chapter  1
10 Pages

The Paradoxical Consequences of ‘The Perfect Accent’!

A Critical Approach to Cross-Cultural Interactions
WithJane Kassis-Henderson, Linda Cohen

Our case points to the limits of the simplified and essentialist models—both of identity and of language—which characterize mainstream cross-cultural management. Through the lens of intersectionality, this case brings to the fore the paradoxical finding that gaining foreign language fluency can have a negative impact on communication and interpersonal relations.

Our analysis of the experience of an American lawyer in France highlights the limits of trying to conform to a one-size-fits-all model of language and culture. Through this case, we show how an awareness of the multiple markers of identity, together with a more subtle understanding of language and culture, can transform communication and power strategies in interpersonal relations. The case demonstrates how an individual recovers agency by changing voice as different aspects of identity become more or less salient according to context. We show that individuals may be empowered if self-awareness and reflexivity, based on an intersectional approach, lie at the core of their personal communication strategies.