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Abstract Ruth Katharina Kopp

Companies with international ambitions are increasingly becoming global players. Many of them have decided to fight for their share of the international market, or even for market leadership through such activities as company acquisition or the establishment of joint ventures, as well as by engaging in various other types of cooperation with companies abroad. Such partnerships are now more rapidly attainable than ever before, thanks to modern media of communication and increasing mobility, among other things. Consequently, these global players have a constant need to recreate their corporate culture and identity. Baecker (quoted by Wimmer 2003:VII) defines these kinds of companies as “multi domestic organizations” which have to identify, merger after merger, a new common denominator. Corporate culture as such is of great importance for initiating and implementing strategies likely to lead to success in rapidly changing markets. It “relates to the performance of the company and the satisfaction of the members” (Clegg & Kono 1998:24).

Thus, intercultural competence and intercultural communication have become familiar slogans in economic studies analyzing
corporate transformation processes. Most economic scientists, however, fail to specify and take a closer look at the kind of tool used to ensure this kind of communication. Companies engaging in partnerships abroad merge not only with a different corporate culture embedded in a wider social culture and in a different culture of the host country but with a different language as a crucial component of, and as the most important medium for, expressing this culture. Language in this context can be understood as a tool of cultural and social action and translation therefore, should be considered as a creative part of a communication process in which it acts and transforms at the same time. Thus translation cannot be conceived as an innocent process (cf. Arrojo 1997) but as an act which implies responsibility and awareness with concern to the impact on their recipient(s) and all participants in this communication process. Dizdar (2006) even goes further as she views translation as a political action. Translation therefore should be done by experts who can mediate this process and help to lead it to its skopos (cf. Vermeer 1996) which is, at first glance, “the” understanding of the other.

Where different corporate cultures collide, different behaviours, values and languages clash at the same time. Hence it is of major importance to quickly adopt a viable method of co-operation and show the public (customers, shareholders etc.) that the firm continues to be competitive. This has to be done while business continues. Executives in charge of the transformation process deal with the subject as if it was a “black box” (Doppler 2000:47). They prefer not to look into it. Furthermore, Doppler underlines the fact that they rely on their (often insufficient) command of English, introducing it as the lingua franca or corporate language, not realizing that this “synergy” often causes grave misunderstandings and uneasiness on the part of the new company members (in the sense that all members are new in and alien to this new company and its corporate culture which is to be redefined) while cementing linguistic and thus, cultural inequality and asymmetry.

In my reading I would like to demonstrate that translation as a professional act should be considered as a crucial component of corporate transformation processes: it can be seen as a criterion for open-mindedness and it can and should shape new corporate cultures.


Arrojo, Rosemary (1997): “Asymmetrical Relations of Power and the Ethics of Transla­tion”, in: TextconText 11 = NF 1.1, 5-24.

Baecker, Dirk (³2003): Wozu Kultur? Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos.

Clegg, Stewart R. & Kono, Toyohiro (1998): Transformations of Corporate Culture; Gruyter Studies in Organization, Bd. 83, Berlin – New York: de Gruyter Verlag.

Dizdar, Dilek (2006): Translation. Um- und Irrwege; Berlin: Frank & Timme Verlag (=Ost-West-Express. Kultur und Übersetzung, vol. 1).

Doppler, Klaus (2000): Die Utopie der neuen Kultur, in: Capital 11/2000, 47.

Vermeer, Hans J. (1989): A skopos theory of translation. Some arguments for and against. Heidelberg: TextconText Wissenschaft.

Wimmer, Rudolf (2003): Vorwort; in: Hauser (2003), VII – XI.

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