Intercultural communication

Intercultural communication

The ability to navigate international settings is increasingly important in our globalised world. We are interested in how different languages and organizational, professional and national cultures influence interactions in a variety of private, public and professional arenas.

Current research topics include:   
  • International and multilingual corporate communication 
  • Language use in international organisations and in multilingual workplaces
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion in organisations 
  • Global leadership and management 
  • International teamwork 
  • Dimensions of politeness across cultures  
  • Critical approaches to teaching intercultural communication 
Our research draws on the fields of linguistics, international business, and cross-cultural management using mostly qualitative data and methods.

Ongoing research projects



    This conversation analytic research project investigates linguistic and multimodal practices acquired and developed on a digital platform at a multinational IT company, where English is used as a lingua franca. The project provides novel insights into how contemporary multilingual workforce juggles between multiple parallel tasks and online communication channels while acquiring, using and adapting linguistic, discursive and multimodal practices. The project answers a call for a more holistic research approach that takes multilingualism into consideration in second language acquisition studies, while engaging with the entirety of semiotic forms which contribute to meaning-making.

    Contact person: Kaisa Sofia Pietikäinen

  • Communicating values and mission statements across cultures

    Communicating values and mission statements across cultures

    Laerdal Medical is present in 25 countries worldwide, which raises the question of what strategies the organisation adopts to communicate and keep its values and mission statement alive across different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The question is answered by conducting interviews and fieldwork observations at the subsidiary Laerdal Medical Japan. The research is a joint project between NHH and Laerdal Medical, and was funded by NHH. 


    Contact person: Kristin Rygg 



  • Multilingualism in the workplace

    Multilingualism in the workplace

    This PhD project focuses on language practices and language learning in the multilingual workplace, specifically at a fish farming factory in Norway. With over 500 employees from 35 different nationalities, the factory provides an ideal setting to investigate how language learning is experienced and perceived by second language users of Norwegian. The project aims to explore how the language learning conditions in the workplace align with the language learning policies of the company and the government, and how workers navigate these conditions.

    The overall goal of this dissertation is to contribute to the growing literature on language learning in real-world contexts and shed light on workers’ experiences of language practices and learning in a multilingual environment. By examining the impact of multilingualism on language practices and learning, the project aims to offer a nuanced understanding of the subject.

    To achieve these goals, the study employs qualitative research methods, including interviews with workers, ethnographic observations, and video recordings of naturally occurring interaction at the multilingual workplace.


    Contact person: Ina Celise Sortland

  • The Communication and Implementation of Global Paternity Leave in Multinational Corporations

    The Communication and Implementation of Global Paternity Leave in Multinational Corporations

    This PhD project focuses on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and intercultural Diversity Management. 

    The dissertation aims to contribute to intercultural research on the so-called linguistic turn in organisational theory. More specifically, the objective is to increase our understanding of the links between the communication of a global family policy and how the communication and policy itself are perceived among employees in different cultures. 

    The data from this empirical study consist of corporate news texts on global parental leave and transcribed interviews with recent father employees and HR leaders working for four MNCs. 

    Contact person: Agnes Bamford

  • Corporate communication and translation in Multinational Corporations

    Corporate communication and translation in Multinational Corporations

    This PhD project examines the linguistic aspect of how ideas and practices travel within MNCs, and the role of the corporate communication function in international transfer processes. Language use is vital when it comes to eliciting employee commitment to managerial initiatives, and in the case of MNCs, they have to reach a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce. Nevertheless, the interplay between translation and international corporate communication remains under-researched.  

    Local communication officers often act as local intermediaries between headquarters and subsidiaries and are charged with the task of translating corporate messages for local use. The dissertation uses interviews, observations and corporate texts from a French MNC to explore how these professionals experience their roles, and how the texts they translate negotiate compliance to the Group and adaptation to local context and concerns. 

    This project highlights the need to include corporate texts and the corporate communication function in studies on international transfer processes, and demonstrates the usefulness of methods from applied linguistics and discourse studies in International Business research. 

    Contact person: Victoria S. Nydegger Schrøder



    In Norway, over 40% of highly skilled migrants (HSMs) are overqualified for their position, according to a recent report published by Statistics Norway (Statistics Norway, 2022). Much of the existing research on diversity and inclusion in the Norwegian work context has focused on Norwegian leaders’ perceptions of migrants and on existing structures to integrate migrants in organisations. These studies are interesting to explain the situation in Norway. Yet, to have a fuller picture of the integration process, migrants’ voices need to be heard. In particular, we need to understand better how they integrate into the local society, not just how they are being integrated.

    This study investigates highly skilled migrants in Norway and their views on diversity and inclusion. One study looks at how they make sense of language-based discrimination in the workplace. Another one examines how they make sense of their contribution to integration in Norway. The data comprises 20 interviews of highly skilled migrants working in different organisations in the Bergen region in Norway.

    Contact person: Annelise Ly



  • Language Management

    Language Management

    The Language Management project focuses on the challenges posed by the dramatic increase in the number of linguistically diverse organisations, where one of the most common strategies is to adopt English as the functional language for organisational communicative purposes.

    Another aspect is the use of the local language in this function, exemplified by the use of Norwegian in multinational organisations located in Norway. The concept of sensemaking is used to describe how members of an organisation interpret their environment and try to reduce equivocality by creating a shared understanding of experienced situations.

    This project is part of NHH's research programme Future-Oriented Corporate Solutions (FOCUS), and addresses questions concerning how language issues affect international knowledge workers working in Norway.


    Contact person: Annelise Ly

  • South Korea - Norway business collaborations

    South Korea - Norway business collaborations

    This study is based on data from a shipbuilding project set in a shipyard in South Korea where the Norwegian Navy had a logistic vessel built. The Norwegian Navy project manager described the collaboration between the Norwegian Royal Navy personnel and the South Korean shipyard personnel as “the world championship in misunderstanding”.  In the spring of 2019, we interviewed representatives of both the Norwegian and the South Korean side to find out what were the main reasons for the misunderstandings. Our findings have been published in: 

    Løhre, A. L., Rygg, K., Rice, P. (2021). Byggingen av marinefartøyet KNM Maud i Sør-Korea: “Et verdensmesterskap i misforståelser” Necesse 6(1), 80-96. 

    We also used the interview data as a case study at two business schools and the outcome has been published in: 

    Rygg, K., Rice, P., Løhre, A. L. (2021). Fostering Complex Understandings of International Business Collaborations in the Higher Education Classroom. Journal of Praxis in Higher Education 3(2), 128-152. 

    Researchers: Kristin Rygg, Associate Professor, Dept of Intercultural and Professional Communication, Norwegian School of Economics. Anne Linda Løhre, Associate professor, Maritime Operations, The Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, Bergen. Paula Rice, Associate Professor, Department of International Business, NTNU i Ålesund. 

    The project was funded by NHH, NTNU and FHS Sjøkrigsskolen.


    Contact person: Kristin Rygg

  • Directness and Indirectness in Japan-Norway Business Communication

    Directness and Indirectness in Japan-Norway Business Communication

    This is PhD-project where Japanese and Norwegian business associates were interviewed about their experiences communicating with each other. In the literature, Japanese are often portrayed as indirect and Norwegians as direct. This study finds that this is only partly true. Japanese superiors and buyers are often more direct than their Norwegian counterparts, and international experience, age/status, the use of English as lingua franca, and perceived nearness to the other's country and culture might affect the communication style of both groups. More in the following two studies: 

    Rygg, K. (2012). Direct and Indirect Communicative Styles. A Study in Sociopragmatics and Intercultural Communication. Based on Interview Discourses with Norwegian and Japanese Business Executives. PhD thesis, Bergen: University of Bergen/NHH Norwegian School of Economics. 

    Rygg, K. (2015). Japanese and Norwegian metapragmatic perceptions of contextual factors in intercultural business communication. Journal of Intercultural Communication 38, July 2015. 

    The study was funded by NHH.


    Contact person: Kristin Rygg

  • International Internal Communication in the Workplace

    International Internal Communication in the Workplace

    Successful communication among employees working in the same company is essential but difficult. However, it can become even more challenging when employees are from different national and linguistic backgrounds and are required to interact in English (used as a lingua franca for business purposes or BELF), in which they may be less competent than in their mother tongues. Misunderstandings and tensions may arise and are often attributed to national cultural differences, particularly when the employees are from diametrically opposed cultures. The thesis examines the key challenges when employees communicate with their international colleagues. It draws on several disciplines (organisational theory, linguistics, intercultural communication…) and combines different research methods to tackle these issues.

    More in the following studies

    Ly, A. (2016). International internal communication in the workplace: A transdisciplinary approach. NHH

    Ly, A. (2016). Internal e-mail communication in the workplace: Is there an “East-West divide”?. Intercultural Pragmatics13(1), 37-70.

    Ly, A. (2017). Making sense of communication and cultural differences in the workplace: The case of Sino-Scandinavian Collaborations. In Intercultural Communication with China (pp. 111-131). Springer, Singapore.

    Ly, A. (2016). Getting access to language data in the workplace: Role enactment as a data-generation method. The Ins and Outs of Business and Professional Discourse Research, 63-80.

    Contact person: Annelise Ly

  • Recontextualisation of corporate values in MNCs

    Recontextualisation of corporate values in MNCs

    Companies that nurture a shared corporate culture based on specific corporate values can improve their performance. However, when companies expand globally, communicating and transferring these values can be challenging, particularly when there are significant linguistic and cultural differences. This qualitative study examined the case of a small Norwegian IT company that has put its two corporate values at the core of its activity, and how these values were transferred to a subsidiary in India. Drawing on the concept of recontextualization and socialization theory, the study investigates the following: (1) how the corporate values were transferred, recontextualized and renegotiated in the Indian subsidiary; (2) how those values were implemented through a set of socialization mechanisms. Our main findings reveal how the Indian leaders actively recontextualized the values into prevailing cultural practices in India, and how senior employees were engaged in the value transfer process. Moreover, this article outlines how a small company without a formal HR department and with no expatriates to guide the process can use soft control mechanisms related to more formalized and structured HR practices to implement the headquarters’ values. Additionally, the article discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the findings.

    More in the following study:

    Sverdrup, T. E., & Ly, A. (2022). The role of recontextualization and socialization practices in transferring corporate values from a small Norwegian IT company to an Indian subsidiary. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1-32.

    Contact person: Annelise Ly