Skip to content

What University Teaches the Most Foreign Languages?


Kelly Watkins in Antarctica. What language do penguins speak?

What university teaches more languages than any other in the world?  My alma mater – Indiana University (IU).

IU Provost & Executive Vice President, Lauren Robel, was speaking at an alumni event I recently attended.  She said that “Global Engagement” is one of three important keys for Indiana University.

As a Global Thought Leader and advocate of “all things global,” I almost cheered.  Then, I did cheer when she went on to say, “If you come to Indiana University, you will go to the world.”

In my case, she was right – literally.  I went to IU, and I’ve seen the world
(all 7 continents on this glorious globe we humans call home) 

Provost Robel shared statistics to prove how global the school is.  Here is just one – Indiana University teaches 71 languages.

71 Languages
As soon as I left the event, I had to look up the list of languages.  It was quite humbling.  Some world traveler I was.  I’d never heard of many of these!  For example –

“Avestan” is an extinct Eastern Iranian language related to Old Persian and Sanskrit.  Gujarati” is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by about 46 million people in certain Indian states.

The “Wolof” language intrigued me because, at first glance, it appeared to be “Wolf.”  Wouldn’t it be cool to talk to wolves?  (If Kevin Costner can dance with wolves, why can’t I talk with them?  But, I digress.)  It turns out that “Wolof” is a branch of the Niger-Congo language family.  It is one of the SIX national languages of Senegal.

And, that was when I found the point for this blog post …

When one small country has six national languages,
the potential for miscommunication is huge

You can understand why they misunderstand.  And, you can quickly see why there’s conflict. 

What about your organization?
How many languages does your organization speak?  Don’t just count the obvious ones – Russian, Arabic, English, Chinese, ….  What about the functional ones – Marketing, Finance, IT, Accounting, and Sales?

Are your departments sharing information and speaking across cultures, or are they operating alone in “silos” – hoarding all the resources?

Successful organizations seek to find a “global language culture”
that allows everyone to collaborate and communicate effectively

Two Questions

  1. What is your organization doing to create a global language culture? 
  2. How can I help?

Also, I would love to hear YOUR stories (probably humorous) about lack of communication.  Please comment below.

By Kelly Watkins, MBA, Global Thought Leader
I’m proud to serve on the Board of Directors for Indiana University Kelley School of Business Alumni Association.

What is poor communication costing you or your organization?  How can your organization be more effective to compete in a global market?  Find solutions at: and


Senegal wants Rihanna, but needs patience

Ladies from Africa join my family for dinner

Ladies from Africa join my family for dinner

I hosted a dinner for five lively, lovely women from Africa. They were in the US on an International Visitor program through the World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana ( This particular group was in the US to learn entrepreneurship techniques which they could take back and share with the women in their countries. These ladies were entrepreneurs, bankers, and chamber of commerce leaders. They were also delightful.

Their English was minimal, but charming. My French is minimal and not-so-charming. Luckily, we had two great interpreters.

One of the ladies was from Senegal. She made a wonderful observation. She said that when her country talks about growth, they don’t want to develop their own ideas. Instead, they want to import everything from the US or France. “We look at Rihanna and want to copy her look here.”

The people in Senegal are also frustrated that change isn’t happening faster. But, as this lady so wisely noted

Culture doesn’t move that fast.
You aren’t changing tires on your car.

You are attempting to change attitudes and beliefs that are centuries old.

Yes, change will take time. However, Senegal and other African countries will be able to make progress – if they listen to their own intelligent and determined women like the ones sitting around my dining room table.

How can you be an advocate and leader for change in your organization? How can you improve the communication surrounding changes?

By Kelly Watkins, MBA, Global Thought Leader

What is poor communication costing you or your organization? How can your organization be more effective to compete in a global market? Find out: and

Is Global Business Communication “Standard” Now?

“Isn’t global business communication pretty “standard” now?  Doesn’t everyone understand basic English?”  This question was asked by a student at Indiana University recently.  I was speaking on a Panel of Global Business experts for students interested in International Business.

I almost jumped out of my seat to answer that question.  It was a resounding NO!  –which was loudly echoed by the other Panelists.

Yes, much of the global business world speaks English.  But, that isn’t the point.

 The point is …

You need to apply a Global mindset to your communication

To be more effective, you need to adapt.  To avoid misunderstandings, you need to adapt.  To build relationships and trust, you need to adapt.  To have a more enjoyable experience personally, you need to adapt.  To sell more of your products or services, you need to adapt.

I’m guessing you understand my point by now.

When you have a global mindset, you understand that the question should be –

 “What changes do I need to make to communicate more effectively with this person

– based on his/her culture?”

 In the student’s defense, she was asking the question in a general sense.  Therefore, it presented a great opportunity for discussion.

In fact, I was quite impressed with the types of questions the Indiana University students asked.  (  It showed they understood the impact of a global economy, and they were serious about global business.  It was reassuring to know the world is in good hands with the next generation.

How do you need to adapt your communication for your next Global encounter? 

By Kelly Watkins, MBA, Global Thought Leader

Note:  You’re invited to attend “How to Go Global!” at no cost.  This is a one-hour webinar I conducted for IU alumni.  The webinar is archived at:  I’m proud to serve on the Board of Directors for Indiana University Kelley School of Business Alumni Association. 

What is poor communication costing you or your organization? How can your organization be more effective to compete in a global market? Find out: and

What is a Short Trip?

Yes, I was being a bit selfish with my colleague from Australia.  We were talking on the phone.  I invited her to attend a conference being held in Louisville, Kentucky USA.  That is only 15 minutes from my home.  My selfish reason for the invitation?  I wanted to visit with her.  She is a delightful woman, and such fun!  In my defense, however, I also knew she would enjoy the conference.

As we were concluding our conversation, she apologized for declining my invitation.  She already had several other international business trips planned for the year.  She went on to comment, “In addition to all those long trips, I have a fun vacation planned nearby.  It’s just a short trip.  It will only take about 10 hours to get there.”

Nearby?  Short?  Only 10 hours?  Before I could laugh, I realized she was serious.

Perspective Check!

From her perspective, that is a short trip.  She lives in Tasmania, an Australian state and an island – located about 240 kilometers south of the mainland of Australia.  In other words, it is remote.  In old-fashioned American slang – that is more than just “a hop, skip, and a jump” away.  If she wants to go anywhere, it takes awhile.

In fact, if she were to attend the conference I had mentioned (sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners, it would take her about 35 hours to travel here – each way.  After I considered her perspective, I realized that 10 hours can be a short trip.

How is your perspective different from the person you’re communicating with?
How do you need to adjust your communication?

By Kelly Watkins, MBA, Global Thought Leader

Note:  I’m proud to be a member of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) for 15+ years and am Past Chair of Global Development.

What is poor communication costing you or your organization? How can your organization be more effective to compete in a global market? Find out: and

East Asian Countries Switch from Raid to Trade

Many East Asian countries are shifting their paradigm from raid to trade – according to Ambassador of Republic of Korea to the United States, Y.J. Choi.

Yes, it’s probably the professional speaker part of me that loved the way that expression sounded when the Ambassador said it – “from raid to trade.”  But, I also appreciated the concept.

Ambassador Choi explained his thoughts during a World Trade Center event ( that I attended last week.  He said East Asian countries are transitioning from raid (military/warfare) methods of obtaining what they want to trade methods.

The old school of thought was, “Don’t help them (that other country).  They’ll just turn against us later.”  In other words, conflict is inevitable.

The new school of thought is, “Let’s look at ways to expand trade.”  This not only builds economies, it will help to make the world more peaceful and stable.  (I also like the sound of that.)

According to the Ambassador, East Asia currently accounts for 30% of all global economic output.

What opportunity does that offer your company? 

In March, the US and Korea signed a Free Trade Agreement.  That means, if you’re a US exporter, there will be no tariffs on exported products (well, 95% of all products).

Since I live near Louisville, Kentucky, I was intrigued to hear that Korea imported a previous Kentucky Derby contender to help start their horse racing industry.  In fact, Kentucky ranks number 11 of all US states in exports to Korea.

Regardless of where you live in the world, you never know what you might be able to export to Korea or East Asia.  Or, if you are in East Asia – what can you export to us?  Opportunity!

How does this change your perspective?  How can you take advantage of a “trade instead of raid” mentality?

By Kelly Watkins, MBA, Global Thought Leader

Note:  I’m proud to serve on the World Trade Center KY Education Committee – as the representative from the District Export Council (DEC) on which I sit.  The DEC is overseen by the US Department of Commerce and membership on the Council is approved by the US Secretary of Commerce.   

 What is poor communication costing you or your organization?  How can your organization be more effective to compete in a global market?  Find out: and