Annual Review of Applied Linguistics

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Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2010), 30:211-227 Cambridge University Press
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Research Article

Language Socialization in the Workplace

Celia Roberts

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This survey article looks first at the changing demands of the workplace in a globalized economy. The new work order creates a new word order, and the workforce has become a “wordforce” (Heller, in press) with new genres of language and communication. These changes have taken place at a time when global flows of people, from less wealthy and secure societies to more wealthy and secure ones, have created multilingual workplaces. Both sets of changes challenge the traditional notion of second language socialization, and this is the focus of the next section. The workplace represents a complex, dynamic setting where migrants experience a double socialization: into the hybrid discourses of the workplace, which all newcomers experience, and into the specific language and cultural practices that realize these discourses. The new language requirements of the workplace produce for migrant workers and professionals a “linguistic penalty” (Roberts & Campbell, 2006) since the communicative demands of the selection process may be greater than those of the job itself. The last section of the article is concerned with language socialization in multilingual settings where language socialization into the dominant language is only part of the story. There is a contrast between the low status multilingualism of migrant workers, and staff in globalized and international organizations who are being socialized into new lingua franca interaction. The article concludes with an example of how the complex linguistic and technical environment of a high-tech multilingual company produces radically different conditions for language socialization which challenge how this notion can be used in the 21st century.

Celia Roberts is a professor of applied linguistics at King's College, London. She is a co-author of several books in the areas of intercultural communication and second language socialization (Language and Discrimination, Longman, 1992; Achieving Understanding, Longman, 1996); the field of urban discourse (Talk, Work, and Institutional Order, Mouton, 1999); and the field of language and cultural learning (Language Learners as Ethnographers, Multilingual Matters, 2001). Over the last 10 years, she has undertaken research on effective practice in ESOL, in doctor–patient communication in linguistically diverse settings, and in job interviews and ethnolinguistic disadvantage.