Is foreign language (primarily English) ability a pre-requisite? The answer is YES and NO.
I have seen many small businessmen running rather successful trading businesses involving exports or even imports. These small businessmen do not have a big budget to hire someone who is really well versed in foreign language to help in the business. Mind you, this is my Hong Kong experience if you happen to be from mainland China.
Businessmen are for a fact actually quite capable in communicating across languages. They move around from country to country talking to local businessmen or factory owners to close deals.
I remember an Australian lady trainer in business communication asking a professor in linguistics in a conference this question. “What is our role in training Asian businessmen to communicate in English with each other when before the commencement of a training session I witnessed participants talking to each other already merrily without any introduction at all?” Quite rightly, businessmen are talented in communicating across languages.
Now, let’s pan over to the well-established big trading houses. There, as a staffer, you are expected to be well versed in English. It’s the image of the trading house concerned. It’s productivity involved. It’s the convenience of your counterparties involved, reading your emails written in clear and easy to understand English.
Imagine your overseas counterparties’ reaction when they receive an email written in hard to understand Chinglish. They certainly will get frustrated. My contact person for a corporate training program I taught a few years back admitted to me in confidence that they were called up by counterparties like Microsoft USA to question them what the heck was going on as they couldn’t understand emails received from the China counterparty. Their English was totally incomprehensible. That was a true story from China’s then number 2 biggest telecommunications equipment manufacturer.
In my next deposit, I will talk about other aspects expected of a successful international marketing executive.
If you happen to be reading this post, you are most welcome to respond to this post and share with us your own views and experience.