Multilingual Education for International Business: Insights on Undergraduate Program Design From Colombia

Multilingual Education for International Business: Insights on Undergraduate Program Design From Colombia

Juan Carlos Díaz, Sara Aguilar-Barrientos, Heiko Marc Schmidt
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5345-9.ch039
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Education for future international business (IB) practitioners must be linked to a clear multilingual and multicultural approach. In this chapter, the authors present a case of study of the setup, aspects, and implementations of an IB undergraduate program carried out mostly in a foreign language (English). The program here presented also requires students to acquire a third language, and thus has become the first IB program of its kind in Colombia. The consequences, challenges, and opportunities derived from this multilingual approach to business education are then discussed in this chapter. Through data collected from the study program, it is possible to draw attention to the link between linguistic skills and academic performance, which leads to a short overview of the cognitive correlates to multilingualism and the learning process aspects associated with the use of a foreign language in the classroom. Finally, the authors draft some recommendations for educators and professionals designing IB study programs with a multilingual approach.
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Multilingualism In Ib

In approx. 440 BC, Herodotus wrote in his Histories, Book 4, often considered the founding work of History: “The Carthaginians also relate the following: - There is a country in Libya, and a nation, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which they are wont to visit, where they no sooner arrive but forthwith they unlade their wares, and, having disposed them after an orderly fashion along the beach, leave them, and, returning aboard their ships, raise a great smoke. The natives, when they see the smoke, come down to the shore, and, laying out to view so much gold as they think the worth of the wares, withdraw to a distance. The Carthaginians upon this come ashore and look. If they think the gold enough, they take it and go their way; but if it does not seem to them sufficient, they go aboard ship once more, and wait patiently. Then the others approach and add to their gold, till the Carthaginians are content.” (Wikisource contributors, 2018)

Whether or not this description of what might be termed international trade in Classical Antiquity is in fact accurate or not, this depiction of silent trade captures the imagination in this day and age precisely because it is so far removed from modern practices. Verbal communication is a sine qua non in International Business today, and it is therefore mediated through language.

The role of languages in IB is a core issue along several dimensions for firms willing to hire employees that will support the planning and implementation of strategies to reach international markets. The activities of IB practitioners include interacting with transcontinental intermediaries, different government agencies and foreign institutions. The latter are just a few of the spheres wherein language comprises the very essence of global business expansion. Therefore, in light of the central role language plays in IB activities, it should be a milestone in any IB study program. Future IB professionals and practitioners must be aware of the influence languages have within internationalization processes.

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