Business-Minded High School Students Compete at Language Competition

PROVO, Utah – May 10, 2021 – For ninety students from high schools across the state of Utah, learning to combine language and business doesn’t start in college. On 1 April 2021, teams of students submitted their presentations and business plans to the 2021 Virtual High School Business Language Competition, hosted by the BYU Marriott School of Business’ Global Business Center (GBC) and funded by a grant through the Centers for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) program. The winning teams were announced over a live video awards ceremony on 2 April. First-place winners received $660; second- and third-place winners received $330 and $150, respectively.

Recipients of the first-place prize for their language category were students from Ames High School in the Arabic category, Cottonwood High School in Chinese, Timpanogos High School in Spanish, and Timpview High School in French. The full list of all schools and students who placed can be found here.

Though the judging only lasted from 1–2 April, the competition began two weeks prior when students divided into thirty teams of three students each. Each team was tasked to develop and present a plan to market Thread Wallets, a Utah-based company that sells wallets, phone cases, and lanyards, all with elastic pockets that can hold credit cards. Thread’s target audiences were markets who spoke either Spanish, French, Arabic, or Chinese. According to Mary Kay Lloyd, GBC event coordinator, not only do the students write in the language they’re participating in, but they also present their marketing plan in that same language.

After submitting their online presentation and marketing summaries, the top three teams in each of the three language categories attended a live question-and-answer session in their assigned language with a panel of judges to determine how the top teams would place. 

“Events like this are important to high school students. I have witnessed my students learn how to work as a team, demonstrate leadership, and most importantly become more confident in using the language,” says Laila Lamani, French teacher and team coach for the West High School students who placed second in the French category. She is proud of the way her students demonstrated courage as they interviewed with the judges who were native or fluent speakers.

One of the students on her team was high school senior Liliane Morath. To Morath and her teammate Anna Jergensen, placing in the competition meant working hard to thoroughly research Thread Wallets. “We wanted to emphasize the company’s message in our marketing plan because that is what makes their brand unique and desirable,” she says. In fact, this wasn’t the first time she participated in this competition, having competed in 2020. “I decided to participate again because I had a great experience last year,” Morath says. “I love meeting new people, learning about marketing, and improving my French. This competition gave me the opportunity to do all of those things at the same time.”

Jonathon Wood, managing director of the GBC, hopes the high school business language competition will continue to help students like Morath recognize the many doors that can be opened through learning a second language. “There are many high school students who may think that they’re just learning a foreign language to fulfill graduation requirements,” says Wood. “They may then have the opportunity to compete in this competition and think, ‘I had no idea this skill could help me get a job. I had no idea I could use my foreign language skills in business.’ That realization is what I’m hoping these young students will achieve.”

Flags from around the world
The 2021 Virtual High School Business Language Competition provided the opportunity for high school students to demonstrate their understanding of Arabic, Spanish, French, or Chinese business language. Graphic courtesy of Geralt.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Rebecca Nissen