Bilingualism Growing More Important Across the Globe

January 18, 2005 ( - The ability to speak a second language will become increasingly common in the coming years, according to a survey of executive recruiters.

According to the Executive Recruiter Index, 88% of recruiters from Europe, Asia, and Latin America think that being at least bilingual is critical to success in business in those areas. Eighty-five percent of those in Europe, 88% in Asia and 95% in Latin America “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that speaking a second language was essential to business success, according to a press release from Korn/Ferry International.

In ten years, these recruiters think that bilingualism will be even more important. Seventy-four percent in Europe, 72% in Asia and 79% in Latin America think that ten years from now, speaking a second language will be “more important than today.” Overall, recruiters think that bilingualism gives executives a competitive advantage, with 66% in Europe, 52% in Asia, and 79% in America agreeing with this. Only 49% of North American recruiters agree that speaking multiple languages gives and executive a competitive advantage, however.

For those in Europe, Asia and Latin America, English was the second language of choice for 88% of recruiters. In North America, 79% said Spanish would be the most important second language to speak for executive success. French was second at 43%, while Mandarin was third at 30%.

On a global basis, consumer products, retail and apparel was chosen as the most important business in which to possess a second language, ranked in the top three by 38% of respondents. Following this was technology (34%) and professional services (31%). By functional area, marketing and sales was chosen the most (37%), followed by president or general management (23%) and CEO (14%).

When asked whether a higher degree of bilingualism was more important, recruiters responses were mixed. In Europe and Asia, more recruiters said being bilingual was more important, while in American, 63% said that having a higher degree was. In Asia, recruiters chose “it depends on the industry/function” more than any other answer.

The survey was based on 185 Korn/Ferry International ( ) consultants, and was conducted online in October and November.