Title

Linguistic and Cultural Competence in the Global Business Arena: A Study of a Japanese Company in Tennessee

Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Patricia Davis-Wiley

Committee Members

Detelin Elenkov, Gary J. Skolits, Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

Abstract

According to a survey by the State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Division of Research and Planning, the number one country in terms of investment in Tennessee is Japan, which currently has 160 companies in Tennessee that employ 40,450 people (Tennessee Total Foreign Direct Investment and Employment by Country Current Through April 2008, p.1).

Whereby there are a number of research studies examining the importance of Japanese language competence in American companies, there is a paucity of research that addresses Americans with Japanese language competency who work in Japanese companies located in the U.S. This study therefore addressed this deficiency and sought to answer the following research questions:

1. What are the current expectations of managers, in terms of the level of Japanese competency, of their non-Japanese employees at Japanese companies located in Tennessee?

2. In addition to Japanese language proficiency, what other elements and knowledge are desired by Japanese companies for their future employees?

3. What is the rationale underlying the expectations of managers regarding employees’ language and cultural expectations?

A modified Delphi study approach (e.g., multiple rounds of data collection) was conducted to: a) assess instrument reliability and validity, and b) ascertain the importance of Japanese language competence in business careers, as viewed by a panel of American and Japanese experts at the second largest Japanese company in the state of Tennessee.

An exploratory factor analysis (with principal components extraction and varimax rotation) was used to determine how well the individual questions on two rounds of a modified Delphi survey grouped into five factors of interest which were Business Skills, Communication Skills, Cultural Awareness, Language Skills and Language Opportunities.

Results derived from the analysis of the opinions of the 43 American experts indicated that for them, Business and Culture Skills were the most important, followed by Basic Communication and Advanced Communication Skills. Deemed as non-important skills were Language skills and having the Opportunity to use Japanese at work. In contrast, the 18 Japanese experts indicated that for them, Business and Culture, in addition to Advanced Communication Skills, were considered to be the most important; Language, Basic Communication and Opportunity were the least important.

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