International Business without foreign language capabilities

Diaspora networks as a resource in the internationalization of SMEs


  • Maria Elo University of Southern Denmark
  • Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen Åbo Akademi University


Diaspora networks, SME, internationalization, language, language capabilities, linguistic capital, social capital, cultural capital, Greek diaspora, diaspora strategy, diaspora resources, interpretation



We challenge the assumption that a lack of foreign language competence confines SMEs to their domestic markets, and highlight diaspora networks as an alternative route to SME internationalization that bypasses the need for in-house foreign language competence. Our longitudinal case study of an internationalizing Greek SME shows how owner-managers compensate for a lack of foreign language skills by leveraging their social capital to access diaspora networks. Through these external resources, SMEs can access linguistic and cultural competences needed to exploit foreign business opportunities, with potentially significant repercussions especially for Global South SMEs due to the growth of diaspora networks as a consequence of increasing migration. Potential drawbacks of international expansion through diaspora networks are also discussed, and suggestions for future research are provided.





3.2 International Migrants in Business