Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Institut für Deutsch als Fremdsprachenphilologie

Intercultural Business Communication

Project Director:

Prof. Dr. Christiane von Stutterheim

Research Associate:

Heiko Richter M.A

Supported by:

Lilly, Critical Care Europe, since July 2005



International business communication is a field where speakers with different languages and cultural backgrounds are required to communicate at a high level of professional competence in a language which is a second language to many of them. The fact that face-to-face communication is being replaced by virtual communication through e-media aggravates the problem since the negotiation of meaning, a built-in feature of face-to-face situation, is eliminated.


The online platform "Xiprean" run by CCE, Critical Care Europe, Lilly, provides an ideal empirical basis for the study of international business communication. The aims of the study are twofold:


Descriptive Goals

Selected contributions in the platform (restricted possibly on the basis of the languages involved and content) will be analysed with respect to language and culture-specific patterns of information organisation and expression. Problems leading to misunderstandings and content distortion will be identified.

Due to these results, a simulation with a smaller version of "Xiprean" is planned. In this simulation, students with different mother tongues will get a business case to solve and will be asked to negotiate on the platform mainly in English to get a realistic situation and reliable results. Through detailed interviews, it will be possible to understand more of the background of potential miscommunication on this online platform.


Practical Goals

On the basis of the descriptive results, a training program will be developed to overcome language-related communicative problems, as evidenced in native and non-native speaker exchanges.