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Posts tagged ‘global business communication’

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