Utah High School Students Test Language Skills at GMC Competition

PROVO, Utah – Apr 25, 2020 – BYU Marriott’s Whitmore Global Management Center (GMC) hosted its ninth annual High School Business Language Competition (HSBLC) during the Winter 2020 semester. Fifty-eight teams of students from high schools around the state of Utah gathered in the Tanner Building to put their language skills to the test as they competed in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, and Arabic.

The HSBLC allows students to apply both their business and language skills in a setting outside of their school environment. This year’s competition was sponsored by Woven Pear, a Utah-based sock company. Students were tasked with creating a business plan for the company to effectively market their products, and then present that plan in a second language.

A month prior to the competition, teams received the sponsor information and were expected to learn about the products, learn about the target market, and develop a business plan. On the competition day, teams then presented their plans to fluent or native-speaking judges.

First-place winners in each language category were awarded $660, second-place winners received $330, and third-place winners were awarded $150. 

Taylorsville High School took first place in the Spanish category, first place in Mandarin Chinese went to Timpview High School, Wasatch Academy placed first in French, and West High School was the winner for Arabic.

For members of the high school teams that competed, the HSBLC offers a unique opportunity to test their language skills in real-world settings while getting a glimpse into the future of global business. “These experiences are important in providing language students with the opportunity to see how they can use their language skills outside of the classroom,” says Laila Lamani, coach for the West High School team. “The competition opened their eyes to the fact that learning a foreign language can be a huge plus in the world of business and trade, as the skill not only allows for building communication but also allows opportunities for conducting research in the language of the target audience.”

Lamani, who coached West High’s two French teams and two Arabic teams, says the competition had a significant impact on her students as the experience unified them as teams. “They learned to work as a team,” she says. “Seeing them come together was beautiful as the stronger students coached and tutored the ones who didn’t have the same level of language skills.” Lamani also noted that placing in their designated categories was rewarding for each student as they saw their hard work pay off.

Vishal Jammulapati, a student from West High School’s winning Arabic team, appreciated the opportunity to participate in the competition as the experience allowed him to test his language skills in a way he hasn’t been able to before. "One doesn't often study business and marketing language in standard high school classes,” he says. “Being able to express myself in another language in a relatively sophisticated manner was refreshing.”

The GMC competition is made possible with help from BYU’s Center for International Business and Research (CIBER) grant, which strives to foster international business learning for students of all ages. 

“Seeing these high school students push themselves to new heights both in their language and experience with business is exciting,” says Jonathon Wood, managing director of the GMC. “We love to see their minds open to the possibilities of what learning a language can do for them now and in the future. Who knows? Maybe one of these students will venture into a career in international business because of a seed that was planted in this competition.”

High school teams prepare for the competition in BYU Marriott's atrium.
High school teams review their presentations in BYU Marriott's atrium before they present to a panel of judges.
Green Canyon High School team who took third place in the Mandarin Chinese competition.
Green Canyon High School team who took third place in the Mandarin Chinese competition.
Teams gather together for the awards ceremony at the end of the High School Business Language Competition.
Teams gather together for the awards ceremony at the end of the High School Business Language Competition.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Natalie Heidemann