“Please do not leave any notes for the cleaning lady, as many do not speak English fluently”: policy, power, and language brokering in a multilingual workplace

Kellie Gonçalves, Anne Ambler Schluter

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates the covert language policy and micro-language planning practices of one female Brazilian-American entrepreneur, Magda, within her multilingual cleaning company. Because Magda is plurilingual (Spolsky in Language policy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004), she is able to draw on her metalinguistic awareness and multicompetence in order to facilitate communication between her working-class migrant employees and her English-speaking clients as well as engage in what we call “inter-employee brokering”. Magda’s position as the company’s primary language broker enhances her authoritative power in both employer-employee and company owner-customer relations. The current study addresses the need to look into language practices and micro language planning within local contexts (Nekvapil and Nekula in Language planning in local contexts. Multilingual Matters, New York, pp 268–287, 2008) as well as blue-collar workplaces (Holmes in Continuum companion to discourse analysis. Continuum, London, pp 185–198, 2011; Lønsmann and Kraft in The Routledge handbook of language in the workplace. Routledge, New York, forthcoming), which in one way reflect macro social structures, class differences and asymmetrical power relations concerning language use, but also emphasize a deviation from these macro-level patterns through the value placed on Portuguese as the lingua franca within the cleaning company.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-265
Number of pages25
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Covert language policy
  • Language broker
  • Multilingual workplace
  • Overt language policy
  • Power
  • “Inter-employee brokering”

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

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