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Topics: Lessons Learned, Quality, Talent Management
Project Management Student Perspective Series#5- Languages in Project Management
Is it important in the era where projects transcend geographic locations, cultures, and regions that a project manager in the making learns a second language or more?
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Stephen

It always helps for sure especially when you are dealing with international settings and different cultures although I find English to be the most dominant language.

RK
Learning about team members' culture, including language, is a great way to build trust and motivation. While fluency in the language is a good thing, it is not the goal, unless it is a working language.

Once you have two languages under your belt, you will find adding additional languages becomes easier.
Stephen,

in my 20 years global career and projects (in Japan, India, Russia etc) I found it not important to speak the language. Also, those who tried did not succeed to master the language so they could discuss business and even were sometimes perceived as showing off.

Having said this, in any language you encounter you should know basic terms like thank you, hello, sorry, goodbye, I do not understand, can you get me taxi (or use uber) etc.

It is indeed more important to understand culture, local laws, or what to do in emergencies.

Thomas
...
1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Jan 21, 2022 12:02 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
Thomas

My experience is in line wiht yours as I worked in many countries overseas from the Middle East to the Far East and lately in North America.

Knowing the "necessary minimum" is enough to show respect to the people, their culture and language but it mastering the language won't help much.

I lived in China for 3 years and learned the bare minimum which was enough to keep me going on a personal and professioal level although most locals there don't speak english (taxi driver, local restaurants and so on).

RK
Jan 21, 2022 10:44 AM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
Stephen,

in my 20 years global career and projects (in Japan, India, Russia etc) I found it not important to speak the language. Also, those who tried did not succeed to master the language so they could discuss business and even were sometimes perceived as showing off.

Having said this, in any language you encounter you should know basic terms like thank you, hello, sorry, goodbye, I do not understand, can you get me taxi (or use uber) etc.

It is indeed more important to understand culture, local laws, or what to do in emergencies.

Thomas
Thomas

My experience is in line wiht yours as I worked in many countries overseas from the Middle East to the Far East and lately in North America.

Knowing the "necessary minimum" is enough to show respect to the people, their culture and language but it mastering the language won't help much.

I lived in China for 3 years and learned the bare minimum which was enough to keep me going on a personal and professioal level although most locals there don't speak english (taxi driver, local restaurants and so on).

RK
...
1 reply by Stephen Robin
Jan 21, 2022 12:29 PM
Stephen Robin
...
A necessary minimum is enough, along with the full understanding of cultural underpinnings and sensitivities is the gist I got from the responses thus far. Mastering a language or language as a project manager that works all over the world is not necessary although it will be a plus.
Jan 21, 2022 12:02 PM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
Thomas

My experience is in line wiht yours as I worked in many countries overseas from the Middle East to the Far East and lately in North America.

Knowing the "necessary minimum" is enough to show respect to the people, their culture and language but it mastering the language won't help much.

I lived in China for 3 years and learned the bare minimum which was enough to keep me going on a personal and professioal level although most locals there don't speak english (taxi driver, local restaurants and so on).

RK
A necessary minimum is enough, along with the full understanding of cultural underpinnings and sensitivities is the gist I got from the responses thus far. Mastering a language or language as a project manager that works all over the world is not necessary although it will be a plus.
...
1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Jan 21, 2022 12:35 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
Please don't misinterpret what I am trying to say and refer to my original response above.

Mastering a language that works all over the world is a huge asset and a necessity and I personally find English to be that language. The "Necessary Minimum" applies to all languages others than the one that is used world wide.

For example, by having good command in the english language, I can almost manage anywhere in the world, even the middle east which is where I originally come from. I speak three languages: Arabic, English and French and know the necessary minimum of 4 more languages (Chinese, Persian, Russian and Japanese).

Out of all three languages I have good command on, I basically use the English language mostly and some verbal talk in Arabic with friends so assuming I don't know Arabic and French, things won't change much for me professionally.

Hope this expains.
Jan 21, 2022 12:29 PM
Replying to Stephen Robin
...
A necessary minimum is enough, along with the full understanding of cultural underpinnings and sensitivities is the gist I got from the responses thus far. Mastering a language or language as a project manager that works all over the world is not necessary although it will be a plus.
Please don't misinterpret what I am trying to say and refer to my original response above.

Mastering a language that works all over the world is a huge asset and a necessity and I personally find English to be that language. The "Necessary Minimum" applies to all languages others than the one that is used world wide.

For example, by having good command in the english language, I can almost manage anywhere in the world, even the middle east which is where I originally come from. I speak three languages: Arabic, English and French and know the necessary minimum of 4 more languages (Chinese, Persian, Russian and Japanese).

Out of all three languages I have good command on, I basically use the English language mostly and some verbal talk in Arabic with friends so assuming I don't know Arabic and French, things won't change much for me professionally.

Hope this expains.
...
1 reply by Stephen Robin
Jan 21, 2022 12:41 PM
Stephen Robin
...
Thanks for the clarification. I still intend to learn a second language because I understand its value. I already speak Fluent English so I presume I can manage in many countries. The aim is being multifaceted from my perspective.
Jan 21, 2022 12:35 PM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
Please don't misinterpret what I am trying to say and refer to my original response above.

Mastering a language that works all over the world is a huge asset and a necessity and I personally find English to be that language. The "Necessary Minimum" applies to all languages others than the one that is used world wide.

For example, by having good command in the english language, I can almost manage anywhere in the world, even the middle east which is where I originally come from. I speak three languages: Arabic, English and French and know the necessary minimum of 4 more languages (Chinese, Persian, Russian and Japanese).

Out of all three languages I have good command on, I basically use the English language mostly and some verbal talk in Arabic with friends so assuming I don't know Arabic and French, things won't change much for me professionally.

Hope this expains.
Thanks for the clarification. I still intend to learn a second language because I understand its value. I already speak Fluent English so I presume I can manage in many countries. The aim is being multifaceted from my perspective.
...
2 replies by Rami Kaibni and Stéphane Parent
Jan 21, 2022 12:45 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
That's a choice of yours to make depending on where you intend to venture to following your studies.

I can see that your command in the english language is outstanding, better than mine especially in the choice of words. Good for your Stephen !
Jan 21, 2022 5:52 PM
Stéphane Parent
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There is value in learning additional languages beyond communication. I remember when I spent two months in Mexico, I learned a lot about the local culture and history of the people through the Spanish I picked up.
Jan 21, 2022 12:41 PM
Replying to Stephen Robin
...
Thanks for the clarification. I still intend to learn a second language because I understand its value. I already speak Fluent English so I presume I can manage in many countries. The aim is being multifaceted from my perspective.
That's a choice of yours to make depending on where you intend to venture to following your studies.

I can see that your command in the english language is outstanding, better than mine especially in the choice of words. Good for your Stephen !
Jan 21, 2022 12:41 PM
Replying to Stephen Robin
...
Thanks for the clarification. I still intend to learn a second language because I understand its value. I already speak Fluent English so I presume I can manage in many countries. The aim is being multifaceted from my perspective.
There is value in learning additional languages beyond communication. I remember when I spent two months in Mexico, I learned a lot about the local culture and history of the people through the Spanish I picked up.

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