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BYU Marriott Hosts 2023 High School Business Language Competition

Photo of inside of Tanner Building, flags from many countries are displayed on the walls
Photo by BYU Photo.

In March the Whitmore Global Business Center at the BYU Marriott School of Business hosted the 2023 High School Business Language Competition (HSBLC). The competition invites high school students from across the state to apply their language skills outside the classroom in a business environment. A total of 32 teams—made up of 114 students from 11 schools—participated in the competition, with students creating and presenting marketing plans in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, or French.

“A lot of times when people think of languages, they think of it through the humanities side of languages. We focus on the business side of languages,” explains Jonathon Wood, managing director of the Whitmore Center.

The center receives funding through the Centers for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) to provide resources to businesses and schools. “We reach out into the community to pair our expertise and amplify international business education in the whole community so that the nation as a whole becomes more competitive,” says Wood.

The HSBLC is one such resource—providing high school students the opportunity to enhance language learning through international business experiences. “Learning a language on a mission or in a classroom doesn’t mean you’re ready to go into a boardroom and make a presentation about return on investment or marketing strategy,” Wood says. The HSBLC helps students understand the importance of language learning and even apply it to future career opportunities.

3 students and a teacher standing close inside a building with lots of flags
Students and their high school language teachers participate in the competition held at BYU Marriott.
Photo courtesy of Adeline Parker, Global Business Center

Student teams were evaluated based on their language ability, their written and oral presentation skills, and the content of their marketing plans. “We had so much fun learning about business marketing, expanding our skills and vocabulary set, and conversing with people who are native French speakers,” says a participating senior from Alta High School, whose team took first place for French.

“This is such a real-world opportunity for them—to participate in an authentic situation for what they see for their future. It was probably the highlight of their year,” says Rachel DeFriez, a French teacher from Alta High School. “They loved the preparation and the chance to compete and show what they have learned. We get so few opportunities to demonstrate what we’ve learned in a language, and the students crushed it this year.”

For French, Grantsville High School placed second, while Timpview High School and West High School tied for third. Elodie Petelo, a French teacher at Timpview High School, adds, “It’s great for students to take their language skills in a business setting. I always look for opportunities for them to experience it outside of their typical classroom day. I also like that this is very much driven by the students—they have to come up with the plan and they have to organize themselves as a team.”

3 students and 2 teachers standing in a building with flags from around the world
Students compete in Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic.
Photo courtesy of Adeline Parker, Global Business Center.

West High School won first in Arabic. In the Spanish competition, Timpanogos High School won first, Cypress High School took second, and Timpview High School placed third. For Chinese, Taylorsville High School won first and third, and Timpview High School placed second.

A Mandarin-speaking participating senior from Timpview High School says, “I think it’s a great opportunity to be put into a high-stress situation. But it also brings out the years of work we’ve put in, and it gives us an opportunity to really put it to use and see what the potential outcomes of our studies could be in the future.”


Written by Stephanie Bentley