You don’t need to study a foreign language. Same with business?

"Why don’t I need to study a foreign language?"  - you might wonder even though the benefits of knowing a foreign language are undeniable: ability to communicate with people from other countries is always in demand. Moreover, fluency in a foreign language increases our value in the eyes of others, because few people in big cities can still claim to be fluent, even in English. And the absence of stress, when confronted with a foreign language use, gives us confidence in our own abilities.

Indeed this problem is a two-sided coin. Not everyone needs to speak a foreign language in everyday life or at work. Situations of dealing with a foreigner where it is necessary to speak English, for example, are mostly rather hypothetical. And in most tourist trips, knowledge of the language is quite easily replaced by a universal sign language. Nevertheless, no one will claim that learning a foreign language at school was useless.

Let's put the question another way: do people feel disappointed with their knowledge of a foreign language? And do people experience frustration from acquiring other academic knowledge?

Years spent at the Stockholm School of Economics in Russia made it abundantly clear to me that students tend to have very high expectations of business education. Often, a graduate of an Executives MBA program expects an instant salary increase or rapid career growth. He or she imagines that the acquired diploma will open up some new extraordinary opportunities. Thus lack of immediate visible success can be very disappointing.

Paradoxically, business education for executives is the same as learning a foreign language. We learn new words, concepts and a new form of expression in order to understand those in business who speak and think differently. It is no coincidence that some Russian words and phrases are being firmly replaced by English ones - if there is a term that more clearly reflects a thought, then why use unnecessarily complicated constructions?

Getting a degree in itself is not a condition for further development. Just like a foreign language, the knowledge acquired in a business school is just another helpful tool. And the result of its use depends on the individual entirely. Moreover, it is possible that this knowledge won’t "wake up" immediately, but after some time has passed. It might happen under the most unexpected of circumstances.

The next important aspect depends on the person's inner state and their willingness to absorb the information they receive. If the base for the interest in the business program is simply 'let them surprise me', the program is likely to result in disappointment. An experienced executive is, by definition, a difficult to surprise person, and any information in the absence of openness will be shattered by healthy scepticism normal in such cases.

New knowledge becomes useful when it is an organic part of the way you think and behave. Same as with a foreign language, the more you speak, the better you get at it and the easier it is for you to communicate. You can explain stuff to a foreigner using gestures, but speaking the same language with them will get you the results you need faster.

Using the language of business in your communications makes it easier to build better communication with the majority of your colleagues from different areas of business and, as a result, increases overall efficiency of your decision-making. That is, it is likely that you would have made a decision without the EMBA diploma, but after completing the program you will do so in a better way: with deep sourcing, structure and a greater degree of stakeholder support. And, therefore, you will be less likely to make a mistake.

Do you need to learn a foreign language? If there is no clear and specific goal, but only a feeling that it will help you in life, probably not. Practice shows that all attempts to learn it will also be unsuccessful. Does an executive need a business education? The answer is the same.

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