Published 12/03/09

Bryant students compete in business language case competition

December 6, 2009

While Chris Lussier ’10 (Spencer, MA) may trace his ancestry to the French, he jokes that he is Spanish by association. He began studying the language in high school and continued his immersion in the culture at Bryant by taking part in the Sophomore International Experience trip to Latin America and studying abroad in Barcelona.

All these experiences prepared him to take part in the Business Language Case Competition, last month sponsored by Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Lussier and his teammates, Meaghan Delaney ’11 (Centerville, MA) and Andres Ramirez ’10 (Pawtucket, RI), examined a case study, prepared a 15-minutes presentation, and fielded questions from a panel of judges – all in Spanish.

“This competition is a great way for students who are not native speakers to further develop their understanding of the Spanish language. Being able to take concepts learned in several classes and present them in another language gives us another opportunity to become more fluent.”

Meaghan Delaney

“Experiences like this take you to the edge of your abilities as a non-native speaker,” explains Lussier, an international business major with a minor in Spanish. “You have to challenge yourself at every step of the process to learn new words and phrases and correct pronunciations. It’s not easy but I feel like there aren’t too many experiences as rewarding as speaking another language with confidence.”

Bryant’s involvement was sponsored by the University’s International Business program. The only school in the Northeast represented at the competition, Bryant joined BYU, BYU-Idaho, University of Colorado-Boulder, Indiana, Memphis, Michigan State, Purdue, University of Washington, Utah State, and University of Texas-Austin. In addition to a competition in Spanish, one was held in Portuguese. Utah State won the Spanish competition, while BYU was rated the best in Portuguese.  

Following their presentation the students received feedback from the panel of judges who have spent extensive parts of their careers conducting business around the globe.

“I think my favorite part of the competition was when one of the judges said, ‘It’s obvious that you are all ready to speak Spanish in a professional setting,’ ” recalls Lussier.

Language of business

Like Lussier, Delaney has been studying Spanish since high school. Last year, the global studies major was part of the first Bryant team to compete in the Business Language Case Competition.

“This competition is a great way for students who are not native speakers to further develop their understanding of the Spanish language,” says Delaney. “Being able to take concepts learned in several classes and present them in another language gives us another opportunity to become more fluent.”

Ramirez, the third member of the team, had a bit of a leg up learning Spanish, as he attended elementary school in Colombia, South America, before moving to the United States. Still the double concentrator in economics and finance says the competition helps because it challenges students to go beyond the basics of the language they learn in the classroom.

“A significant amount of research has to be conducted to ensure that the Spanish business language is used properly,” he says.

The group had two weeks to dissect a case about Wal-Mart’s international strategy. Taking on the role of consultants, the team proposed a “glocalized” approach that includes more due diligence understanding cultural intricacies. The multi-pronged plan encourages the retail giant to adapt its business model to reflect local preferences and behaviors.

“This competition is unique among case competitions because it’s a hybrid of achievement and competency in both a second language and evaluating a business case,” explains Sherstin Kramer, program coordinator for the Whitmore Global Management Center at BYU. “Students can’t win without a solid grasp on both concepts.”

Bilingual and bicultural

Assistant Professor Andres Ramirez, who teaches classes in finance and multinational finance, helped the team members prepare their presentation and traveled to Utah with them.

“Many times language focuses on how to go to a restaurant or the supermarket, but seldom on how to conduct oneself in the board room,” says Ramirez, who completed his undergraduate studies in Chile. “There are great opportunities in Latin America, but they require people who are bilingual and bicultural.”

Patricia Gomez, a lecturer in Bryant’s Modern Languages Department, also helped the students prepare for the competition and traveled with the 2008 team to Utah. She says a competition like this is crucial for second-language learners because it allows them to think analytically in another language.

“This competition puts students in a real-life business presentation setting where they have to use secondary language skills to communicate,” says Gomez. “The question and answer portion of the presentation is a real challenge because students have to learn to think quick on their feet.”