As the MCA programme grows there will be many unforeseen aspects and hurdles on its path of expansion. One of them is the approach to different languages and different cultures as the programme expands beyond American-centred boundaries.

Let’s tackle the language issues first.
You may disagree but the fact is that English is not the only language on this planet. Despite the widespread adoption of English as the second language in many countries [accelerated by the US dominance of IT and the internet in recent decades], countries like Japan, Korea or even places like France, Germany or Italy can perfectly run the vast majority of their IT business in their native languages. Yet the (English speaking) MCA review board expects that candidates will be able to cover a vast area of knowledge space in a very short time in the language that the board understands (aka English). In 10 minutes slots there is not much time to translate each English question to your language, do the thought process, translate the results back to English and hope that the words chosen will be understood by the juror. Trust me, I have been there and English is my 5th language – it was as tough as hell. How much slower is the communication process for the non-English speaker you ask? I’d say I had to process information at least 2-3 times faster than a native English speaking candidate just to keep up with the pace dictated by the review board.

Should we allow interpreters (or other means of translation) to help candidates from major language groups to communicate with the board in their native language? Definitely. Should we allow more time per candidate if they are non-English speakers? Well, maybe. If there is more time allowed, are we not discriminating against English-speaking candidates? What if the candidate is more than fluent in English yet demands more time just to gain the advantage and makes his review board session easier? On the other side we can be brutal saying that the language of IT is English so all MCA candidates should be fluently conversant in English (in other words, English fluency should be one of required competencies of an MCA candidate). This may sound as an obvious assertion but it is a road to numb cosmopolitanism and would not be accepted well. When there will be enough multi-language MCAs certified, this issue will dissapear as review boards will be conducted in the local language. But that might be quite far away.

It gets worse when we add the intercultural issues.
Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate with people of other cultures. Good communication includes the sensitivity to issues such as different cultural traits and the ability to ask hard questions the proper way. Let me give a couple of examples:

  1. The typical individualistic questions on the review board resonate particularly bad if the candidate is from the collectivist culture (such as Brazil, China, India, Korea and others). Individualist cultures thrive and collectivist cultures stare blank at questions like: “What did you do personally on that project?”, “What would be your worst failure?”, “How was the goal of your team different from the goal of the client?”
  2. Cultures with high power distance can’t handle the Organizational Dynamics in the same way as cultures with low power distance. Particularly bad questions for high power distance cultures (Arabic, Asian, Latin America): “Describe the situation when you opposed your manager”, “How do you mentor others”, “Why didn’t you just ask the executive?”
  3. How about risk-averse versus risk-taking cultures? In risk-averse cultures (such as Germany or Japan) you can’t ‘just do it’ and every step of the project will be planned, tested and verified to death. Asking questions such as: “Would you use the beta version of the next-generation product?”, “Describe top 3 risks on your project”, “Are you keen on outsourcing?” is particularly interesting as the answers from risk-averse cultures might be absolutely correct yet will be marked as wrong by the juror from the risk-taking culture.