“It is very much about people,” IESE Business Spanish Program

What makes IESE Business Spanish Program unique? In this post, we learn from the professors and students how they feel about BSP, and what they have gained from it.

The IESE Business Spanish Program (BSP) is a 12-module course that aims to help MBA students develop their ability to successfully interact in Spanish. “Absolute beginners and junior-level students develop their ability to communicate in basic every day challenges and interactions, while intermediate and higher-level students engage in increasingly challenging and complex professional situations and are empowered to effectively start applying their managerial and leadership skills in Spanish,” explains Carlos Schmidt Foó, Head of the Business Spanish for Communication unit at IESE (PhD in Education, MBA Associate Director).

“You can put all your professionalism and care in the design and everyday implementation of a program but, at the end of the day, what really matters is whether the program relevantly contributes to our students’ overall MBA educational and transformational experience. This, in turn, depends in no small measure on the professional and personal rapport among teachers and students within the groups. It is very much about caring. It is very much about people,” points out Carlos, who has taught in the BSP since 1996.

Introducing some of our teachers…

Iolanda Nieves de la Vega is a teacher of the BSP program and the Business Spanish for Communication unit where, in addition to teaching, she works closely with Carlos on several projects. Iolanda is a lecturer of the University of Chicago in its IES Study Abroad Program in Barcelona and a collaborator in the Neuroeducation Chair and courses at the University of Barcelona.

“I started teaching in the BSP program in 2001. I remember teaching that course as an experience full of challenges and discoveries,” she recalls. “In the BSP, we all share a common understanding of ​​what the goals of the program are, and we have been doing this job together  for quite a long time now. In a way, the program and the teachers have been evolving together. This makes us consider our job to be special and endearing, as well as relevant.”

“At the BSP, it is always a pleasure to play a part in bringing together students of different sections, to give them the opportunity to share personal and professional knowledge and experiences, and to generate and co-create spaces for shared learning. I am passionate about teaching and learning from and with my students.”

“For me, a teacher has to facilitate spaces to help and accompany students along their path. Teacher and students are a team: they work collaboratively towards a shared goal they need to set and share together. As we progress, the students are learning, developing and improving the skills that will allow them to communicate and interact in different personal and professional situations in Spanish.”

“Part of the magic at BSP is to meet the students again when they are about to finish their MBA, or after their term on Exchange, and to hear them share their experiences, their achievements and their perception of the transformation process they have undergone during their MBA. I find it very rewarding to know that we have been part of that transformation.”

María Sanz is the youngest member in the teaching team. María holds a Master’s degree in Business Communication, a Master’s degree in Teaching Spanish as a second language, and a PhD in Translation and Language Sciences.

“I joined IESE in August 2015. I am still as passionate about this job as on my very first day. Our students and the other teachers in the program are what I like about teaching in the BSP. Our students make each lesson memorable: They go from relating the contents of the BSP to their professional backgrounds to discussing their dreams – all in Spanish! With regards to the BSP teachers, it’s very inspiring to work with such enthusiastic, caring and committed professionals.”

“I believe IESE MBAs should take BSP because it is a unique opportunity: Only here our students can experience a customized program that we’ve designed and developed specifically for them, focusing on their needs.”

“If you ask me about one of my favorite memories from class, well… I am a foodie, and, when working with some of the junior levels of the BSP, I like to relate the contents of the program to Spanish meals. Once, I related one of our past tenses to an afternoon snack (merienda): bread and chocolate. The next day, one of the students surprised us with a little bread and chocolate merienda she had made for each of us and that we happily savored after class. This is just one example of the strong sense of community and belonging that we share at IESE.”

Professor Maria with her class

What do some current MBA students think about the BSP?

Chris Coraggio (MBA 2021, United States) agrees with María: “When I decided to attend IESE, I knew that getting the dual-language was one of my main goals.  What I did not know was that the Business Spanish Program would be (and is) one of my favorite parts of the MBA experience at IESE.  The program is extraordinary for a few reasons – the first being the quality of the teachers. They care deeply about us and are very understanding of what we are going through as MBAs here at IESE, which creates a sense of support and community in the classes.”

As for specific results, here are what some students have achieved so far:

For Philip Munroe (MBA 2021, United States), he has “gone from starting every conversation I have outside of school with “¿Habla Inglés?” to being able to speak with almost everyone I meet in Barcelona.”

For Axel Canbakan (MBA 2020, France), “taking BSP was the perfect opportunity (…) to reach a level good enough to use Spanish at work. Through the knowledge acquired during BSP, I had the capabilities and confidence to undertake an internship in Spain and interact with clients and colleagues only in Spanish.”

Felipe Thomaz (MBA 2020, Brazil) shares, “it made me prepared for a recruitment process in which I faced an unexpected interview in Spanish, being crucial for me to get a full-time offer in Spain.”

For Andrew Stepp (MBA 2020, United States), “although it was a big time commitment, it was definitely worth it. I learned to interview in Spanish, hire individuals, negotiate contracts, etc. These skill sets will allow me to be able to work in a professional setting in Spain or Latin America.”

Natalia Lourenço  (MBA 2021, Brazil) says, “having the opportunity to practice an interview, a business negotiation and convince others in Spanish changed completely my level of understanding, (…) for the first time I felt I was prepared for real life situations and challenges in Spanish (…) I am now considering staying in Barcelona during the summer to put in practice my Spanish in a real company and I’m completely sure that my Spanish is now solid enough for this challenge.”

For Payal Allen (Exchange student from Melbourne Business School, Australia), “Thanks to our teacher encouraging us and, equally, putting us in situations beyond our comfort zones, I have developed my abilities not only in speaking Spanish and speaking it well, but also in managing various difficult situations in a professional context.”

Happy BSP students with Professor Iolanda!


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Carlos Schmidt Foo View more

Head of Business Spanish for Communication unit
Associate Director MBA Program

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