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Foreign Language Proficiency and Work-Related Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis
Expatriates are indispensable to many multinational companies, and their importance has increased in recent decades. Yet, given the challenge of integrating employees from different countries and cultural backgrounds, expatriates are a costly and risky investment for companies. Previous research has shown that proficiency in English or the host country language is an important, though not prioritized, success factor to consider when recruiting expatriates. Nevertheless, the evidence on the importance of language proficiency for expatriate work outcomes is inconsistent in terms of the direction and magnitude of the effect sizes and rarely based on theoretical frameworks.

Previous meta-analyses in this field lack profound moderator analyses and are based only on small sample sizes. Therefore, we meta-analytically synthesize the relationships between foreign language proficiency and six work-related outcomes (expatriation intention, cross-cultural adjustment, job satisfaction, job performance, life satisfaction, and turnover intention). The bivariate analyses are supplemented by several moderator analyses. The results expose significant relationships for all direct effects and uncover several significant moderators. The project shows that language skills are an important success factor. Thus, through language training, expatriates can better cope with the difficult situation abroad, and both recruiters and expatriates can increase the success of international assignments.

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