Language skills afford alumnus a career in international business

Emile Phaneuf, University of Arkansas alumnus with degrees in international relations and Latin American and Latino Studies, now serves as the export manager for Kraft Heinz in New Zealand.

 “Export management (international sales and international business management) is perfectly suited for me because I'm outgoing, love international travel and working with people very different than myself, and appreciate the additional challenges that come with the many uncertainties of working in dynamic markets,” said Phaneuf.

He has worked in almost thirty countries on six continents, and although English is considered the lingua franca of the world, Phaneuf said it's almost an unspoken rule of international business that you speak at least one foreign language.

“You will gain respect in business by adding a foreign language or two to your repertoire.”

“You don't want to fit the stereotype that they have in their heads of American and British expats that didn't bother to learn the languages and cultures of others,” he added.

Phaneuf has noticed many times that when locked into the conversation with someone during a conversation in a language that is not your own first language, you experience an enhanced sense of empathy and theory of mind — the recognition that there are other minds than your own.

 “I think that zoning in on the person's body language, including facial expressions, helps with this since body language becomes increasingly important when there is more room for misunderstandings between people of different native languages playing gracefully with words,” he added.

Learning foreign languages has also enabled Phaneuf to become much more introspective and to build life-long relationships with people in other countries.

“If I had not taken the time to learn their languages, I would not be able to benefit from their wonderful company.”