"Bilingual Beware:" You May NOT Want Your Local Managers To Speak Perfect English.
Peter M. Nadler, Gaikoku Jimu Bengoshi**
Most of our clients are the Japanese subsidiaries of foreign entities who receive instructions from overseas head offices. Overseas management is naturally more comfortable dealing with bilingual (Japanese/English) local managers. While bilingual capability is important, we strongly advise that hires be done primarily on subject matter expertise with high bilingual capability being a “nice to have.”
We have seen many cases where the sub’s President or other key Manager had excellent language skills, which initially wow’d the foreign head office. But some of these key managers had little subject matter expertise and disguised this lack, at least initially, by language fluency.
On the other hand, we know of many capable Japanese managers who may not be 100% fluent in English but have strong enough language skills to adequately communicate. More importantly, they are true subject matter experts in their fields.
In our experience, they are usually good, long-term employees despite occasional communication lapses.