How do I succeed in a non-English speaking MBB office?

second language
New answer on May 25, 2020
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on May 23, 2020

I am currently a Tier-2 consultant that is looking to transition to a MBB firm in another country.

Although my local language skills are sufficient to pass the interview, I've never had formal experience in working in the local language. My concern is that this will negatively impact my performance evaluations if I am compared against other local Consultants.

Will I be able to have control over doing the first couple of projects in English while I transition? How do non-local consultants succeed in foreign offices?

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Content Creator
replied on May 24, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

well done for thinking in advance about this issue.

I believe it is definitely a fair concern, not only in terms of the projects but also of the interactions with your colleagues (joking or in general create deep connections in another language is incredibly hard if you are not fluent).

If you are serious about moving to that country, I would be proactive and start to work right now on the language. This will be a great investment to create deep connections later on.

A few things I found particularly useful and I would recommend doing right now are:

  • Find a teacher. I recommend for that. You can filter them based on languages, reviews, budget, availability, etc, similarly to PrepLounge coaches. I am using it for a couple of languages and it works really well.
  • Study daily new words. I recommend the app Anki, which uses the SRS system – the best way to learn new words. Focus on the words critical for your job – usually, if you master the 1000 most important one, you can talk and understand relatively well your niche
  • Gamify your learning. I tried a few apps and the one I liked the most in terms of that is Memrise

In many countries, you don’t use English for local projects thus there is no guarantee you may use it at the beginning.

Once you start your projects, I would do the following:

  1. Verify with HR the availability of projects where you feel more confident in terms of technical words
  2. Align with your team on the fact you are working to improve your language skills upfront
  3. Check the availability of language courses offered by the company to speed up your fluency

Hope this helps,


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Anonymous updated the answer on May 24, 2020


It really depends on the country that you are going.

For example in Indonesia, Philppines and Malaysia if you don't speak local language it would not be an issue in large part. However, country like Vietnam, France or Thailand that could be an issue.

So I would suggest to explore the specific characteristic of the country you are applying to know how it would impact you.


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Anonymous replied on May 24, 2020

Hi there,

It depends a lot on how "local" the other country is, meaning would the client mainly use local language for work, how good their english would be, would the consulting team mostly work in local language? If the client and team mostly use local language, then unfortunately you'd have more challenge to overcome.

It also depends on your level. If you are relatively junior, then it doesn't matter as much, because your work would be more analytical than stakeholder management. But if your role is more senior and requires a lot more relationship building, then having local language skill would be a bit plus.

Regardless, it's always good if you can learn the language. Just make sure you be upfront with the situation and manage expectation accordingly.



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Content Creator
replied on May 23, 2020
Consultant at BCG Nordics| PE and Due Diligence | BCG London, Boston & Dubai office experience

It will help to give a more specific answer if you mention which country are you moving to. As an English speaker working in Nordics, I can understand the concern.

While the experience could vary across firms and countries, from my personal experience, in my personal experience, you can work around the disadvantage of not knowing the local language

  1. Align yourself to sectors where you are more likely to work with multicultural teams. Technology, Private equity are some of such practice areas
  2. Reach out to international colleagues in your target firm and learn from their experience
  3. In your project/team, don't be shy to mention that you would like communication to be kept in English such as on emails, while making presentations, etc.
  4. Several companies sponsor basic language courses for international workers. So check for such a course with the HR

Finally, nothing beats making an attempt to learn the local language. if your clients/colleagues see you making an effort to learn their language, I am sure that they will appreciate it and make an effort to support you. Enroll in a language course already (there are several good free/paid ones at a nominal fee) to get you started. if you have more specific questions, shoot me a DM.

Best wishes,

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Content Creator
replied on May 23, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep


I have two recommendations:

1) Before you start, do everything you can to ramp-up your skills. This means:

  • Online courses
  • Academies
  • Coaching (Italki is good)
  • Business vocabularly memorization
  • Language learning partnerships (I love HelloTalk)

2) Once you start, flag this uncertainty with Staffing/HR. Let them know you'd appreciate an initial case or two that doesn't fully depend on the local language.

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Content Creator
replied on May 24, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

That's definitely an issue and worth thinking/preparing in advance. Even though you might perform well on a technical level, selling yourself (at least a bit .. too much of it is simply too much anyway..) and forming strong interpersonal connections is incredibly hard in a foreign language (and sometimes even if you are speaking the same language with a different accent..).

I see 2 main points for your prep:

  1. Get accustomed to informal conversations in the target language
  2. Try to be staffed on international projects at least in the beginning where the majority of discussions and materials are supposed to be in English (or another language in which you are proficient).

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!


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Anonymous replied on May 25, 2020

Dear A,

I have the same store as you do. I'm born Ukrainian who used to work in Germany in the local language, as well as the Middle East and other international locations. I'm happy to share my experience regarding your concerns on how a foreigner can succeed in the other language environment.

Feel free to reach out

Good luck,

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Content Creator
replied on May 25, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


For sure language will be tested in the process.

If you pass that successfully, then you are good also for working in that language.

Hence, is the interview what I would focus on most.

Hope it helps!



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Francesco gave the best answer


Content Creator
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching
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