Business Schools Place Increasing Emphasis on Language Requirements

Lisa @ Sierra Tierra/Flickr

Lisa @ Sierra Tierra/Flickr–Even libraries are getting in on the multilingual trend!

More and more business schools are making foreign language proficiency a pre-requisite for matriculation or a requirement for graduation.

Business schools worldwide have recently began adding foreign language to the requirements of their degree offerings. The Guardian reports that the trend has begun with some of the top MBA programs in Europe, such as the London Business School, where graduates need to obtain an intermediate level of proficiency in a foreign language to graduate.

At Insed, students are required to have complete business proficiency in a foreign language, which means a working knowledge of business vocabulary and also the cultural competency required to interface across cultures and languages.

In addition, they are also expected to have added a second foreign language by the time they complete their degrees.

However, this is just the beginning–other business school programs are increasingly following suit! According to The Economist, schools in France, Spain, and all throughout Europe are making foreign language learning a core part of their curriculum.

Business programs, such as IESE in Barcelona, are taught in English, but they may teach some of their upper-level programs in the language of the country in which they’re located.

This trend is picking up not only because of pressure from top schools but also because prestigious programs want to attract top students; almost three-quarters of prospective MBA students have said that it is important to learn a new language at business school, according to the Economist!

This language requirement is great for schools, but it’s even better for their graduates. While job applicants with MBAs certainly are very marketable, being polyglot or even bilingual improves one’s job prospects significantly. Worldwide, foreign language proficiency is one of the most commonly listed requirements on position postings, again according to The Economist.

Furthermore, The Economist reports how over 40% of executives around the globe expect potential new hires to speak at least one foreign language. While language learning may certainly be helpful in finding employment, it’s even more useful once the job actually begins–a while ago, we even covered how speaking multiple languages can help you make better decisions and do well at negotiations!

Why the Sudden Demand for Languages?

Globalization has continued to create interesting demands in markets everywhere. For now, it is essential that executives from different cultures be able to find a common language on which to conduct business.

Most positions that may look attractive to business school grads will require them to travel throughout the UK and Europe to go to client meetings, perform site visits or audits, negotiate deals in-person, etc. (We’re sure you can think of more reasons to take a foreign holiday and be able to write it off!)

Even though the bulk of international business is actually happening in English, at the very least a modicum of cultural competence is essential for English-speakers wanting smooth relations with international business partners.

You wouldn’t want, for example, to forget to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home in India or Singapore or to kiss someone on the cheek as greeting in Saudi Arabia where it’s frowned upon. Being familiar with the languages in the regions with which you interface can give you a window into the culture, which will certainly give you a leg up in business.

In short, business schools have the right of it–in today’s world, to be monolingual is to be a liability at your place of work. It can hold you back when considerations for promotions come up, it can limit where you’re able to work and find success, and it certainly won’t help if you need to change jobs.

But I’m NOT an MBA Student–What Should I Do?

If you’re not a prospective MBA student or recent business school grad, this may not be the best news for you. It’s easy for young twenty-somethings to simply pick up another language during their business school electives, but what about already-established adults who have been out of school for a while?

Never fear! The Guardian reports how studies have shown that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been out of school; you can always learn another language. While it may admittedly be a little more difficult to learn another language the older you are, the brain’s inherent neuroplasticity means that it’s always possible with a little diligence and elbow grease.

Learning a foreign language will always be a solid career move, and if you already have an established population you primarily work with, you can always build your résumé by learning a “niche” language. For example, if you work specifically with people in Northern Spain, it may serve you not to learn Spanish but Catalan instead!

We hear Barcelona is lovely this time of year

Moyan Brenn/Flickr–We hear Barcelona is lovely this time of year

So, whether you’re a bright-eyed young MBA student trying to broaden your horizons or a well-established career executive looking to deepen your knowledge (and compete with all the recent MBA grads!) learning another language will absolutely help you in your quest.

Want to keep your hand in at the Mandarin skills you learned in school? Looking to add a few lines to your résumé by picking up Czech? We’ve got a certified language trainer for you! Get started today by taking a free online level test to check how good your language skills are.