language fluency or study abroad experience?

I don't know if this is this right place to post a question like this, but I thought it may also be appropriate for those seeking an MBA...

Do you see it more relevant and/or beneficial for someone to gain language fluency or study abroad experience in an emerging market such as Hong Kong or Shanghai (non business related)?

How would your decision affect your marketability to employers/business schools AND/OR your ability to add more value on Wall Street?

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (6)

Mar 20, 2007 - 1:29pm

As you present it I'd say go with the extra language. Be more specific though as to which language and what your plans are (the specific options you talk about, then you'll aim for NYC BB IBD M&A analyst?).

Bare in mind that westerners in HK/Shanghai work/study in english and mix with westerners/english speakers. Gaining fluency in a foreign language also requires living in the country for a significant amount of time (with the locals, not other foreigners!) and a lot of discipline. I know quite a few guys who went abroad to study/work and came back without greatly improved language skills.

Mar 20, 2007 - 3:07pm

Fluency and experience living abroad go hand in hand, you will never get to a very high level of a language without living in the country, unless you go on some super intensive 40hr/wk course like intelligence agencies use, which for a normal person would cost an arm and leg. What's the name of that MBA joint france/singapore, you could do the mandarin that way.

Mar 20, 2007 - 4:12pm

Let me reiterate

Basically, which one of the following would have more value for ER/IB, or WS in general:

1) I studied in HK for 4 months, picked up very basic Mandarin, learned about Chinese Marketing, and maybe interned at a bank while studying.

2) I studied in Chile for 4 months, became almost fluent in Spanish (considering I know a good amount of Spanish now), and learned about Hispanic Marketing.

3) I studied in Korea for 4 months, became almost fluent in Korean (considering I know a good amount of Korean now), learned about Asian Marketing, visited HK, and maybe interned at a bank while studying.

Mar 20, 2007 - 5:13pm

Options 2 or 3, depending on which region you’re more interested in.

The value of living abroad comes from language fluency, adapting to and understanding the culture. This can only really be done by living with the locals. Cultural+language skills add real value to a CV by giving access to more clients and deals therefore $$$. So go for fluency rather than what could look like a sexier destination (HK or Shanghai). As a sidenote I have friends who have "basic" knowledge of 5 languages. OK to show off but completely useless when you get down to real business.

Four months is short to become fluent in a language, you’d really have to put a lot of effort into it. By this I mean doing all courses in the local language as well as related reading/listening/writing, and avoiding all non-Spanish mother thong students. It’s really easy to get caught up in the international crowd which speaks English no matter which continent you’re on, and spends a lot of time getting pissed. Focus on your top priorities.

In IB language skills are needed to process reports and websites relating to target and buyer companies in very short periods of time and communicate with company management (+occasionally pitchbooks are in the local language). No time or tolerance for mistakes. I'm less familiar with ER, but companies worth covering will communicate in english. Languages still a plus though since some info isn't translated and it also helps for communication with management.

So do you want to work in Asia or the US? If you’re set on Wall Street, or want an experience in London, Spanish is what you need. Otherwise a few years in Asia could also be interesting.

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

July 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (9) $911
  • Vice President (36) $363
  • Associates (209) $232
  • 2nd Year Analyst (119) $152
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (28) $146
  • Intern/Summer Associate (100) $145
  • 1st Year Analyst (439) $132
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (354) $82