On February 21, as part of International Mother Language Day, the IRC welcomed Jay Kim, Michael Volz, Tamara Medakov, and Ani Kokobobo for a conversation discussing the question “Is English the World’s Language?“.

Because of the riveting conversation, we ran out of time and still had many questions from the audience that had gone unanswered. Graciously, Jay Kim offered some of his time to address the questions below.

How important is knowing English when traveling or in the context of international business? To what extent is English a de facto language for business, for education, for daily interactions?

Jay Kim: For business, all banking and commercial trade terms are noted in English. For education, it is the same for STEM and Business majors. For daily interactions, not so much so outside regular greetings.

How have you accomplished success in international business? Are there other important things to consider beyond language?

JK: I believe DataLocker has succeeded in international markets due to our relationships with local partners. We do not even attempt to sell directly in foreign markets, rather we rely on our local partners. One of our core values is “relationships not just transactions” and this has proved to be a great way to establish a presence in international markets. Build a relationship with a partner and then work together to ensure mutual success and profit within their market.

What is your suggestion to people who are communicating with clients from a different country with a completely different culture on a regular basis ?

As I mentioned before, language is just a part of bridging cultural divides. In a business context, one of the most important things you can do is to share a meal together. Often when I travel in Asia, the hosts will suggest a “western food” restaurant. I always insist on going to a local favorite even if it means sitting on the floor or outside in the sweltering heat. If you want to create relationships, eat the local food and drink the local drink and learn how to say “cheers” in their native language.


Jay Kim is a Kansas City native where he attended the University of Kansas and majored in Pharmacy and Biology and then went on to George Washington University to earn his MBA. After a career in the pharmacy industry, he joined QMD International, a KC based family owned business which served as a tier-one supplier to the global home appliance industry. In 2007 he founded DataLocker which became one of the fastest growing local data security startups winning recognition from the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Ernst and Young, INC 5000, and EXIM Bank.