Purpose – The service management literature emphasizes the importance of communication, but language difficulties can make communicating in business settings more difficult. This paper addresses consumer willingness to communicate in a second language to identity the antecedents that drive consumer language preferences.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents the findings of an empirical study in two multilingual countries with a total of 361 adult respondents.
Findings – The findings show perceived control to be the strongest antecedent of consumer willingness to communicate in a second language, and identifies second language skills as an antecedent in countries with little political tensions related to language, while political considerations is a strong antecedent in countries where language use is political.
Research limitations/implications – The study is limited to countries with more than one official language. While multilingual countries make up around 2/3 of the world’s population, future research could test whether the same antecedents are applicable in monolingual societies.
Practical implications – The findings help managers to understand in which situations consumers may be willing to switch language, and in which situations it is important to serve consumers in more than one language.
Originality/value – The paper is the first to draw upon both the service management literature and the sociolinguistic literature to develop and test a model to explain consumer language preferences.