Interaction and inclusion in multilingual workplaces

In the globalizing world, an increasing number of work communities operate in more than one language. In many workplaces in Finland, both the local language (e.g. Finnish) and a lingua franca (usually English) are used, and many professionals conduct (at least a part of) their work through a language that is not their first or strongest language. Sufficient language skills are of primary importance not only in finding a job that corresponds to one’s qualifications, but also in becoming a full member of the Finnish society.

In this talk, I will discuss ways to use different languages and to support language learning in workplaces where the employees have different linguistic backgrounds. I will present a model that we have developed to enhance language awareness at the workplace, and to support language learning and integration. The model is based on data (interviews, videorecordings, and ethnograrphic observation) collected in various white-collar workplaces in Finland. Through selected extracts, I will show a few practices that facilitate people’s participation in ongoing activities with varying language skills.