Writing in Transnational Workplaces: Teaching Strategies for Multilingual Engineers


Introduction: Professional communication instructors in transnational contexts face unique challenges when helping students transition into the workplace. These challenges include preparing students for multilingual workplaces and educational settings, as well as multicultural communication in English at transnational workplaces. About the case: The authors, working at an international branch campus (IBC) in the Middle East, wanted to revise their assignments in a technical writing course for engineers in order to better prepare students for the realities of professional communication in the region. Situating the case: Engineering students matriculate into an increasingly diverse workplace, but instructors may not adequately understand the needs of employers in transnational corporations. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with students and alumni of the IBC, and transcripts were coded for common themes. Results/discussion: Students and alumni had different perceptions of workplace communication genres, expectations for detailed writing, and the ability to adapt rhetorical strategies for different contexts. Alumni experienced a gap between their professors’ and their workplaces’ expectations for business genres and level of detail. They also reported that one of their significant challenges was adopting a flexible mindset toward written and spoken communication practices. Conclusions: Professional communication instructors should emphasize the strengths of multilingual writers, particularly their sense of language difference and rhetorical attunement, to better prepare them for the transnational workplace, in both the US and abroad. The authors describe changes in their pedagogy to help students adopt a more flexible and industry-oriented mindset toward technical communication.



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Engineering communication, multilingual writers, transnational education, workplace communication

Publication Date


Journal Title

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication