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Facilitating Global Team Meetings Between Language-Based Subgroups: When and How Can Machine Translation Help?

by   Yongle Zhang, et al.

Global teams frequently consist of language-based subgroups who put together complementary information to achieve common goals. Previous research outlines a two-step work communication flow in these teams. There are team meetings using a required common language (i.e., English); in preparation for those meetings, people have subgroup conversations in their native languages. Work communication at team meetings is often less effective than in subgroup conversations. In the current study, we investigate the idea of leveraging machine translation (MT) to facilitate global team meetings. We hypothesize that exchanging subgroup conversation logs before a team meeting offers contextual information that benefits teamwork at the meeting. MT can translate these logs, which enables comprehension at a low cost. To test our hypothesis, we conducted a between-subjects experiment where twenty quartets of participants performed a personnel selection task. Each quartet included two English native speakers (NS) and two non-native speakers (NNS) whose native language was Mandarin. All participants began the task with subgroup conversations in their native languages, then proceeded to team meetings in English. We manipulated the exchange of subgroup conversation logs prior to team meetings: with MT-mediated exchanges versus without. Analysis of participants' subjective experience, task performance, and depth of discussions as reflected through their conversational moves jointly indicates that team meeting quality improved when there were MT-mediated exchanges of subgroup conversation logs as opposed to no exchanges. We conclude with reflections on when and how MT could be applied to enhance global teamwork across a language barrier.


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