GEM&L: Translation in International Business & Management

Guest post by Natalie Wilmot reporting on the 2019 GEM&L conference in Sheffield

[Guest post by CYGNA member Natalie Wilmot. In this post Natalie reports on the GEM&L conference she organised at Sheffield Hallam University in June 2019].

Groupe d’Etudes Management et Langage (GEM&L) is an international, interdisciplinary scholarly network which aims to contribute to the study of language in an international business context. Between 3-5th June, GEM&L was pleased to host its first ever conference in the UK at Sheffield Hallam University, following the success of our two previous conferences outside France, at Aalto University, Finland (2015) and Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (2017).

Keynote addresses

The theme of this year’s conference was “Exploring Multiple Perspectives on Translation in International Business and Management” and for our keynote addresses we were delighted to hear our fellow CYGNA member Professor Martyna Śliwa, University of Essex, on the theme of “The joy, the stress, the entertainment: A stakeholder perspective on interlingual translation in MNCs” and Professor Kaisa Koskinen, University of Tampere, Finland  on “Boundary spanning and linguistic hospitality in organisations.”

Main conference

As a small conference (circa 40 participants, which is a fairly typical size for our annual events), there was the opportunity for plenty of dialogue, discussion and feedback on papers. For the first time this year, we hosted a Professional Development Workshop as a pre-conference event the day before the start of the conference. This was kindly facilitated by Professors Martyna Śliwa, Rebecca Piekkari, Susanne Tietze, and Wilhelm Barner-Ramussen, and focused on the interpretation and analysis of qualitative data; how to ensure transparency when presenting results; and the selection of appropriate publication outlets for language sensitive management research.

Our papers this year addressed a diverse range of issues around the conference theme, (see CfP here) including topics such as translation and management education; English as a medium of instruction in Russian business schools; translation and Search Engine Optimisation; the challenges of incorporating cultural perspectives on translation into management research; methodological issues when conducting multilingual research; and translation, language proficiencies and careers, to name just a few of the areas which were highlighted!

We were delighted to present the award for best paper, generously sponsored by the EFMD, to Virpi Outila, Rebecca Piekkari and Irina Mihailova for their paper “Translating Employee Empowerment in Russia,” which provided a fascinating perspective on how proverbs can be used to make sense of management concepts in contexts where a specialised vocabulary does not yet exist (for more information on this study, please see the authors’ recently published paper in Management and Organization Review, “A Discursive Void in a Cross-Language Study on Russia: Strategies for Negotiating Shared Meaning”)


Additionally, this year we also hosted a round table discussion on the future of language-sensitive research, which featured lively debate and provocations from our panellists on a diverse range of themes. Following a reflection on the past twenty years of research in this field, the discussion moved onto how the field can continue to develop and innovate, including the need for interdisciplinary work across related disciplines such as Translation Studies and Sociolinguistics, but also across different management fields, and thus the potential for moving from an International Business-centric focus to incorporate broader perspectives from fields such as Organisation Studies and Marketing. We also discussed how language-sensitive management research can help us to understand wider themes of global societal importance including migration and climate change.

Doctoral session

For the third time, we were pleased to host a doctoral session at the conference, which was facilitated by our senior scholars. This is something which we would like to grow for future events, as doctoral students are a source of fresh perspectives and new ideas on how language is used in an international management environment. This year was no exception, and we were pleased to see that our doctoral students were shedding light on a number of under-researched topics by our community, including the role that accents play in international business, and work which explores how SMEs manage the question of language diversity from an HRM perspective, and we look forward to seeing more of this innovative work from our doctoral colleagues at future events.

GEM&L 2020 in Strassbourg

Next year we look forward to hosting our annual event in Strasbourg (4-6th May 2020) and we hope that many CYGNA members are able to join us! For more information, including the Call for Papers which is now available, please visit our website.

Related blogposts