Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

VIEWPOINT: Make Fluency the New Currency


It is a well-known fact that students in Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (MSB) do not have a language proficiency requirement. This exception to Georgetown’s core language requirement is often weaponized against business students in order to point to their lack of work ethic and light workload. As repetitive and reductive as these jokes can be, when it comes to the language requirement, they’re right. 

A school that prides itself on “global business knowledge” should not skimp out when it comes to building communication skills. Rather, the MSB and its administration should make a substantial effort to promote language learning so as to shape a new generation of global business leaders.

The era of reliance on the English language as a key to unlocking the world is coming to a close. While the United States is by no means losing its status as a global hegemon, its influence on the global economy is decreasing as other countries rise up through rapid development and growth. Multi-language proficiency is becoming more necessary than ever; the flexibility it allows in business settings cannot be understated. In as global of a city as Washington, D.C., language is the most valuable form of knowledge. The absence of this MSB requirement is a disservice to its students and their future.

It is essential to incorporate a language requirement into the MSB curriculum in order to improve students’ communication skills, resumes and brain function. As the most spoken language in the world, English is undoubtedly necessary for success in the professional world. However, other regions such as Asia and the Middle East are starting to take center stage in terms of language importance. 

Mandarin, the second most spoken language globally, is increasingly important in the business world due to China’s growing economic influence and the vast opportunities it presents for international trade and partnerships. The third most spoken language, Hindi, is already highly prized by U.S. government agencies and the business market, and both Chinese and Hindi are designated critical languages by the U.S. State Department. 

Proficiency in a second language facilitates connections with international clients, partners and colleagues. Business negotiations often require the nuance of foreign languages and cultures, and adding a language proficiency requirement would allow students to build rapport and negotiate more successfully across different cultures. 

Learning a language is also proven to have various cognitive benefits. For example, multilingual students performed two to three times better on reading and math exams compared to students who knew only one language, according to a study performed at New York University. A study published in the Journal of Language, Identity and Education found that multilingual students performed better in all subjects. Besides academic performance, multilingual individuals demonstrate a greater ease in learning, complex thinking, creativity and mental flexibility, all of which are important to a successful career in business.

Not only does multi-language proficiency have countless benefits, but we personally believe that it is disrespectful to not learn any language other than English. It assumes a position of unspoken superiority over anyone you’re communicating with, as if they must cater to you simply to have a conversation. Any second language proficiency is good, whether it’s an obscure language or a globally spoken one. 

We believe that the act of learning and mastering a new language is an important developmental challenge that cultivates an appreciation for languages and communication overall. Ignoring this challenge and relying on English dampens creativity, demonstrates carelessness and reduces opportunities.

In order to truly stand by its mission statement, the MSB must incorporate a language proficiency requirement. The opportunities provided to multilingual job seekers greatly outnumber those provided to monolingual applicants. Furthermore, enhanced worldwide communication allows for flexibility and fluidity in a business setting. 

Reliance on English as a global language is outdated and egotistical; to expect others to learn your language when you do not bother to do the same is disrespectful. The incorporation of a language requirement similar to that of the School of Foreign Service would greatly benefit MSB students in current and future endeavors. We must adapt to the current global economy by becoming global ourselves.

Charlotte Hibbert is a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. Luke Landegger is a first-year student in the McDonough School of Business.

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