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These are the languages you need for an MBA

According to the QS MBA Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2015/16 language skills and international awareness are two of the skill sets employers look for in new employees with an MBA degree.


Picture: Cozy Nook / fotolia

Whilst most internationally oriented business schools as well as business schools in the UK, US, Canada and Australia teach programmes in English, there are also plenty of local offers in the languages of individual countries. 

In Germany for example, where the MBA has experienced a growth spurt in recent years about a third of all programme offers are in English whereas the remaining programmes are either in German, or are taught in English and German. Some even include Spanish as an option.

Regardless of the origin of the business school, most schools that teach in English ask for English proficiency tests like the Toefl or Ielts test. Schools that teach in French as well as English, like Canada’s HEC Montréal in Quebec (French is Canada’s second official language) often ask for a TFI (a French-language proficiency test) for all students from a non-French background.

Other schools teach in English but offer language options like French business school Essec (French) or McCombs School of Business in Texas, where students can take foreign-language electives. The University of Miami offers an Executive MBA for the Americas in Spanish, a course which is primarily aimed at professionals looking to work in Latin America or to conduct business with the region, states QS’ website Top MBA for example

In Latin America, Spanish is an essential language to speak. Programmes in this region are partly taught in Spanish and English but as these programmes address more a local than a foreign market, it is the English part where prospective students will have to sit proficiency tests rather than in the Spanish language. Not surprisingly maybe, schools like IAE in Argentina for example conduct final admissions interviews in English as well as Spanish to test how fluent candidates speak and how well they understand both languages.

In general, regardless of which country students choose: even if the programme is taught in English, it can only be beneficial for a later career if students aim to pick up another language. People with a European or Asian background tend to often speak two to four different languages as a minimum, whereas foreign languages are often less popular in English-speaking countries. Australia for example allows its high school students to opt out of foreign languages completely by making them elective subjects and a non-requirement for the high school certificate.

In Asia, most MBA programmes are conducted in English, but although proficiency in Mandarin is not essential to gain admission into a programme in China for example, top business schools usually teach compulsory Chinese-language courses. CEIBS, for example, asks for a one-month immersion summer course for students with no prior experience in Mandarin.

Read more at Top MBA

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