciplines such as psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience to gain a more profound understanding of language in international business. We advocate more multi-level studies and cross-national research collaborations and suggest greater attention to potential new data sources and means of analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-854
JournalManagement international review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • language
  • linguistic diversity
  • literature review
  • interdisciplinary theorizing


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