Have you got what it takes to succeed in Europe? Yes, oui, ja?"

Jane Marshall

Times Higher Education Supplement

European managers need to speak fluent English more than ever before, but English alone is not enough. Firms are increasingly demanding that candidates for high-level posts speak at least two, if not three, languages, a survey of multinational companies' language needs has been found.

English is the language most commonly used in electronic communication, and most companies expect its use to become even more widespread according to the report by the Community of European Management Schools, an alliance of academic and business partners.

But a second foreign language "represents a major advantage," says the report, which is compiled from information collected from interviews with nearly 40 companies that provided placements for CEMS students.

Valerie Gauthier, director of the Centre de Ressources et d'Etudes Anglophones at French business school HEC, and one of the report's authors, noted that employers recognised competence in languages as an indication that a candidate was more adaptable and open-minded: "Not necessarily because of the level of the language, but as a sign of willingness to learn a different culture."

The CEMS is a partnership of 17 European higher education institutions and a number of multinational companies that include Accenture, Danone, Procter & Reuters.

The CEMS masters degree in management requires students to speak at least three languages.

This article appeared in the Times Higher Education Supplement on 4th May 2001. Permission granted by the Editor and the author of the article to reproduce it here is gratefully acknowledged.

R.N. Ibbett