More than 300 students have taken advantage of Kenan-Flagler’s
unique Working Languages™ program since its inception in 1999 under the leadership of Dr. Lynne Gerber
and later Maria Elena Rodriguez
The Working Languages courses, offered through the UNC Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), are designed for business students to develop communication skills in a foreign language necessary for an international business environment. Students learn through a combination of online classes, conversation hours with native speakers and in-country immersions over spring break. Currently classes are offered in Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, 56 MBA and undergraduate business students took a Working Language course, up from 34 students the previous year.
“Students in the Working Language classes work hard on increasing their language capacity and enjoy the deep cultural and language immersion abroad because they are aware of the tremendous benefits that speaking another language brings in today’s business climate,” says Dr. Julia Kruse, executive director of CIBER.
In typical study tours, students interact mostly with each other and communicate in English. In contrast, Working Languages’ in-country immersions take students out of their comfort zone and challenge them to forge meaningful connections with the local community through home stays, business visits, and small company or community projects. Students thus maximize improvement of their command of the language and level of cross-cultural understanding.
Additional unique features include:
New this year
- Weekly in-person class with an instructor
- Weekly conversation hour in small groups with native speakers
- Online interactive components including activities such as listening and comprehending interviews of Latin American business leaders, responding in writing to job announcements, speaking and taping short discourses, as well as exercises to practice vocabulary and grammar.
- Mission (Im)possible, an activity that simulates real-life situations. Participants interact with businesses and complete certain tasks in the target language by visiting various booths staffed by native speakers. Businesses represented include a bank and a food market.
This year Working Languages added a new summer immersion course for assured admit undergraduate business students at any language level – Working Spanish in Costa Rica.
This intensive, three-week summer program includes small Spanish classes, home stays, company visits, hands-on projects for professional skills development and excursions and program activities conducted in Spanish (with extra help for beginners). Ultimately, the experience provides participants with the necessary language skills to function effectively in daily life as well as business situations.
Also, thanks to the generosity of alumnus Eric Olsen (MBA ‘98)
, undergraduate business students participating in the 2012 summer program in Costa Rica received an award to offset program costs.
For more information about the program, visit the Working Languages website
or contact , director of Working Languages, UNC CIBER.
T o read more about students’ experiences in the Working Languages program, visit these blogs by Alex Vanderhye (BSBA ‘13)
and Mohammed Zeesha Farrukh (BSBA ‘12)
“Working Spanish not only helped me improve my Spanish-speaking skills but allowed me to learn about, experience and appreciate a culture that operates very differently from what I’ve been used to here in America. Pura vida!” – Nick Brenner (BSBA ‘15)
“Your class has been unbelievably helpful this summer from yard work and restaurants to wealth management … I am still very much in contact with my host family and I reflect on the experience frequently.” – Dillon Vess (BSBA ‘15)
“The best Spanish class you will ever take.” – Isin Guler
, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
“I don’t feel you can learn a language by just sitting in the classroom. The classroom is more reinforcement and basic language understanding. Interacting with the people is where the true learning takes place … In China, this was so much more than a tour group because we were living with locals, dining with locals, walking among locals, learning from the locals, and we had the expertise of the program directors to show us where to go, what to do, etc. I loved it. – Douglas Fowler (Duke MBA ’07)