The multi-lingual MBA

Von am 13. April 2015

In the increasingly globalised world of work, multi-national companies are looking to hire business high-flyers who can communicate in several different languages. For some schools speaking another language than English is a compulsory part of the MBA.

Language matters – this is fully understood by Europe’s top business schools. INSEAD, IESE, HEC, and London Business School all incorporate a language requirement and the opportunity to learn and practise another language. INSEAD, for example, teaches Mandarin at Fontainebleau and at its Asia campus in Singapore.

For some schools, a language component is a compulsory part of the MBA. The INSEAD MBA, for example, is taught exclusively in English, therefore fluent English is a pre-requisite. In addition to English, another language at a practical level is also required for entry and students are expected to add a third language by the time they finish their MBA. “At INSEAD we believe strongly in the importance of an international outlook and the ability to work effectively in multiple cultures,” says admissions director Pejay Belland.

London Business School has no language entry requirement but students cannot graduate unless they have reached level 2 business proficiency in a second language. “We expect all of our MBAs to be able to do business in another language and understand that country’s cultural subtleties,” says admissions director for the MBA, David Simpson. Taught over 15-21 months, the LBS MBA incorporates sufficient time for intensive language study and overseas internships, which put students’ language skills to the test.

Seven core languages Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Mandarin, Arabic and Russian are taught by visiting faculty from Kings College London’s languages department. Besides this, courses in other languages may be offered if there is sufficient demand.

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At HEC business school in Paris the language entry requirement is more relaxed. “You might have lived outside your home country for a period, you attended school abroad, or that you work for an international company mixing with people from different nationalities,” says admissions director Philippe Oster.

Even though classes are taught in English, proficiency in French is a prerequisite. “French language for non-natives is compulsory and credit bearing. MBA students spend at least four hours a week for eight months learning French,” says Oster.

Taught over two years and regarded by many as the equivalent of an MBA, masters’ in management degrees typically include study in several different countries and languages. An alumna of ECSCP (Europe) and fluent in French, English and German Sylvie Glandier is head of marketing for UK Trade and Investment in Brussels. “I work with British embassies across Europe organising trade fairs and liaising with local suppliers. I get the best deals and the best service by negotiating with people in their own language.”






Über Stephen Hoare

Writer, journalist, and commissioning editor, Stephen Hoare is a regular contributor to the Guardian, the Times, the Independent and the website University World News. He specialises in MBAs, postgraduate education, talent management and international business education. Stephen’s latest book Talent Management, was co-written with Andrew Leigh, and published by Pearson as part of the Financial Times Briefing series.