Becoming Business Bilinguals

PROVO, Utah – Aug 16, 2021 – Nearly 65 percent of BYU students speak a second language, and BYU ranks third in the nation for the most graduates with foreign language degrees. For bilingual students who want to couple their language skills with business knowledge, the global business and literacy minor offered by the Whitmore Global Business Center (GBC) at the BYU Marriott School of Business can help students accomplish that goal.

By pairing their language proficiencies with their business courses, students gain valuable skills to help them in their future careers. Jonathon Wood, managing director of the GBC, describes the need for business language abilities among students. “I often visit freshman classes and I'll say, ‘Okay, raise your hand if you speak a second language,’ and 80 percent of students in the room put their hands up,” he says. “I then say, ‘Fantastic—leave your hand up if you know enough in your language to walk into a boardroom and conduct a presentation on return on investments or marketing strategies using your language.’ Each time, every single hand comes down.

“I tell students, that's why you need to look into the global business and literacy minor. You already have substantial language skills, and if you add business language to your vocabulary, you will be a valuable asset to employers and stand out among other employees,” Wood says. “For students who want to receive their MBA, attend law school, work for the government, or work in international relations, a business foundation is a fantastic complement to their education and looks impressive on a résumé.”  

The main focus of the global business and literacy minor is to help BYU students combine their foreign language skills with business knowledge. Students completing the minor are required to complete six introductory business courses in accounting, finance, global supply chain management, and marketing, as well as an introduction to international business class and a business language class. In addition to these courses, students complete a literature or civilization course in their chosen language of study. Any student enrolled in the minor is also eligible to complete the global business certificate offered by the GBC, which illustrates competence and excellence in the field of international relations.

For Tyler Hastain, a 2018 graduate from Yucaipa, California, who studied Spanish, the business foundation of the minor provided invaluable background knowledge that has helped him find success in his current position as a financial aid technical writer. “The aspect I enjoyed most about the global business and literacy minor was receiving a general overview of several aspects of business, all while gaining important skills needed to be successful in the field,” he says. “I want to eventually be a business owner with customers in both the United States and Latin America, so the minor is perfect for that goal.” 

Ethan Fong, a Chinese studies senior from American Fork, Utah, completed the minor because he knew that business knowledge would complement the skills he gained from his major and prepare him for any future career. “I don’t plan on ending up in business, but having an understanding of basic business principles is helpful in any field of study,” he says. “Careers often go in unexpected ways, so having a background in business can help me be a more well-rounded and prepared person.” 

One of Fong’s most enjoyable memories while earning the minor was when he was a teaching assistant for MSB 430: Introduction to International Business, a required class for the minor. At the time, he worked for World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah), an association that aims to help Utah-based companies reach global markets. Shad Morris, a BYU Marriott professor of management who taught the class, partnered with WTC Utah. This allowed students to work with and conduct market research for local companies connected to the WTC. 

“Working with WTC Utah was a rewarding opportunity because the students received hands-on experience engaging with real companies. Those experiences were relevant to the students, and I loved helping facilitate and manage the project,” says Fong.

To students interested in completing the minor, Hastain’s advice is to have fun and enjoy the classes. He loved the course variety and enjoyed learning about different business concepts in other cultures. These concepts provided him with new perspectives, approaches, and ideas of how to approach challenges in the future. 

“A university education cannot completely prepare you for every circumstance or cover all perspectives that exist in the world,” Hastain says. “The ability to continually learn and grow is essential to the progress of any career. However, I believe the global business and literacy minor helped me develop skills that allow me to adapt and face any circumstance with confidence.”

In addition to completing six introductory business classes, students in the global business and literacy minor also complete a literature or civilization course in their chosen language of study.
Students in the global business and literacy minor must complete six introductory business classes, as well as a literature or civilization course in their chosen language of study.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert