UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Language skills at work


UNC Kenan-Flagler Working Languages studentsNearly 400 students are speaking the languages of global business with help from UNC Kenan-Flagler’s innovative Working Languages program.

Working Languages courses are designed for business students to develop communication skills in foreign languages that will help them thrive in an international business environment. They are
offered through the Global Business Center (GBC) and partially supported with a CIBER grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin classes are offered currently. Undergraduate Business and MBA students learn together through a combination of classes, online exercises and conversation hours with native speakers.

During the 2013-2014 academic year, 92 MBA and undergraduate business students took a course, up from 56 students the previous year.

“Students in the Working Languages classes work hard on increasing their language capacity and enjoy the hands-on exercises in class, such as case studies and a simulation called ‘mini mission,’ because they are aware of the tremendous benefits that speaking another language brings in today’s global business climate,” says GBC executive director Julia Kruse.

Unique features

In typical language classes, students mostly interact with their instructor and classmates and focus on non-business topics.

The Working Languages program takes students out of their comfort zones and challenges them to converse about business topics in Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese in weekly conversation sessions and during the various hands-on business exercises in and out of class.

Working Languages activities, such as the “mini mission,” simulate real-life situations. They require students to interact with native speakers representing various industries and complete business-oriented tasks in the target language.

To improve their understanding and command of the languages, online interactive components include exercises such as listening to interviews of Latin American, Chinese or Brazilian business leaders; responding in writing to job postings; speaking and taping short discourses; and practicing vocabulary and grammar.

Immersed in Costa Rica

Maria Elena Rodriguez, director of the program, has led a summer language immersion course to Costa Rica for undergraduate business students at any language level to further advance their business language skills.

Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Eric Olsen (MBA '98), undergraduate business students participating in the summer program in Costa Rica receive an award to offset program costs.

For more information about the courses, visit the Working Languages website or contact Rodriguez.

Here’s what students are saying about Working Languages

"Working Languages boosted my confidence in speaking Spanish, both at home and abroad. Since taking the class, my experiences in Latin America – whether for business or vacation – have been more enriching because I can communicate more effectively with locals." - Dillon Vess (BSBA ’15)

"The Working Languages class has been a great opportunity to practice Spanish in a business setting. Giving a formal presentation in a second language was a great challenge and made me appreciate the difficulties my international classmates have on a daily basis." - Zach Shapiro (MBA ’15)

"Working Spanish has been one of my top three favorite classes at UNC. I was apprehensive at the beginning of the course and left the spring semester with greater confidence [having] significantly improved my Spanish language skills.”- Myles J. Robinson (UNC ’15)